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9 Visual Content Tips and Examples From Creative Brands and Experts

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9 Visual Content Tips and Examples From Creative Brands and Experts

Updated March 30, 2022

Visuals are essential to creating content that will help your business stand out and draw in an audience. Not only does imagery help make text-centric content more eye-catching, digestible, and memorable, but it can communicate compelling messages that speak volumes without any text.

Visual trends and creative platforms come and go in the blink of a smartphone camera’s eye. Take a fresh look at how your brand’s photos, videos, and graphics can do the talking. This collection of best-practice tips comes from some of the industry’s most creative and design-minded content experts. It also includes best-in-show examples to inspire you to put your brand’s vision on display.

Take a fresh look at your brand’s photos, videos, and graphics to get a better focus on your #VisualContent strategy, says @joderama via @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

1. Consider the story – not just the visuals

Visual storytelling isn’t just about the pictures. Visuals should enable a clear, consistent story from your brand. Even if each individual visual asset doesn’t tell an obvious story, your audience should be able to follow the narrative thread.

It’s a point CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose emphasizes in his detailed Marketing Makers lesson on the subject. His top-line advice: Think like a storyteller. Then plan your visual media to represent and relate the story across all your platforms.

Think like a storyteller, then plan your visuals to tell the story across platforms, says @Robert_Rose via @joderama @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

It’s a lesson executed skillfully by the mindfulness app Calm. Whether viewing their ads in your Instagram Stories feed or scrolling the daily affirmations and meditations posted to its profile page, the cool blue color palette and serene background scenery create visual reinforcement of the brand’s overarching story of enabling people to find balance in their lives.

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2. Align the visual story with your content marketing strategy

Posting a photo or video online and waiting for the business offers to start rolling in is not a strategy. Neither is hinging your visual content success on creating the next viral phenomenon. Like any content marketing format, you need a compelling rationale for visual storytelling and a clear plan for turning views into meaningful marketing results.

Posting a photo or video online and waiting for the business offers to start rolling in is not a strategy, says @joderama via @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

Before your creative team sketches any ideas, make sure they answer these questions:

  • What are we trying to accomplish with our visual content?
  • Who are our audience members? What kinds of content experiences interest them?
  • What problems does our organization solve?
  • What is our clearly defined vision of what makes our brand unique? How can we communicate those messages in a compelling and visually consistent way?
  • What metrics will we use to measure success? For which terms should this image appear in search engine results?

To ensure your visual vision aligns with your marketing purpose, let audience preferences – not your gut feelings – guide the selection of themes, topics, and approaches.

For example, a current rule of thumb dictates videos should run between 30 seconds and six minutes. However, video pro Andrew Davis rarely creates videos less than seven minutes.

Why does he buck convention? It’s what his audience wants, according to his metrics. As Andrew explains, “The real core of my audience doesn’t want a superficial marketing tip and trick because they can get a million of those elsewhere online. I’m trying to help people think strategically about the marketing they’re doing and how to deliver a better customer experience. To me, that [requires lengthier videos].”
Don’t just follow best practices on #video length. Figure out what your audience responds best to, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

To find audience insights to guide your creative decision-making, Andrew suggests tracking:

  • Audience retention rates: Compare the retention rates for each video. For example, one of his popular videos showed a 50% retention rate – half who viewed the video watched until the end. When videos fail to meet that retention rate, he does a deeper dive into their creative and technical details – length, topic, title, and tags – to discern what didn’t work well.
  • Subscriber responses: Track direct replies to those who subscribe to your content. Andrew includes links to his videos in Loyalty Loop, a weekly email newsletter. “Lots of people click, open, and watch it, but the people who respond – especially when it’s about something that really hit a chord – help me understand what’s working because it tells me what they’re liking, what’s challenging them, and what are they learning,” he says.
  • Comments: Read responses posted below the videos. Andrew mines the comments viewers leave on the YouTube page and below his LinkedIn posts where he shares the link.

TIP: If you’d like more guidance on building a strategic framework to support all your content efforts, this three-step content marketing strategy tutorial can help.


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3. Ensure images reflect and represent your whole audience

Images might speak a thousand words, but those words do not necessarily convey the same message to everyone – especially those who aren’t represented authentically in your brand’s visual stories.

African-American Marketing Association founder Michelle Ngome implores marketers to consider diversity in their content creation. “What kinds of content are you sharing on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn company pages, and Twitter? What do your messaging and images look like? Is there a healthy balance of perspectives shared in [your] choices of topics and the [faces and voices behind] your messages?… Does it prioritize the experiences of some groups over others?” Michelle asks.

A lot of organizations are diverse but are they inclusive, asks @MichelleNgome via @joderama @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

Michelle points to Rihanna’s lingerie brand Savage X Fenty as a shining example. She credits the brand’s broadly inclusive visualization model as a key reason it reached a $1 billion valuation just two years after launching. You can see evidence of that in a Valentine’s Day post shared on Instagram and Facebook emphasizing that sexy isn’t based on age, skin color, or sexual preference.

Keep in mind: Diversity doesn’t need to be the focal point of a visual story for it to play a key role. In fact, normalizing the representation of diverse communities as part and parcel of your creative process means you won’t have to think about it on an asset-by-asset basis. It will happen organically. That’s a goal GLAAD, Getty Images, and Ceros are working to further with their collaborative initiative Seeing is Believing.

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A Getty Images’ Visual GPS 2021 Study found countries with greater representation of the LGBTQ+ community in their media and advertising exhibit less discrimination and less bias. The resulting partnership was forged to “elevate diverse narratives that can alter perceptions, evoke empathy, and build community.” The effort included a calendar of LGBTQ+ celebration days and a gated Visual Storytelling Guidebook to inspire increased inclusion and thoughtful portrayals of the LGBTQ+ community. Getty also compiled special collections of stock images emphasizing intersectionality and authenticity over the narrow, stereotypical depictions commonly seen in media.

4. Use your fans’ content – or let them do the work for you

Consumers love to snap pictures and share selfie videos with their friends. Instead of interrupting their experience with product shots and promotional pitches, why not include their creative work in your content marketing?

In a recent Teen Vogue article, Abercrombie & Fitch explains how it turned to the TikTok community for help shedding its early 2000s “preppy surfer” look. While the company ran sponsored ads and partner posts on the platform, much of the credit for its successful refresh is owed to the Gen Z consumers who posted their own videos tagged with #AbercrombieHaul and #AbercrombieStyle.

For example, Teen Vogue points to Andy Lobos’ TikTok video about Abercrombie’s logo-less hoodies, which earned over 1 million views. Once an Abercrombie product goes viral on TikTok, it typically sells out on the site.

@andy_lobosReply to @gunnawut surprisingly there is no logos on this just a good blank hoodie #fyp #abercrombie♬ original sound – led

5. Stay on brand

Whether fans are involved in your imagery or not, take steps to maintain your brand’s visual identity, including the use of corporate colors and logos. Ideally, all your content assets feature a consistent visual design – one that viewers instantly recognize no matter where the content appears or who creates it.

For example, Planters decided to sit out the 2021 Super Bowl ad frenzy in favor of a cause-based play to promote “little acts of extraordinary substance that make the world a better place.” But despite benching its ad, the brand didn’t bench its signature colors or its resurrected mascot in its videos and social media posts about the campaign:

When creating branded assets, consider how target distribution platforms might render them. The specs might not be the same across the board. If you don’t pay close attention, the hard work to create a shareable image can be fruitless as the image gets mixed up or mangled that masks your brand’s value.

For example, embedded links can be problematic if not used appropriately. Visual content strategy expert (and avowed comics geek) Buddy Scalera says a platform’s native tools might pick a less-preferred image from the content to display as the thumbnail or preview, or they might crop it in a way that robs some of its resonance and branding elements. As a workaround, he suggests using Open Graph tags – a piece of code that gives you greater control of the visual experience you’re trying to create.

Content marketers should wrest control of their visuals from @Microsoft, @Google, @Facebook, says @BuddyScalera via @joderama @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

TIP: Don’t forget to add your logo to original images and tag them with relevant keywords, categories, hashtags, and metadata. This helps your fans find your content even when shared in unfamiliar contexts.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 9 Steps to Optimize Images for SEO

6. Tailor visuals to the delivery platform

You also need to consider each sharing environment to determine how well the visuals fit the conversational context and audience preferences. Of course, with the right insights, your visuals can find an audience in places you wouldn’t expect to be a good fit.

For example, the Instagram audience might not seem like an obvious fit for the long-form literature at The New York Public Library. But its content team translated a series of text-heavy content into snackable visual segments that deserve a special place on its shelves of great works.

Insta Novels visualizes five iconic novels as Instagram Stories. Each edition includes the full text along with illustrations and an animated intro. It even includes a place to pause on every frame for those who aren’t skilled at reading in the platform’s 15-second increments. These visualized novels gained more than 300,000 views and added more than 140,000 followers to the library’s Instagram account.

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Image source

[email protected] reinvented five classics novels – without changing a word – on #Instagram. They gained 140,000 followers, says @Everypixelcom via @CMIContent @corpv. Click To Tweet

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

7. Don’t be afraid to get emotional

Some of the most memorable visual experiences tap into the power of emotion. Need proof? I challenge you to watch this emotionally charged video from Oreo and not get a little misty-eyed at the display of fatherly love and acceptance:

All Animals – the flagship magazine of the Humane Society of the United States – also aims for the heart with its visual content. For a feature story on the Black Beauty Ranch, a sanctuary for wild animals and farm stock that have been abused, injured, or abandoned, the editorial team used photos of the animals looking directly at the camera to create a powerful connection with viewers. In its article about fur farms, the faces of the caged animals get across the organization’s message without viewers having to read a word.

This level of deliberate planning also helped the U.S. Humane Society catch the eyes of the 2021 Content Marketing Award judges, which recognized All Animals as a finalist in the Best Feature Design and Best Use of Photography categories and the winner for Best Nonprofit Publication.

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Famed photographer Pete Souza captured plenty of posed snapshots while documenting the presidencies of Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. Yet, in his keynote address at Content Marketing World 2021, Pete shared his most enduring images that say something essential about the person behind the institution.

He included many of those photographs in his two best-selling books, Obama: An Intimate Portrait and Shade: A Tale of Two Presidencies. “The way [Obama] interacted with other people showed what he was like as a human being,” Pete told the crowd.

President Barack Obama greets children at a day care facility adjacent to daughter Sasha's school in Bethesda, Md., following her 4th grade closing ceremony, June 9, 2011.

Image source

8. Repurpose information and insights as visuals

A stock-image service can be a viable alternative when cutting-edge equipment (and the talent to operate it) is out of your price range. The key? Put your brand’s spin on the images before you publish them.

You also can “skin” your brand’s content without going the stock route, many of which might offer a stronger balance between cost-effectiveness and audience impact.

For example, in a content partnership with Quartz, Deloitte Global enlisted its creative services studio to help turn its lead-gen white paper on the millennial work experience into a highly immersive interactive version anchored by vibrant full-screen illustrations.

The cast of characters for The Resilient Generation was established with a drawing of an apartment and its inhabitants. Then, artist Paige Vickers created lush, individual scenes with whimsical details. She depicted three typical young professionals at home mid-pandemic — working next to a roommate, taking a mental health break with the dog, and preparing for a climate protest.

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The original artwork might have been more expensive than stock art, but the investment paid off. A week after launch, Deloitte’s page visits grew approximately 964%, and white paper downloads increased 33%. It was also a hit with the 2021 Content Marketing Award judges, too, capturing the win for Best Use of Illustration.

9. Follow the patterns of effective design

A wealth of DIY design tools online and on social media gives almost anyone the ability to produce visual content. However, those tools still require some design chops to create clear, compelling, and readable images and videos.

That process can be simplified with design templates. That was the idea behind a holiday email campaign from Adobe Creative. It offered its newsletter subscribers intriguing ugly Christmas sweaters Photoshop templates. Customers could turn their favorite images into a virtual sweater pattern with just a few clicks.

Image showing Adobe ugly sweater Photoshop action turning half of a reindeer image into an ugly sweater-style pattern.

Adobe’s newsletters also featured templates for cozy winter cards, as well as non-holiday options like how to make a risograph-style print in Photoshop.

Adobe risograph-style print template gif

Sharing visual content that helped Adobe’s audience create their own was a smart marketing play. It got creators to experiment with Photoshop’s tools and features while providing step-by-step instructions and delivering a free holiday gift of surprise and delight.

Audiences love free things – templates, tools, and images make great #content and great #email subscriber gifts. See examples from the @AdobeCreate newsletter via @joderama @CMIContent @corpv Click To Tweet

Of course, when working with templates isn’t a viable option, your best bet is to default to the basic principles of good design. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Give your imagery room to breathe: Failing to leave enough white space between visuals can make a page cluttered and hard to follow. Remove images that don’t add to the visual conversation and expand the space between unrelated elements to clarify page structure.
  • Don’t get color-blindsided: Stay true to your branding guidelines, including color preferences. But don’t get so caught up in executing this priority that you overlook whether those colors will work well together online. Pick one color to use as a base, then find complementary colors with an online color-wheel tool.
  • Speed up your page loads: Visual experiences are slowed when images aren’t properly sized and compressed. Use tools (like this simple one from Google) to check how quickly images load. If it’s too long, adjust for consumption on different platforms and devices, including mobile.
  • Make good typography decisions: Not only is choosing the proper font size, weight, and spacing critical to readability, but poor typography decisions can conflict with crafting understandable and memorable messages.

TIP: Don’t forget to get your visuals shared as far and wide as all your other assets. Influencers can be instrumental to this goal, especially on social media. Make it easy for them by offering multiple options – such as tagging them on social media or providing direct access to the raw files for download.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 3 Graphic Design Tips for Non-Designers

How do you visualize your brand’s story?

Of course, these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll find more image-centric inspiration in CMI’s content hub on the subject. We also would love to hear how other businesses are painting pictures of marketing success. Tell us about your favorites in the comments. 

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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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.

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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.

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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.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

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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