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Ban These Words and Phrases From Your Communications Right Now (an A-to-Y Guide)

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Ever play jargon bingo?

You mark off a square on your card every time you hear one of those words or phrases that sounds like fingernails on the chalkboard. Maybe it’s a word so frequently used as to render it almost meaningless. Or perhaps it’s an acronym that makes readers have to pause (or Google) to remember what it means.

The winner of jargon bingo crosses off all the squares in a row or diagonally first (yep, basic bingo rules).

But, in truth, nobody wins when jargon sneaks into content.

To help you avoid these content no-nos (or know you’re not alone in your frustration), we asked the speakers at Content Marketing World 2022 to share their “favorite” (i.e., most hated) jargon.

Amy Higgins, senior director, content marketing, Twilio, couldn’t pick one: “I hate all jargon. I wish we could speak simply and reduce the number of acronyms we use in our day-to-day business. Most jargon will not translate well or mean the same thing across audiences.”

Meg Coffey, managing director, Coffey & Tea, isn’t a fan of using big words just to sound smart. “If anything, once you start using the big words, I assume you are covering for something else and tune out.”

Let’s start with some of the words and phrases that bug them the most.

Activation

I wish “activation” would die and never come back. Who talks like this? Other than businesspeople who never talked to their customers about their needs. Do customers say, “If only this were activated …”? Nope.”

Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping it Human

I wish activation would die and never come back. Who talks like this? Do customers say, If only this were activated? Nope, says #CMWorld speaker @kathyklotzguest via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Business-speak

There is no such thing as business-speak. If an outsider does not understand specialist jargon, it’s up to the specialist to explain it as one might to a young child or a golden retriever.

For insiders, jargon functions, well, just like NFL play calls. They work fast and effectively as long as anyone on the team can make a golden retriever or CEO understand the meaning AND ensures everybody has the same understanding of the jargon word.

Bert van Loon, strategist, CMFF

Change management

It has grown to have a negative connotation and causes employees to wince when they hear it. Whether you are putting new processes in place or changing your team structure, nobody wants to feel like they are being “managed” through change.

Let your employees lead the change. Let them tell you what is working and what is not. Then respond to those concerns. Focus on the positives for them in the change (not the positives for the company). And let’s face it, most people have been through so much change in the past few years that they are exhausted. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want change. Most people are not averse to change if it makes their lives better.

Andi Robinson, global digital content and brand leader, Corteva Agriscience

Change management causes employees to wince. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being managed through change, says @hijinxmarketing via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Check out

The phrase “check out …” is the most vapid, lazy call to action ever invented. Stop it. Verbs are your friends, people.

Think about it: When’s the last time you ever checked out anything anyone ever told you to check out? Never? Exactly. Because it’s such an empty, valueless call to action, “check out” undercuts your authority and suggests “spam city.”

What will happen should I click whatever it is you want me to “check out?” Tell me. Give me a good reason to click that sucker. Make me trust you.

Kate Bradley Chernis, co-founder and CEO, Lately

Check out is the most vapid, lazy call to action ever invented, says #CMWorld speaker @LatelyAIKately via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content

The word content is so overused that it’s practically meaningless. When I speak about content, I try to be as specific as possible about the type of content or its purpose so everyone around me is clear.

If you talk generally about content in a meeting, one person comes away imagining a video; another is ready for a series of blog posts; and another is envisioning an influencer marketing campaign. Even if you don’t yet have a specific content plan, be clear about the types of content that will or won’t be effective to manage everyone’s different expectations about what the content is.

Monica Norton, head of content marketing, Yelp

The world content is so overused that it’s practically meaningless, says @monicalnorton via @CMIContent #CMWorld. Click To Tweet

Content strategy

This one isn’t on my list, but there are people who don’t like when content marketers use the term “content strategy” because technically, content strategy includes all areas of content, including non-marketing content (i.e., internal docs).

When most people say “content strategy,” they usually mean “content marketing strategy.” It’s an implied difference, but some people get really worked up about this.”

Andy Crestodina, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Orbit Media Studios

When most people say content strategy, they usually mean content marketing strategy. Some people get really worked up about this, says #CMWorld speaker @crestodina via @CMIContent Click To Tweet

Engagement

I shiver anytime a marketer talks about engagement. What exactly is engagement? Ask 20 marketers what they think it means, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So, next time you catch yourself about to utter the word “engagement,” stop. Ask yourself, what exactly do you mean?

Andrew Davis, author and keynote speaker, Monumental Shift

Next time you catch yourself about to utter the word engagement, stop. Ask yourself, what exactly do you mean? #CMWorld speaker @DrewDavisHere via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Holistic

It’s any time someone says they offer “holistic” services. No one offers everything. The marketing and business world is far too diverse for that to even be possible. Soup-to-nuts doesn’t exist here. So, shut it.

Jason Falls, senior influence strategist, Cornett

Holistic services. No one offers everything. Soup-to-nuts doesn’t exist here. So, shut it, says @JasonFalls via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Learnings

Learnings is on my personal list because it sounds like something a toddler would say. Plus, we already have two perfectly good words that express the same meaning: lessons and takeaways.

Domain-specific jargon can be useful as shorthand when you’re communicating with other people in your field (e.g., SERP, click-throughs, bounce rate). But general business jargon is unnecessary – and exclusionary. People who don’t speak English natively often struggle with “corporate speak,” which should give all of us pause as our customers and teammates are becoming more globally diverse every day.

Sarah Goff-Dupont, principal writer, Atlassian

Learnings sounds like something a toddler would say. Plus, we already have good words for the same meaning: lessons and takeaways, says @SarahGoffDupont via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

North Star

It might not seem contentious, but to an audience based in the Southern Hemisphere having a North Star as your guiding or underlying principle is confusing, illogical, and just plain wrong. We have the Southern Cross, but we don’t use that as a guiding light. Why not just use the terms “guiding principle” or “core message” instead?

Gina Balarin, director and content queen, Verballistics

PMS

We are moving into the product management service industry. So every day, I see PMS. And every day, I think of the other one.

Viveka von Rosen, chief visibility officer, Vengreso

We are moving into the product management service industry. So every day, I see PMS. And every day, I think of the other one, says @LinkedInExpert via @@CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Perfect

This word is overused. Perfection is a myth. Stop calling everything “perfect.”

Bernie Borges, vice president global content marketing, iQor

Phygital

Making events virtual (digital) as well as in-person (physical) makes them more accessible and means that more diverse voices will be heard. But I cannot stand the word “phygital.” It is the worst portmanteau of all time, and I shudder every time I hear it.

Jacqueline Baxter, senior digital strategist, DX, Sitecore

I cannot stand the word phygital. It is the worst portmanteau of all time, and I shudder every time I hear it, says @JaxBaxter via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Reach out

I’m going to “reach out” to Katie. How about we just go back to saying “contact”?

Justin Ethington, partner, TrendCandy

Instead of saying reach out, how about we just go back to saying contact, asks Justin Ethington of TrendCandy.

SEO optimized, SEO content

Early in the existence of these terms, they were used to transition a legacy flow to something that could perform. Over time, the terms have been associated with low-quality or checkbox processes.

Building content that is high quality and has the potential to perform is the silo breaker, while SEO edits and the debasing of SEO by classifying content as “SEO content” create silos.

Jeff Coyle, co-founder, CSO, MarketMuse

Single source of truth

It’s hard to pick a winner for this one, but for content marketing, I’ll have to go with “single source of truth.” There’s simply no way to have a single source of truth if you’re doing your job correctly. So martech and CMS vendors, please stop contacting me on LinkedIn telling me you’ve got a solution for this.

Jenn Vande Zande, editor-in-chief, SAP Customer Experience

There’s no way to have a single source of truth. So martech and CMS vendors, please stop contacting me on LinkedIn telling me you’ve got a solution for this, says @jennvzande via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Solution

It makes me cringe. I’ve read so much B2B copy where a company talks about providing a solution but leaves me with absolutely no idea of what they actually do.

Is it software you’re selling? Hardware? Consulting? What? Don’t get me wrong. The ability to solve a prospect’s problem is huge. However, when people can’t determine what you’re offering – how it is that you can actually help them — it makes your solution less appealing.

For example, the company promising the solution to my need to get more customers could be peddling marketing automation, media, creative services, research, printing, or something else.

Skip the hackneyed phrase. Proceed directly to specificity and clarity. At least, that’s the solution I’d offer (wink, wink).

Nancy Harhut, CCO, HBT Marketing

Solution makes me cringe. Skip the hackneyed phrase. Proceed directly to specificity and clarity, says @nharhut via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

But it’s not just words and phrases that are irritating to hear and read. How many of these sentences (and one question) do you come across in a week?

Add value

I encourage all marketers to ditch this business phrase. We need to think of another way of talking about the purpose of our content reviews because reviewers often feel like they must make an addition to something to make it stronger.

Too often, this means that people we ask to review a piece of content or a creative brief feel obligated to add ideas just for the sake of adding something new. Sometimes you don’t need to “add value.” Sometimes you need to recognize other people’s value and acknowledge that their draft perfectly meets the need of the project or campaign.

Erika Heald, founder, lead consultant, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting

Sometimes you don’t need to add value. Sometimes you need to acknowledge that a draft perfectly meets the need, says @sferika via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Can you make this go viral?

This tells me that a client doesn’t understand how public relations/content marketing work. Going viral became a thing back in the 2000s. Quora says the term to “describe rapid and widespread social proliferation of a meme or product” started picking up steam in 2008. I imagine it’s been causing marketing folks headaches ever since.

Clients need to understand that the only way to ensure you’ll be featured is to pay for an ad. Public relations and content marketing take time and dedicated effort. Very little success is had overnight.”

Michelle Garrett, consultant, Garrett Public Relations

Going viral became a thing in the 2000s. PR and #ContentMarketing take time and dedicated effort. Very little success is had overnight, says @PRisUs via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Content is king

Can we throw this phrase out yet? Content is most definitely royalty (insert hair flip here), but it’s not a domineering force that can claim its rightful throne in search results just by existing. Showing up on page one of search results takes work. Driving qualified traffic takes work. It takes only a birthright to be king. Existence does not equal excellence.

Haley Collins, director of operations and content, GPO

Can we throw content is king phrase out yet? #Content is most definitely royalty, but it’s not a domineering force that can claim its rightful throne in search results, says Haley Collins via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Done is better than perfect

OK, I understand how positive an agile mindset is. However, I see many teams using this quote as permission to create low-quality content. Done is better than perfect only when it comes to the first step of a project. During the rest of your life, please make sure your content creators will always run after the perfection stage.

Cassio Politi, founder, Tracto Content Marketing

I hope this email finds you well

I don’t necessarily hate it, but I don’t understand where it emanated from. Why wouldn’t you just say you hope the person is doing well?

Michael Bordieri, senior content solutions consultant, LinkedIn

It is what it is

It is an awful saying, which I am trying not to use anymore. It normalizes a status quo that is immovable and defeatist. I believe anything can change, and as content marketers, we know the power and impact of words, imagery, and video to make what it is, everything it can be.

Karen McFarlane, chief marketing officer, LetterShop

Let’s table that

Whenever someone doesn’t want to make an actual decision, this phrase comes out. No better way to leave something unaddressed until it becomes a real issue than by leaving it “on the table.”

Brian Piper, director of content strategy and assessment, University of Rochester

Think outside the box

What does that even mean, anyway?!

Chris Ducker, founder, Youpreneur.com

What does think outside the box even mean anyway, asks @ChrisDucker via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

We need to push

When I am in a marketing strategy meeting and hear the words, “We need to push.” Nope. Who wants to be pushed into anything? It needs to stop.

Instead, let’s start with better questions about the consumer or potential client’s mindset. “How can we engage?” and “Who cares about this product or service?”

Jacquie Chakirelis, chief digital strategy officer, Quest Digital/ Great Lakes Publishing

What keeps you up at night?

I was just put in my place when I asked a client, “What keeps you up at night?” He looked at me and said, “Mike, you can do better than that.” He went on to tell me that what keeps him up at night has nothing to do with business or the services I sell. It’s his kids, gun reform, the war, and other things. So I hate what I used to say.

Michael Weiss, vice president of consulting services and solutions, Creative Circle

You’re on mute

OK, this isn’t business-speak per se, but it’s a line you hear in every business meeting. Over two years in with “all Zoom, all the time,” I don’t know why we’re not better trained to unmute ourselves before we speak. Maybe the video meeting platforms will solve this challenge using technology (e.g., have an optional setting to automatically unmute you when you start speaking, using AI to adjust for when the dog barks).

Dennis Shiao, founder, Attention Retention

Before this article is concluded (because a list like this is never complete), let’s hit on some broad categories that can thwart and disrupt the audience’s consumption of your content.

Acronyms

Technical B2B industries are huge abusers of acronyms. There is a place for them, of course, but to limit confusion and ensure your message is received, do these things:

  • Create an acronym guide for internal reference
  • Always spell the full phrase at first mention with the acronym in parentheses.

Wendy Covey, CEO and co-founder, TREW Marketing

Technical B2B industries are huge abusers of acronyms. To limit confusion, always spell the full phrase at first mention with the acronym in parentheses, says @wendycovey via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Gendered language

We all need to think about our audiences and make everyone feel included and respected. Stop saying “you guys” in meetings. Replace “man-hours” with “people-hours.” Think about industry-specific terms that may isolate people and aim to be more inclusive. Speak up to help others shift toward kinder, more culturally appropriate language.

Penny Gralewski, senior director, product and portfolio marketing, DataRobot

Stop saying you guys in meetings. Speak up to help others shift toward kinder, more culturally appropriate language, says @virtualpenny via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Hustle mentality language

I hate any and all jargon promoting the hustle mentality, such as “Just put your head down and grind” and “Work until it’s worth it.”

This makes people feel like the goal is to serve your business, but your business is supposed to serve your family and other people.

If you’re always working, you aren’t serving anyone well. Obviously, you have to work hard, but that can’t be the only thing you do. You must invest time and money into things that bring you energy and joy. Otherwise, you are hustling forever. At the end of it, maybe you have a lot of money, but you no longer have any relationships to enjoy it with you.

Tim Schmoyer, founder/CEO, Video Creators

Why Y?

I hate the gratuitous addition of “y” to words like relevance, competence, and resilience. There’s no distinction in the definition, and it’s gratuitously cluttery. Whyyyyyyy?

Carmen Hill, principal strategist and writer, Chill Content

I hate the gratuitous addition of y to words like relevance, competence, and resilience. There’s no distinction in the definition. Whyyyyyyy? @CarmenHIll via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Think before you speak (or write)

Christopher Penn, chief data scientist, TrustInsights.ai, says he’s most bothered when people use jargon to exclude others or obscure the truth: “When you use jargon, you’re intending to make things less clear, less obvious, less accessible, less inclusive. Given that many of us have pledged to be more inclusive, jargon is contrary to that goal.”

Are you guilty of using any of these? Which ones make you tune out, stumble, or scream silently as you read? Share in the comments.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

 Register to attend Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. 

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.

​​

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.

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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