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How The Humane Society Makes Emotional Connections

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How The Humane Society Makes Emotional Connections

Balancing the cuteness of puppies with hard-hitting advocacy to shine a light on animal suffering and inspire people to drive meaningful change takes real content expertise.

Emily Hamlin Smith, senior editorial director of the Humane Society of the United States, and her team have done that with their quarterly print magazine All Animals and other digital content. This year’s editorial coverage of the society’s rescue of nearly 4,000 beagles from a breeding facility earned a finalist nod for Best Use of Photography in the 2023 Content Marketing Awards.

And All Animals won Best Nonprofit Publication this year and in 2022, 2021, and 2020. All that award-winning work earned Emily a nod as a 2023 B2C Content Marketer of the Year finalist.

CMI spoke with Emily to learn about her content strategy, the stunning use of visuals in the magazine, and the important role print still plays in an increasingly digital world.

It starts with a unified team

In addition to the 500,000-circulation magazine, The Humane Society powers content on HumanePro.org, a hub for animal welfare groups, pet professionals such as shelter workers and veterinarians, wildlife rehabbers, etc. The editorial team also has hands on the society’s external communications, email campaigns, social media, and more.

Emily oversees five senior editors who have a specialty area. For example, one mainly handles All Animals content, while another oversees HumanePro.org. Her team also includes two dedicated writers.

“We all collaborate across things,” she explains. “The goal of that is to keep everybody engaged in all of the work, and it also helps us have a consistent tone across all of our communications because we’re all on the same page.”

Telling the animals’ story

The society sends All Animals magazine to donors who give a one-time gift of at least $25 or monthly recurring donations of at least $10. The goal is to show donors how the society puts their contributions to work through the lens of individual animals.

“I think that every animal has a story, just like every person does. They can’t tell it in their own words, so they need us to do that for them,” Emily says. “You can do it in multiple ways, either through words or visuals, and I think that when you put the two together, it can be incredibly powerful.”

Combining words and visuals lets the @HumaneSociety tell incredibly powerful stories on behalf of animals, says @Emilyrhsmith via @DawnPapandrea @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Telling the animals’ stories can create an emotional response that triggers the viewer’s response to the call to action – to prompt readers to keep donating.

Turning pictures into more than a thousand words

The story of the beagle puppy rescue, which involved over 120 shelters and rescues in 29 states, lived on all of the Humane Society’s digital channels and the CEO’s blog. It also had immense media pickup, including coverage from The New York Times to The Washington Post.

When the print magazine went into production, Emily and the team faced a challenge – giving something new to the readers who also followed them on their digital channels. They accomplished that by visually telling the story of the entire rescue with many previously unpublished images.

“Part of that feature was a two-page spread image of the dogs being loaded into an air transport. We could really give that big picture perspective of what it took to bring this historic transportation project together,” Emily says.

They also shared the story of one animal in the rescue. “Fin was the last dog who came out of the facility in Virginia. We were able to follow up with him in his new home and kind of close the loop for the supporters who had been following us on digital channels,” Emily says.

How The Humane Society Makes Emotional Connections
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, with Fin after he was removed from the breeding facility. Photo credit: Meredith Lee/The HSUS

The rescue story also involved more than the work of the society. “It was our shelter and rescue partners; it was volunteers. We wanted to give a comprehensive look at what they made possible, and our goal with that is to make the supporters feel like they were a part of it, too. Because we’re not able to do that work without their support,” she says.

The issue’s visual storytelling approach made an impression on readers who donated more than $57,000  via the magazine’s business reply envelope alone. “They let us know that the story opened their eyes to the reality of testing on dogs, something that many people aren’t aware happens in the United States,” Emily says. “It was a prime example of what can happen when you collaborate as a whole team, and everybody brings their ideas forward.”

The @HumaneSociety received over $57,000 in donations from the envelopes in one issue of its #print magazine All Animals, says @Emilyrhsmith via @DawnPapandrea @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Making the case for print in a digital world

The shuttering of so many print magazines each year naturally weighs on the mind of a print magazine editor. But Emily says All Animals still proves its value. Leadership buys into the content tactic because they hear from donors who say the magazine resonates with them.

One donor made a $1 million bequest because of what she saw in the magazine about how the society used the contributions. “She knew that she was putting her investment and her legacy in good hands. We were all smiling ear to ear for weeks after we heard that because that’s what we want to do,” Emily says.

Still, Emily doesn’t take their success for granted. Her team ensures that every magazine issue counts by prioritizing the society’s key campaigns. They also do readership surveys regularly to gauge donors’ responses to their work. Among the findings: More than half say they’ve changed one of their eating habits because of what they’ve read. Many say they now take the time to look for cruelty-free cosmetics. And 80% say they share something they read with a friend or family member.

“When we can illustrate that to the decision-makers at the organization, it really shows our value and how the touch points that we have through the magazine extend far beyond that envelope that’s inside. That people really connect with it,” Emily explains.

Digital content is still necessary to keep different audience demographics engaged. The society will launch a digital version of All Animals this fall. Emily says, “As we see how that performs, then we’re going to start looking at how people interact with it. Can we add some more interactive features that make it a little bit more exciting and enticing than just flipping through a PDF?”

Blending advocacy, journalism, and service

Emily doesn’t believe in relying on shock value or anger to motivate people to act. “We want to be showing the reality of the situation, but also showing the donors how there’s hope and how we’re helping and how they’re helping. Some of those images are really tough – dogs in cages on farms or in a market – but we want to be sure that we’re balancing that for readers with how these dogs are getting a second chance at life,” she says.

That’s why each issue contains light-hearted, feel-good, and victory stories like the beagle rescue, along with the more challenging reports on topics like animal testing in cosmetics or the dog meat trade.

The back of the magazine gives readers service content, too. They’ve published features on how to make changes in your backyard to help protect urban wildlife, tips for caring for a pet, and advice on helping outdoor animals such as community cats.

“I want to give them a way to help, whether that’s writing a letter to their lawmaker or sending in a donation. I want to make sure that we’re inspiring people, educating people, and then giving them an action step,” Emily says.

That matches her personal content philosophy: “Tell a story, engage, educate, and then give something to do to make them a part of the solution.”

Achieving everyday content victories

Though the Humane Society editorial team has earned some amazing content wins this year, they are more motivated by the smaller wins, like one-off emails from readers or comments on a story. Emily says, “That doesn’t translate directly to dollars at that moment, but to me, providing that awareness, the inspiration, and the education is the first step to bringing them into the organization’s work. That tells me that we’re doing our job.”

Couldn’t attend Content Marketing World in person this year? Register for the Digital Pass to access on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year. Use promo code BLOG100 to save $100.

MORE EXAMPLES FROM 2023 CONTENT MARKETING AWARD FINALISTS

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • 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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