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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job.

That being said, there are plenty of tools out there to make creating content much easier.

Download 195+ visual marketing design templates to use for social media posts,  infographics, and more. 

Below, you’ll find a list of 36 fantastic tools and resources to help you research, write, edit, and design content more easily. (You’ll notice there are a lot of design tools in here — that’s because visual content is often the part of the content creation process where people get the most nervous and frustrated. So don’t worry, we’ve got a ton in there for you.)

Let’s get started.

36 Free Tools & Resources to Make Content Creation Easier

For Researchers

1) Google Drive Research Tool

Google recently added a tool to Drive that allows you to conduct Google searches without ever leaving your Drive window. All you have to do is click “Tools” from the menu bar and choose “Research” from the dropdown menu.

google-drive-research-tool.png

2) Site:search

This is a handy Google hack I use every day. Basically, it allows you to do a Google search that’s limited to a particular website.

For example, if I wanted to search HubSpot’s blog for marketing resources so I can cite one of our old blog posts, I’d do a site:search for blog.hubspot.com with the search term marketing resources. The formula for site search is site:samplewebsite.com [search query]. So my example would be site:blog.hubspot.com marketing resources.

googlesitesearch.png

3) Google Webmaster Tools

Doing SEO and keyword research? Your marketing software should be able to help. But if it can’t (or you’d like to augment your data), Google’s Webmaster Tools can be a great help. You can check things like the number of indexed pages on your website, submit your site to Google so you’re getting crawled and indexed, and even disavow bad inbound links. It also can give you information on search queries that have a large volume of impressions but low clickthrough rate.

Within Google Webmaster Tools, go to “Your site on the web” and choose “Search queries.” You’ll see a table showing a search query, impressions, clicks, and clickthrough rate (CTR). Comparing this data to your other analytics data can help uncover some opportunities.

4) Percentage Change Calculator

I can’t even begin to tell you how useful this little calculator is when looking for and analyzing data. Ever want to know the percentage change of two values without having to remember the formula? Simply enter the two values into this calculator, and it’ll spit out the percentage change. Trust me, you’ll want to bookmark this one.

Here are a few other handy calculators:

  • 3-Way Percentage CalculatorCalculates answers to these questions: What is X% of Y? X is what percent of Y? X is Y% of what?
  • Conversion Rate Calculator Spits out a conversion rate when you enter the total visitor count during a specific time frame and the number of times during that time frame those visitors took a specific action.
  • A/B Test CalculatorWorks for a basic scenario with two groups of people (A & B) who get to see one version of your website and for whom you track the number of conversions or goals (purchases, downloads, clickthroughs, etc.).
  • ROI Calculator Analyzes your website’s monthly sales and lead generation efforts to determine ways in which marketing efforts can be optimized.

5) Atlas

Atlas is Quartz‘s data center, and it’s chock-full of graphs, charts, and data visualizations. You can search for almost any topic or keyword, and Atlas will have a graphic based on recent research data for you. This is a great tool to get background information on a topic you’re researching, or to find fresh data to use in a project you’re working on. Here’s a chart based on data from early 2016:

atlas dogs.pngSource: Atlas

6) Search in a Giphy

You know that coworker who always seems to find the perfect animated GIFs for your social posts or internal chat client? With the free Giphy Chrome extension, you’ll be able to find great GIFs just as quickly.

To use the tool, all you have to do is open the extension in Chrome, search, choose a GIF, and drag and drop. So far, the tool works in Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and more — and they’re constantly expanding support.

search-in-a-giphy.png

For Writers

7) Evernote

I use the free version of Evernote every single day. From to-do lists and research notes to writing entire chunks of articles, it’s proven helpful at every step of the writing and editing process.

One great feature? Its mobile, desktop, and web apps sync automatically as long as you have an internet connection. (And if you work offline, it’ll sync the next time you have internet.) Plus — and this is super important for content creators like us — it’s constantly saving and syncing your work automatically, making it a safe place to write and store ideas.

Use it to keep a running list of ideas, take notes, store inspiring articles or ebooks, or plan your editorial and social media publishing calendars.

evernote-screenshot.png

8) Word2CleanHTML

If you like drafting blog posts in programs like Microsoft Word, Evernote, or Google Drive instead of your content management system (CMS), then this simple tool can be your best friend. Why? Because when you copy a document from Microsoft Office and paste it into your CMS, lots of little, weird formatting issues can crop up in your HTML.

Word2CleanHTML applies filters to fix all those things added into the HTML, resulting in well-formatted HTML you can paste directly into a web page CMS. Simply paste in your draft, click one button, and then copy the resulting HTML straight from the tool. When you paste that into your CMS (most will have buttons reading “HTML” or “</>” in their tool bar above your draft), it will appear nice and clean. No hair-pulling or swimming through code required.

9) WordCounter

There is no “right answer” for how long a blog post should be. As long as it serves its purpose — whether that’s thought leadership, driving leads, explaining a new concept, or something else — length doesn’t matter. But although we don’t recommend writing blog posts with a word count in mind, sometimes word count can come in handy. WordCounter works exactly the way you think it does: Paste in your content and it’ll spit out exactly how many words you have.

10) Cofftivity

According to a study out of the University of Chicago, “A moderate level of ambient noise is conducive to creative cognition.” In other words, being the tiniest bit distracted actually helps you be more creative. That’s why for many people, myself included, white noise helps promote focus.

There are a lot of white noise generators out there, but my favorite is Cofftivity. This particular one offers non-stop café background sounds at varying intensities, from “Morning Murmur” and “University Undertones” to “Lunchtime Lounge” and “Brazil Bistro.” It’s available on the web and as an app on iOS and Android.

11) & 12) Zerys & eLance

Need to start creating content but don’t have the bandwidth? We hear about this roadblock a lot. One way to get around it is by hiring freelancers from reputable marketplaces like Zerys or eLance. These resources give you access to skilled freelance writers who can write blog posts, ebooks, whitepapers, and other pieces of written content for you.

13) HTML Hacks for Marketers

While this isn’t strictly a writing resource, basic coding knowledge is quickly becoming a must-have skill for the modern marketer — bloggers and written content creators included. But learning from scratch can be daunting. Where on earth do you start?

If you’re a total beginner, start with HTML Hacks for Marketers, which my colleagues at HubSpot created with Codeacademy. It’ll teach you quick but useful hacks anyone — regardless of coding knowledge — can use in their marketing. For example, you’ll learn how to make small changes to HTML like altering headers and spacing, creating text in block-quote form, and inserting social share links. My personal favorite is the hack to change font colors.

Once you’ve mastered these basic HTML skills, move on to Codeacademy’s free interactive courses. They found a way to make learning HTML and CSS actually fun — and you can go through each lesson at your own pace.

14) Blog Topic Generator

If you need to get to writing blog posts but aren’t sure of an angle or title to get your creativity moving, HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator can do the work for you. Simply enter a few keywords that your blog focuses on, and the Blog Topic Generator will produce a week’s worth of titles and topic ideas for you. It might not produce the final title of your blog post, but it helps get you thinking about creative new angles for topics you’ve written about before.

Here are the blog post titles I received when I entered “content,” “inbound marketing,” and “blogging”:

generator_contentcreation.png

15) Blog Post Templates

All blog posts aren’t created equal, but we’ve found that there are steps you can take to make your posts comprehensive and shareable. With these blog post templates, we’ll walk you through an outline to write successful how-to, listicle, newsjack, and curation blog posts. Instead of starting from scratch, you’ll save time and, hopefully, nail your blog goals.

For Content Editors

16) Editorial Calendar Template

Creating a balanced editorial calendar can be tough, especially if you don’t have one centralized calendar that you and your team can refer to. To save you time and headache, we’ve created editorial calendar templates for Google Calendar, Google Sheets, and Excel that you can fill in and share with your team to start the next month or year off on the right foot.

17) & 18) Grammarly & Correctica

While human editors will be able to catch most grammatical errors, editing tools like Grammarly and Correctica are great tools for triple-checking before you press “publish” or “send.” Both free tools check for grammatical errors — and Grammarly even checks for plagiarism.

19) Hemingway App

Ernest Hemingway, admired for his succinct writing style, is the namesake for this handy editing app. Want to make your written content easier to read? Paste your content into this free web app, and it’ll assess your writing and identify opportunities to make it simpler.

My favorite features include identifying passive voice and hard-to-read sentences. Check out the right-hand side of the screenshot below, where the tool has summed up how readable my writing is with a grade. (Some room for improvement here.) Their suggestion to improve readability overall? Shoot for lower than a 10th grade reading level.

hemingway-app-screenshot.png

20) Headline Analyzer

Here’s a scary stat for you: Only 60% of people who click into an article end up reading past the headline. That makes your headline both the first and possibly the only chance for you to compel readers to keep reading — so it’s totally worth it to spend the extra few minutes coming up with a really good one.

What does a really good headline look like? The free tool Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule can tell you. It scores your headline quality and rates its ability to drive social shares, traffic, and SEO value. In my experience, its strength is helping you strengthen specific components of your title. For example, it reports on perceived sentiment and commonality of word types. It’ll even show you how it will appear in search results.

So although you should take these scores and grades with a grain of salt, you can use this to give your headlines a “once-over.” (And read this blog post to learn more about writing awesome headlines.)

For Designers

21) Nimbus Screenshot

This is another tool I use every day. Sure, you can capture a screenshot of your entire screen or part of your screen using the old keyboard shortcut method. But what if you want your screenshot to include stuff that’s not visible on your screen?

Nimbus Screenshot lets you capture the visible part of a web page, a selected area, a selected scroll (my personal favorite), the entire page, or the entire browser window — including everything below the fold.

nimbus-screenshot.png

Once you’ve taken the screenshot, you can crop, edit (like adding notes and callouts), and choose to print or save to your desktop or Google Drive.

22) Canva

If you like creating beautiful visual content in a really short amount of time, you’ll love Canva. The time and resources it takes to learn design, pay for design assets, and/or get inspired to create beauty from scratch can be really difficult when you’re staring at a long list of to-dos — but Canva offers a huge library of pre-made templates and assets that you can manipulate while also adding your own imagery.

Best of all, they have so many assets and graphics available for free that you won’t have to pay a cent if you don’t want to. If you want to use more “premium” assets and graphics found through their image search, they’ll charge you $1 for each. But there’s plenty of value for free.

Here’s an example of something you could make:

hubspot_canva_example

23) ThingLink

Ever wanted to make an image (or infographic) clickable? ThingLink lets you upload an image and add little icons to it that appear when a person hovers their cursor over the image. These icons allow users to visit links, watch videos, or read messages you’ve written. Plus, it’s easy to share: Users can easily embed ThingLink images. (Click here for step-by-step instructions.)

Below is part of a a clickable infographic from Thinglink my colleague Ginny Mineo created for another post:

45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love for Writing Editing

 

24) Skitch

Skitch is a free app by Evernote that helps you communicate more visually. It lets you mark up images, digital assets, PDFs, and other files with arrows, callout boxes, text, and more all in one place.

In the example below, I opened the program on my desktop and used the “Screen Snap” button to take a screenshot of a web page — which then opened right in Skitch for editing and exporting.

skitch-by-evernote.png

Although it’s free, it does require you to open an Evernote account — but that’s also free (see above).

25) Infogram

While similar to Canva, Infogram is a visual content tool that focuses on helping you create infographics, charts, and data visualization. If you like to create charts using Microsoft Excel, you’re in luck — it also offers compatibility with Excel through Infogram Charts. Also, their infographics are responsive with mobile devices.

26) Infographic Templates

As a content marketer, you might feel more comfortable creating written content than visual content, but that’s no excuse to exclude infographics from your strategy. Visual content is growing in demand from your audience, and infographics are particularly shareable. We’ve created the backbones of 15 different templates that you can easily play around with to customize for your content and audience — here’s a sneak peek of one template, and you can grab the rest here

IGtemplate_datageek.png

Source: 15 Free Infographic Templates in PowerPoint

27) Google Fonts

Want to spruce up your site pages, presentations, ebooks, and other content with cool and different new fonts? Little-known fact: Google has a directory of 600 free fonts ready for you to download and use.

Simply find and select the fonts you like from their directory, then click “Use” to get the HTML code you can copy and paste onto your site. Alternatively, you can download the fonts to your desktop and use them when making new marketing content by clicking “Add to Collection.” (Click here for step-by-step instructions for doing this in the HubSpot software.)

google-web-fonts.png

28) Image Color Picker

Remember that time you wanted to match your call-to-action design to that color you were using on all your event swag … but the one person who would know what that color was didn’t work at your company anymore? Next time that happens, snag a picture of that swag and upload it to ImageColorPicker.com, or use any image URL to do the same thing. Select any point of the picture, and immediately see its corresponding HEX, RGB, and HSV values.

29) PowerPoint Templates

Is there anything more boring than a PowerPoint presentation featuring black text on a white background? With the help of these templates, you’ll be able to put together compelling, visually appealing presentations. Whether you’re driving lead generation or reporting on your blog’s growth to your team, keep your audience’s attention with these eye-catching presentations.

30) SlideShare Templates

SlideShare doesn’t need to be daunting. You can easily create shareable, embeddable SlideShare presentations in PowerPoint with the help of these templates — no need to start from scratch or hire a freelancer. Once you’ve created your first presentation, check out our guide to marketing SlideShares successfully.

31) Haiku Deck

If you’ve ever had to create a PowerPoint or SlideShare presentation in a pinch, you’ll wish you knew about Haiku Deck. This tool helps you quickly find simple layouts, beautiful images, and great fonts. It’s available for the web and for iPad.

Want to see what one looks like? Below’s an example I pulled from their list of featured decks. Note the simplicity of the design — if you want to create super detailed slides, this may not be the right tool for you.


Snowed In? – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

32) HubSpot’s Free Stock Photos

Searching for and buying stock imagery can be a pain in the you-know-what — especially when it comes to deciphering legalese for different use cases. I have a liberal arts degree, and Nietzsche was easier to read than whatever legalese stock imagery companies tended to give me. All I wanted to know is whether to cite or not cite a stock image of a laptop. Why was it so hard?

That’s why our team decided to create a library of 550+ free and royalty-free stock photos. Whether it’s a unique image needed for an ebook or that perfect photo you want to add to a blog post, that collection should have you covered. Here’s one of our “around the kitchen” stock photos — yum.

candy-3.jpg

Source: The Free Stock Photos You’ve Been Searching For

33) PlaceIt

PlaceIt serves a very specific purpose: It allows you to upload images of your site or product into real-world environments of people holding phones, tablets, and laptops. PlaceIt will automatically alter the image to make it appear natural with the angle of the phone’s screen — which will save you time learning and/or editing in more advanced software to get the angle right.

place-it-example.png

You’ll have to pay per image to get really large or high-resolution versions, though I’ve found free images work just fine for blog posts and product page content. The paid downloads also remove that PlaceIt watermark from the bottom right.

34) LICEcap

Looking for the perfect GIF to include in your blog post? If it doesn’t already exist on Giphy, you can make one yourself using LICEcap. Film a screenshot and turn it into a GIF using this handy, free tool — we use LICEcap for our blog posts, too. 

35) & 36) The Noun Project & HubSpot’s Resizable Icons Collection

Like with stock photos, another challenge content creators face is finding elegant icons that resize without getting all fuzzy. There are a few resources out there for great, resizable icons.

The Noun Project is an extensive library of thousands of icons uploaded by contributors. With a free account, you can use icons as long as you either give credit to the creator or purchase them royalty-free for $1.99 apiece.

HubSpot has a library of resizeable icons, too, which you can download for free and without any licensing or attribution. The kit comes with a free guide for how to change the color of the icons using PowerPoint, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

To that, we say …

general-icons-26

(From HubSpot’s Free Icon Collection.)

It’s Not the Wand, It’s the Wizard

The tools and resources listed above can help you create, but it’s ultimately up to you to control the quality of your content. You still need to know your customer incredibly well, understand what challenges they face that your product or service solves, and create content that helps them address those challenges.

The brains and heart behind the content creator trump the code behind any tools and technology — and that’s a good thing for succeeding in marketing today.

What other tools or apps do you use to create content more easily? Leave them in the comments so we can extend this list right here!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

​​

via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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