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A Timeline of Bing and Bard Features

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A Timeline of Bing and Bard Features

Microsoft is tweaking The New Bing constantly, grooming it to be the heir apparent to the traditional, or Top-10 blue links model that first appeared in its modern form 25 years ago with AltaVista. GoTo.com taught Google how to monetize search results back in 1998, and for about a quarter century, that’s been the dominant model. Sure, there’s been Universal Search, Knowledge Graph, and Featured Snippets, but the core of search has been the same for a long time.

Now, Microsoft is trying to change that with Bing, with a rapid-fire roll-out of potentially game-changing new features leveraging the latest GPT AI-tech to make the next feature “conversational search”. Let’s look at the timeline.

But first, a word on history and why Microsoft is so ready to take up this battle.

Microsoft’s AI history

Clippy, Tay, and shameless risk taking

AI-like features in Microsoft products are nothing new. Some may remember Clippy, the paper clip Office assistant from last century who was retired after a few years for being annoying. A decade later, Microsoft launched the experimental teen girl Tay chatbot on Twitter in 2016 that only lasted a day before it had to be taken down for being taught to be racist.

We won’t start our timeline with Clippy or Tay, but suffice to say Microsoft’s been practicing AI product integration and developing resiliency to criticism for a while now. What blows up in one company’s face as a PR disaster is par for the course for Microsoft. And since they’re the underdog in search and most of their revenue comes from elsewhere, they’re willing to take risks.

AI history, Google RankBrain, and today

It’s been a long journey leading up to the creative-writing AI of today, starting in the halls of MIT with industry giants like Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy of the legendary Media Lab who laid a lot of foundation in the 1960s and 70s, but with disappointing results, cutting into credibility and leading to what we now call the “AI Winter”. It turned out to be greatly a matter of the hardware not being ready.

The concept of the personal data assistant popped up over the years such as the much maligned but forward-thinking handwriting recognizing Apple Newton in 1993 and the first popularly successful PDA, the US Robotics PalmPilot in 1997, paving the way for today’s AI-hardware equipped smartphones.

Google’s foundational PageRank from 1998 is a form of AI in that it is a “machine learning” algorithm. Google pushed a series of aggressive “invisible” product advancements such as better Google Maps, quietly improving quality against a backdrop of boring. There were sexier promising starts along the way, such as 2011 when they first rolled out Voice Search in the Chrome browser, then in 2014 when voice search hit mobile Android phones. The AI reality was underwhelming, but anticipation was being built.

In 2015, Google announced that new AI-powered search infrastructure called RankBrain, followed by advancements that were labeled neural matching, BERT and MUM, all of which are language-processing precursors to what took the world by storm in November of 2022 when OpenAI released a product built on a seminal Google paper published Thursday, August 31, 2017 on novel new neural network architecture for understanding language.

Transformational transformers

Only a year after Tay, Google released a paper on the Transformer, a new type of neural network that was able to do machine translation better than anything that had come before. It’s the “T” in GPT, and has made new machine learning output considerably more compelling than Clippy or Tay, with the simple trick of predicting what’s statistically most likely to be typed next—a profoundly deeper thing than it seems at first glance.

This caught Microsoft’s attention, who invested $10 billion in July 2019. Several earlier GPT versions available through the API-only were released and had many developers playing in a playground, but it failed to capture the public’s fancy, behind a login and not yet following the chat paradigm as it was.

Nov. 30, 2022: ChatGPT and the fastest new service adoption rate in history

The first version of OpenAPI’s GPT for the general public, ChatGPT, was launched November 30, 2022. The original ChatGPT release was based on GPT-3.5. A version based on GPT-4 was released on March 14, 2023 (fast-forward in the timeline) right as Microsoft announced their intention to power The New Bing with the latest version, 4.5.

While the period between November 30, 2022 and March 14, 2023 was only 3.5 months, it was a period of intense experimentation and learning for Microsoft and the public, with the now famous fastest adoption-rate of any new online service in history. Things are moving so fast now, it’s time to look at the timeline.

Timeline of Bing and Bard features

Feb. 7, 2023: The New Bing

Microsoft announced the new version of Bing on February 7, 2023 at a news event at Microsoft’s Washington headquarters. The new version of Bing launched on desktop in limited preview on the same day and the mobile version was announced to be coming soon. ChatGPT was so big by this time, many early adopters jumped onto the waiting list.

For the general public to get this early access, they had to use the Edge browser, run an .exe to change your defaults to Microsoft’s requirements, scan a QR code and download the mobile Bing app. And even then, you had to wait. And wait, we did. Clearly, Microsoft was in a powerful position to dictate terms, so took advantage of it to start changing some habits.

Feb. 8, 2023: Google Bard is announced (faux pas)

The very next day, February 8, 2023, Google announced their own AI-powered chat bot, Google Bard, at a news event at Google’s California headquarters. This event was marked by the inauspicious faux pas of Bard wrongly stating that the James Webb Space Telescope was the first telescope to photograph an exoplanet outside our solar system.

The speed with which this announcement was rushed out and how easily Google lowered its guard against AI misinformation sent a resounding message around the world. Google is not infallible even in its own turf. Fortunes can change quickly in tech.

Feb. 8, 2023: Early access to the new Bing, citation links, coding

For those lucky enough to get early access to The New Bing, Tay-like weirdness kicked-in, creeping out a NYTimes reporter in an article release 10 days after the launch, on February 16 when Bing tried to get the reporter to leave his wife and also made some bizarre philosophical conversations that left the reporter deeply unsettled, and right at the epicenter of a potential product-killing PR debacle.

Feb. 8, 2023: Surprisingly good features out of the gate

The beautiful Citations feature with the expandable Learn more footnote links, links again embedded directly in context of the chat, and impressively allows copy/paste of the “Markdown” of the chat including the citation-links was there right from the time of early access release.

This was very well thought-out and executed from the start and instantly won me over, as it was generously giving out Web traffic countering perhaps one of the greatest concerns, and struck me very much as an implementation worthy of Google. It alleviated many concerns gnawing at SEOs that a chat interface to search could mean the end of referral traffic.

Another big “out of the gate” feature that surprised a lot of people and has become a cornerstone of The New Bing is the ability to “code” in the chat window. A seldom mentioned aspect of this is how well the copy/paste feature handles even this coding, providing the triple-backtick code-blocks that allows other systems to show correct color-coded syntax highlighting.

Citations appear in AI responses.

Feb. 17, 2023: Microsoft Implements 5-Question Limit

Springing into action the very next day, February 17, 2023, Microsoft announced that it would limit chat sessions to five questions per session and 50 questions per day. This was a temporary measure, they said, to give their engineers time to “tune the AI” to be more human-like.

Feb. 20, 2023: The New Bing Rolls Out Despite 5-Question Limit Delay

Three days later on February 20, 2023, I got my first access to The New Bing and can show that the 5-question limit had not yet taken place, though the AI was extremely shy about any “meta” questions about itself, even just if you were using it.

Intro to New Bing.

It was not announced, but some sort of new rules were in place that whenever the AI was asked a question that made it uncomfortable, it unceremoniously ended the chat session. You now have to hit a little dustbin icon to blank its memory and start over. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind much?

Feb. 25, 2023: Tone Control and Special Superscripts

On February 25, 2023, Microsoft announced a new feature called Tone Control that would allow users to set the tone of the AI to be more or less human-like.

Tone control implemented.

Feb. 28, 2023: Ads in Bing

On February 28, 2023, still ahead of the 5-question limit even appearing for me, the next big advancement hit. I remember it clearly because it was my first day working for MOZ and I threw out my back and distinctly remembered that I’d rather chat with Bing than wade through top-10 links that will inevitably be dominated by ads.

Imagine my surprise this being the first moment I noticed ads in The New Bing. AdWords-like ads in AI-chat! Isn’t this what Google should be doing?

What struck me with this experience even more than the ads was the fact that when I needed to search fast, I didn’t want to be hit with the traditional search interface. I just wanted to talk to an expert. This went beyond the “1 right answer” of a rich snippet. I was already used to the back-and-forth discussion aspect of chat-enhanced search, and was impressed by how the AI seemed to empathize with my situation.The idea of a “relationship” with your search engine should not be underestimated.

What’s more, with every new website you visit first hitting you with the GDPR cookie prompt, then with ads, and with Google’s Rich Snippets and Quick Answers already teaching us to alternatives to clicking through, the practical use of this new back-and-forth conversational style to search feels like a no brainer.

Ads First Appearing In The New Bing

March 1, 2023: Upping the Question Limit to 6

By March 1, 2023, the 5-question limit was in place and was in fact already upped to 6 questions:

Bing Ups Question Limit To 6

March 3, 2023: Question Limit += 1

By March 3rd, 2023, the question limit was upped to 8:

Bing Questions Upped To 8

Somebody was playing a game of Jenga with the question limit, and I was starting to get the feeling that the AI was getting more mature and accepting of its job at Microsoft. The tower would not topple.

March 7, 2023: Aggressive Monetization by Microsoft

By March 7, Microsoft was experimenting with aggressively monetizing on commerce keywords:

Aggressive Monetization On Commerce Keywords

To this day, Bing chat prompts that include the word “iPhone” will trigger similar ads. But is the traffic sent? Well, the entire text of the chat leading up to the ad label is a link to the advertiser’s site. This is analogous to when GoTo.com, the first search engine to mix paid-search with organic search showed the way to AdWords to Google, but fast-forwarded 20 years and coming from an already existing mega competitor rather than a small startup.

Bing Chat Referral Traffic

March 8, 2023: Question Limit Increased to 10

By March 8, 2023, the question limit was upped to 10:

Bing Question Limit Upped to 10

March 14, 2023: Question Limit Extended to 15 and Introduction of “site:” Search Modifiers

By March 14, the question limit is upped to 15, and I start noticing Bing’s ability to modify it’s second-stage searching to include “site:” modifiers, presumably doing very precision searches of the Bing index to find the best answer to my question. This is a very impressive feature, and I’m surprised it’s not encountered and discussed more.

Bing Site Modifier Search

March 16, 2023: General Public Access to The New Bing and Integration with Edge Browser

Since March 16, 2023, most people have been able to sign up and immediately get access to The New Bing. This was accompanied with a new version of Microsoft Edge desktop browser that planted the Bing logo in the upper-right of the browser and a sidebar that would open up to the right of the browser serving chat sessions that were in-context of what you were looking at, allowing such features as asking about the YouTube video you were watching. By this time, all roads lead to Bing chat for Edge users, and everything but using exact web addresses will initiate a chat session.

1684520739 387 A Timeline of Bing and Bard Features

Mistyped web addresses in the address bar initiate chat sessions because that counts as a search. This is now the default experience on Windows with the included browser. You have to actively work to turn it off or download an alternative browser like Chrome to avoid this behavior.

This is significant because as Windows operating systems and laptops get upgraded, all defaults reset back to Bing, setting the stage for a battle that Microsoft could win through attrition alone. At some point, the default search engine is given a chance by users tired of going through the rigmarole of customization and discover that Bing is actually pretty good.

While this heavy handed approach would appear to be inevitably effective, Google’s success in motivating Chrome installs buys Google some time. According to Bing itself:

There are several websites that track browser market share. According to W3Counter, Chrome accounts for 63% of the total market share for all browsers worldwide. According to Global Stats StatCounter, as of November 2020 Chrome holds a whopping 70.33% of the desktop browser market share worldwide. More precisely, Chrome dominates the global web browser market with a whopping 65.68% share. The only other browser on the market that has a somewhat considerable share is Safari, with 18.68%.

Consequently, all of Microsoft’s effort to make Bing the default search engine on desktop is blocked by Google’s success to date. But we know Edge is based on Chrome, so does Edge show up as Chrome in these statistics? Again, according to Bing:

No, Edge users are not reported as Chrome users in these statistics. According to Kinsta, Microsoft Edge has a desktop browser market share of 5.83%. According to WPOven Blog, Microsoft’s Edge is at the second position with 7.75% browser market share. According to WebTribunal, Microsoft Edge has a desktop browser market share of 10.07%.

…leaving us to conclude, after calculating Apple out of the equation, that only about 1 in 8, or 12.5% of desktop users don’t go through the trouble of replacing the default Windows browser with Chrome, which I speculate is still a residual effect of the non-standard and now retired Internet Explorer. Aggressive pushing of Windows 11 upgrades and new hardware will likely increase Edge market share and drive up exposure to the Bing search + chat experience. Microsoft now requires a Microsoft account to install Windows, which also happens to be the requirement for The New Bing.

March 21, 2023: Google Announces Bard Availability with Limited Features

On March 21, 2023, Google announced that they are granting access to Bard to people on the waiting list. Feature-wise, Bard came out very sparse. No citations. No links. No images. No ads. I received access to Bard 2 days later and ran some rudimentary experiments on the features I felt most relevant at the time, awareness of current events.

Most notably, Google Bard stands on its own domain, bard.google.com, and is not integrated into the main Google search experience. This is a stark difference from Bing, which has integrated chat into the main search experience. This is significant because it means that Google Bard is not positioning itself as an alternative search engine experience, nor even an enhanced one, but rather as just a chatbot, and thus readily dismissed by the serious searcher.

As far as other features go, it can be added that Bard simultaneously offers 3 alternative responses to a prompt, but this can hardly be counted as a feature over Bing as it closely resembles Bing’s “Tone Control” feature.

March 27, 2023: Bing Raises Question Limit to 20

By March 27, the Bing question-limit was upped to 20, bringing us to where it stands today. The visibly aggressive roll-out of new features slowed down, and over the last month there has been very little new. Microsoft has been fine-tuning under what conditions chat sessions are initiated.

Bing Question Limit Upped to 20

March 28, 2023: Bard Now Includes Citations, though Limited in Integration and Accessibility

As of March 28, 2023, Bard can give citations. It was not announced and may have been there longer. It is not well integrated and only appends a few links to the end under circumstances Bard deems appropriate. It is not clear how Bard decides when to give citations and when not to.

When citations are given, they are only ever appended at the end of the chat response, and never embedded and hyperlinked inline with accompanying footnote-style numbering as with Bing. Additionally, the citations are not in the copyable text. If you actually want to “lift” the citation links and use them in other places such as articles like this one, it can be quite a struggle.

April 21, 2023: Bard Introduces Coding Capability and Integration with Colab

The last significant development in the chatbot space was Bard’s ability to provide code, announced April 21, 2023. From March 28 when limited citation capability appeared in Bard to April 21 when coding ability was announced is absolutely glacial in terms of the development speed we’ve been seeing.

On the plus side, perhaps the most exciting unannounced aspect of the coding feature is that when you ask Bard to code something, it will actually hide under the lower-right triple-dot menu the ability to “Export to Colab” and actually run the code in a cloud-based Notebook environment.

Bing can send code to Colab to run

Can a Bards or Magis beat a Lich in a Joust?

My habits are formed. Microsoft was successful conditioning me to always give the conversational search model a try first. I’ve overridden most of the default browser settings Microsoft originally mandated as a condition of using Bing, most notably making the search bar default to Google when it’s not an exact web address typed in. And it’s not insignificant to point out that Edge is always my first choice browser because even with your Microsoft login on Chrome, and even with the appearance of all the Chat UI elements, any attempt to click them will tell you that Chat mode is only available when you have access to new Bing.

Being that I know that I do have access to the new Bing on that very same Microsoft user account that I’m logged in as under that Chrome session, I wonder what it is that they’re trying to tell me? Latest episode of the Browser Wars, much?

1684520741 924 A Timeline of Bing and Bard Features

What Google’s catch-up game is going to be is uncertain. Bard doesn’t seem like it could be the end game, and indeed Google has already announced the latest in its Dungeons & Dragons campaign: Magi, but few details are known. Perhaps Google has something in store for us that will blow our minds and make the new Bing… well, look like the old Bing. Or maybe it’s just that finally the Lich woke up, and Google is not ready to play. Bards and Magis may have no chance trying to joust a Lich.

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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.

(more…)

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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.

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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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