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How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit (Updated for 2022)



How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit (Updated for 2022)

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

“Why is that business outranking mine?”

This has to be the commonest local search FAQ, and a worthwhile answer to it will always require real analysis. 

Today, I’ll teach you to assess 50+ factors and provide you with a free, copyable spreadsheet to fill out to help you discover how the business you’re marketing can reach the level of its top local  competitor. I’ll provide an illustrated tutorial of each field in the sheet, and I’ll also cover how to use what you learn to create strategy, differentiation, and a philosophy for competition that exists within the positive framework of localism. 

How to use the local business competitive audit spreadsheet

You’ll find four columns you can fill out within the sheet: one for the business you’re marketing, one for its competitor, one for wins, and one for notes. 

Use the “wins” column like this: when both businesses are doing equally well for a specific factor, leave this column blank, but if one is doing better than the other, put their name in that column. This way, at the end of the audit, you can count up the wins of the winner and have a detailed record of which factors are likely to be giving them an advantage. Use the “notes” field to document interesting findings along the way.

Now you’re ready to begin with your copy of the spreadsheet, using the following as a key to each field:

Multi-sampled local finder rank

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Your audit kicks off with these first, essential steps to orient yourself within a local market.

  1. Identify a keyword phrase for which you most want to achieve high local visibility. You can follow this workflow for each of your important search phrases, but start with just one to acquaint yourself with the process. Enter that keyword phrase in the top field of the spreadsheet.

  2. While located at the place of business, search on Google for that phrase and click on the local pack to be taken to the full local search results, called the “local finder”. If you are doing this audit on behalf of a client, have them perform the searches and send you the data.

  3. Jot down the name and address of the business coming up in the top non-paid spot (ignore any paid ads that come up) of the local finder.

  4. Scroll through the local finder until you see your business. Jot down its position.

  5. Now repeat this process of searching and note-taking from different locations around your town or city. This is how you get multi-sampled data. You will likely notice that the rankings change as you change location, because Google personalizes results based on the location of your device. You may go to just one or two additional locales, or many, depending on the size of your community and your competitive goals. 

  6. At the end of this process, you will have a list of competitors from which you can determine the dominant player. You can perform a competitive audit for each major local competitor, but to get started, just pick the one you saw come up in the top local finder position most often.

  7. Finally, enter the rank, name, and address of the business you’re marketing and the top competitor in the first three fields of the spreadsheet.

An alternative to manual multi-sampling of local rankings is to use a local rank tracker that emulates searching from multiple locations, with the understanding that the data you get may not be quite as accurate as what you’ll get from feet on the street. Do what works for you.


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Now that you’ve filled out the name field of the business you’re marketing and its top competitor, evaluate how the actual words in the name could be impacting rankings. Google has historically given a ranking boost to businesses with names containing keywords. For example, if our search phrase was “Breakfast San Rafael”, then a business named “Delish Breakfast” or “Good Morning San Rafael” might have some advantage over one named “Joe’s Place”. 

However, in late 2021, Google rolled out an update commonly known as the “Vicinity Update” which appeared to significantly reduce the impact of keywords in the business name. In early 2022, they issued a second presumed update which may have softened Vicinity, meaning that keywords in the business name may still be giving a competitor an advantage to some degree.  Write the competitor’s name in the “wins” column of the spreadsheet if their business name contains keywords and yours doesn’t, or vice versa. If neither or both businesses have keywords in their business name, leave the “wins” column blank. 

Address, centroids, proximity, and maps

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Now, take the address in row 5 and do some searches to fill out rows 6 and 7. 

First, look up the city you’re investigating by searching for it on Google and clicking on the map. See if both businesses fall within the red border Google throws around your city. It’s typically harder to rank within any city when a business isn’t located inside of the perimeter. 

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Next, look at where Google is placing the name of the city in its knowledge panel. That is considered the “centroid” of the city. Estimate the distance each of the two businesses is from the centroid.  You can do so by looking up directions between the business address and the approximate address of the town name on the map. 

When you multi-sampled the market, you may have discovered that the dominant competitor was coming up regardless of where you moved around town. Perhaps they are located in part of town, like an auto row, that Google appears to strongly associate with an industry, or they are in the densely-populated center of town, while your business is located on the outskirts or even beyond the mapped borders of the city. 

Note down if one business is inside the border while the other isn’t, and if one is closer to the centroid than the other.

GBP categories

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Now, get the free GBP Spy Chrome Extension and look at the categories both businesses have chosen. If your competitor has categories that you don’t, mark a win for them and make a note of any categories you are missing. Correct categorization is key to local search rankings, and the category you choose as your primary/first category is believed to have the strongest impact.


You already know whether the company you’re marketing is sharing a location with other businesses in the same industry. Look up your competitor’s address and zoom in on the map to see if any other businesses within the same industry are at that location. This matters because businesses in the same category at the same address may experience Google filtering them out of the results. This behavior has been especially noted since the 2016 Possum update. It’s important to understand that if the brand you’re marketing is in a shared space with another with the same category and you are not able to see your business on the local finder map unless you zoom in, Possum may be to blame. 

Next, examine the surroundings within a few blocks of both businesses to see if any other companies with the same categories are on the map and note this down, as filtering can sometimes occur in this scenario, too. If either of the two businesses you’re investigating has no competition for a few blocks around them, note that as a win for them in row 11.

Domain Address

Next, notate the website URL of each business. As with keywords in the Google Business Profile title, having the search term in the domain name may give the business a bit of a boost. 

Google Business Profile Landing Page URL

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Now, click through on the website link on the Google Business Profile for each business and record that address. Often, businesses link from their profile directly to their website homepage, but it’s also common to see some types of businesses linking to a different landing page on their site. If you’re linking to a landing page but the competitor is linking to their homepage, mark it as a win for them, because the homepage is usually the strongest page on a website.

GBP name, address, phone matches NAP info on website?

Next up, check to see whether the NAP (name, address, phone number) on the websites of you and your competitor exactly match what’s on the Google Business Profile. Small discrepancies like “street” vs. “st.” don’t matter, but a difference in the business name, its street address, or phone number can make Google feel less “trusting” about the identity of the company, possibly decreasing its visibility. 

Google Business Profile reviews

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Here, we dive into the many powerful aspects of reviews to fill out rows 15-21 of our sheet.

Begin by looking at the oldest review to estimate how old the Google Business Profile is. It’s debatable whether listing age is a local ranking factor, but it’s unquestionable that an older listing has had more time to accrue reviews, photos, and other important elements.

Then, note down the overall star rating for each competitor. Star ratings are a major conversion factor because consumers look at them as a way to decide whether or not to patronize a business.

Next, record the total number of reviews each business has earned. 

Then, analyze the sentiment of the two bodies of reviews and note down whether reviews are mostly positive, neutral, or negative. While you are doing so, look at the place topics labeled “People often mention” (see screenshot, above) and write those down to see if your competitor is earning good mentions of aspects of their business which you have yet to earn.

Write down the date of the most recent review each business has received, as recency may be  a ranking factor.

Finally estimate the percentage of reviews to which each business has responded, as owner responses are key to local search marketing. 

GBP Web Results links

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Examine the links to third parties that Google is surfacing in the “Web Results” section of the listings. Write down your competitor’s links in the “notes” section of your spreadsheet, and evaluate whether the websites linking to your competitor are more prestigious than those linking to you.

Date of last Google Post

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Look at each profile and record the date on which each business last wrote a Google Post. Though not a direct ranking factor, posts are a good signal of how actively and comprehensively a competitor is managing their Google Business Profile. Give the business with the most recent post a “win”. 

Google Q&A count

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Record the number of questions each business has received. In our screenshot, the business has received four total questions. Mark a “win” for the business with the most questions, because their audience is the most engaged with this feature. 

Business response to Q&A percentage

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Estimate the percentage of questions that have received a direct response from the business owner, as shown in the above screenshot. The owner with the highest percentage of responses wins, because the alternative is ignoring customer service opportunities and leaving a customer to the vagaries of receiving public responses of uncertain quality, or no response at all. 

GBP attributes

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There are multiple types of attributes which can appear in different areas of the Google Business Profile, in profile overlays, and on Google Maps. For example, our screenshot shows safety and service attributes, but other possibilities include attributes like “Black-owned”, “Wheelchair accessible” or “Late-night food”. Attributes can be the result of information a business has given directly to Google in creating their listing, or feedback Google intakes from the public. Rather than this row in your spreadsheet having a clear winner, use the notes section to record any positive attributes your top competitor has that you would also like to have. 

While you are looking at attributes, include the “$” price attribute, and make a note of how this metric is representing your business vs. the competitor. For example, note it down if you feel that having a greater or lesser price attribute than the competitor could be impacting public perception of the business you’re marketing. 

GBP photos

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Fill out rows 27 and 28 in your spreadsheet by counting the number of photos each business has, calculating the percentage of them that have been uploaded by the owner (see the identity of the uploader in the upper left of the larger dessert photo), and make a judgment of the overall quality of the photo set. For example, has your business or the competitor uploaded images more recently, and are those images of high quality? These are your basic checks.

Photos have become one of the most important and powerful elements of listings. For a more advanced audit of these assets, read Mike Blumenthal’s three-part series on visual search to learn about the “find places by photos” feature, multisearch, Google’s Cloud Vision AI, Google Lens and all the other developments that are making it clearer every year that visual media will play an increasing role in local searching and shopping.

Menu link

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Next, note whether either business has taken the time to enhance their listing with a menu, be that a traditional restaurant menu or a menu of services. In the case of the former category, I also like to record the URL that the menu link is pointing to in order to understand whether a business is hosting their own menu or linking to a third-party service which they don’t directly own. 

Hours of operation and popular times

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There are four tasks here. Record the hours for both businesses and note whether the competitor is open at different or more hours, which might be giving Google extra reasons to make their listing visible more often. Second, verify that the hours of operation listed on the profile match those displayed on the website. Third, assess whether the display of hours meets Google’s guidelines; for example, business models which operate by appointment only are not supposed to list their hours (see guidelines for more examples). 

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Finally, look at how your popular times compare with those of the competitor, and assess whether your hours of operation and patterns of foot traffic might need to be remodeled if you want to compete in the same time slots as the top competitor. 

Use of GBP Products and other shopping features

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Like photos, shopping is one of those areas of SEO audits that just keeps expanding. At a basic level, check to see if either business has taken the time to add products to their listing. 

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At a more advanced level in appropriate industries, Google Business Profiles and the Google Merchant Center are becoming increasingly linked. If your competitor has taken the steps to set up a Pointy feed of inventory and is enjoying the resultant “See What’s in Store” section on their listing, this is a big win for them which you may need to replicate if you’ve not yet fully “transactionalized” your listing.

Justifications appearing on listing for query language

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As I’ve covered in-depth here in my column, justifications are a big deal and you can influence them. If the query you’re investigating is triggering justifications on either your listing or your competitors, write down the exact language and source. Justifications come in many flavors, including website, review, sold here, services, menu, in-stock and posts. In the above example, in a local search for “fiestaware”, Google’s display of a website-based justification is a strong signal to us of just how highly they associate this entity with our search term. Mark a “win” for the competitor if they are earning a justification, and you are not.  

Any obvious signs of GBP spam? (Name spam, fake address, fake reviews, etc.)

This can be one of the more skillful areas of a local business competitive audit because you may need a practiced eye to spot spam. Increase your abilities via a careful study of the guidelines for representing your business on Google and the review guidelines. What you are trying to diagnose is whether a competitor is attaining their top position with any help from prohibited practices. For example, they may be stuffing keywords in their business name, using a string of employees’ homes as fictitious business locations, or some of their reviews may appear to stem from incentivized reviewers or be the product of review gating

In some cases, guideline violations are so obvious that they’ll be easy to recognize once you know the rules and reporting them to Google may even result in the removal of elements that have been giving a competitor an unfair advantage. Unfortunately, in many other cases, certain types of spam can be hard to see and prove, and difficult to get Google to act on. For the purpose of a basic audit, simply record if you see anything overtly suspicious on either listing and mark a “win” for either business if you believe spam may be contributing to their success. 

Percentage of Local Finder spam

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While you are sleuthing for spam, take a few minutes to dive deeper. Look at all of the listings that stand between you and the top competitor in the Local Finder, and do a basic estimate of the percentage that feature obvious spam tactics. If you’ve never done this before, read my column on Simple Spam Fighting: The Easiest Local Rankings You’ll Ever Earn. While this exercise is not a direct assessment of the distance between your business and its top competitor, it is an evaluation of the muck you will have to wade through to move up in the local search rankings.

DA, PA, and links

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Domain Authority (DA) is a Moz metric for predicting how likely a website is to rank in the search engine results. Page Authority (PA) evaluates the same scenario, but for a single page on a website. Top Linking Domains are based on the DA of the websites doing the linking from one site to another and how those links may contribute to rankings. 

Moz Pro customers can do an advanced audit of all these factors in their paid dashboard, but if you’re not yet a customer, use Moz’s Free Domain Analysis tool for a basic audit and to fill out the next several fields in your spreadsheet. *Note that if the GBP landing page is different than the domain and is not revealed by this tool as one of the top pages of the site, you can download the free Moz Bar or use Moz Link Explorer to find that information about any page. I’ve linked to a variety of free resources in this section of the spreadsheet for ease of discovery. Fill out fields 39-43 regarding DA, PA, and links on your sheet and evaluate whether a competitor’s better metrics may be supporting their win.

Age of domain

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There are many free tools like this one that will let you quickly look up the age of your domain and that of your competitor. Google reps have repeatedly stated that domain age is not a ranking factor, but I look at it anyway, to let me know how long a competitor has had to work on their website and build its authority. While it’s absolutely correct that a brand new website can outrank an old one with a great campaign, mark a win for the older domain in this row of your sheet, regardless of ranking.

Organic rank for search phrase

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Look at the organic (not local) results for your search phrase. Subtract the listings that aren’t for actual businesses (in our above example, is lifestyle site rather than a restaurant) and record the true organic rank of your site and your competitor’s. Mark a win for whichever business has the highest organic rank.

Search phrase in title tag of GBP landing page?

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Is the complete or partial search phrase present in the title tag of the page being linked to from the Google Business Profile? Note it down and mark a win if one business has it but the other doesn’t. Pay attention to how this language may be supporting rank for this keyword phrase.

Search phrase in main body content of GBP landing page?

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While you are on the GBP landing page, check to see if the complete or partial search phrase is mentioned on it. Mark a win for whichever business is remembering to include their keywords in their copywriting. If both are, don’t mark a win here, but do write down what you observe in the “notes” section. You might also like to notate how the search phrase is incorporated. For example, is it in the headings or subheadings of the page?

GBP landing page content quality at-a-glance (weak, medium, strong)

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An advanced content audit will typically be a project of its own. For now, do a quick review of the GBP landing page for both businesses to grade the effort that has been put into publishing useful, optimized multi-media content. Some things to look for would be complete and accurate contact information, helpful text that incorporates many appropriate phrases related to the search term in natural language, excellent spelling and grammar, photos, videos, reviews and review requests, maps, directions, social media links, a strong internal linking structure, and a strong call-to-action. Make notes on your observations and grade the efforts present on the two pages as “weak”, “medium”, or “strong to find your winner.

Mobile friendliness

Run both domains through Google’s free mobile-friendliness test tool. Mobile and local are inextricably linked, and if one domain is performing properly on people’s cell phones while the other isn’t, you have a clear winner.

Secure HTTPs

In 2018, Google began marking domains that hadn’t made the move from HTTP to HTTPS as “insecure”. SEOs had been touting the benefits of secure sites for some years, but if your site is displaying that warning and your competitor’s is not, you are likely losing customers as well as ranking opportunities. 

Moz Check Presence Score

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Now, evaluate the health of citations across the local search ecosystem by looking up your business and your competitor in Moz’s free Check Presence tool. In just seconds, you will be able to see whether the distribution of local business information to a variety of listing platforms is contributing to your competitor’s win. 

Yelp ranking, rating, and review count

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It’s likely that Google looks at Yelp as part of its assessment of local business authority, so we’ll finish up our audit by looking there, too. Document where you and your competitor rank for your search phrase in Yelp, what your respective ratings are, and how many reviews each of you has earned. The winner is typically easy to see, in all three rows.

Now you’re ready to total up the wins!

Congratulations, you’ve just made it through the audit. Your last step is to count up the wins for each business name you entered in the “wins” column (your top competitor will typically have more of them), make your own list of the fields in which they won, and pair this with the notes you took to understand the efforts that are likely contributing to their top visibility. For example, you may have discovered that reviews, content, and mobile-friendliness are clearly underpinning the exemplary performance of your peer.

It’s from gleanings like these that you’ll create an informed strategy for the business you’re marketing, to get its metrics up to a competitive level. There are some factors, like location, that you can’t typically control, but with most of your findings, a to-do list will have surfaced from the audit process. The more experience you accrue working in local SEO, the better you’ll get at prioritizing the factors on that list, based on each client and market.

Bear in mind that the purpose of a competitive audit isn’t solely to show you how to match and surpass a peer’s metrics. Examine your notes and findings for clues on how to differentiate yourself within your market. For example, your audit may have enabled you to realize that reviews indicate a local desire for something your competitor either doesn’t provide, or doesn’t do well. You could fill that gap. Or, maybe you’ve just realized that a change in hours of operation could make the business your marketing the go-to spot on Mondays and Tuesdays when its competitor is closed. A good audit shouldn’t generate a mere carbon copy – it should point the way to creating a uniquely powerful local identity.  

Whew, if this was a basic local competitive business audit, what would an advanced one cover?

We’ve hinted at this throughout the basic audit, but typically, a more advanced audit is likely to dive more deeply into factors like:

A full advanced audit could also incorporate investigation of elements not mentioned in the basic audit, including:

  • Evaluation of current communications strategy, including live chat, SMS, messaging, Google messaging, email, forms and more
  • Assessment of e-commerce and other digital shopping functionality

  • Assessment of offline performance and opportunities including in-store metrics, traditional media, policy and more

  • Other areas that are specific to the industry or market of the business you’re promoting

Final thoughts on local competition

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Most local businesses you market can’t reach their full potential without achieving a competitive level of visibility in Google’s local packs. But how we think about competition and, more specifically, about the people who are our competitors, matters. 

I haven’t been able to shake the memory of a marketer I heard boasting about helping one local business put another out of business. For me, the conversation conjured up stark images of a small business owner and their staff thrown into unemployment amid the desperate insecurity of the pandemic and an already-harsh economic structure. This type of swagger may have become normalized in parts of the business sector, but it’s antithetical to localism, which seeks to offer a diversity of options and resources for everyone within a community with the goal of human well-being. 

The point of learning to perform a competitive local business audit does not have to be to analyze and destroy the livelihood of your esteemed neighbor down the road; rather, it can be a study of how they have succeeded in the SERPs so that you can create an informed strategy for finding your own strong niche on the nearby business scene. This is a healthy and caring mindset local business owners can share with their marketers and vice versa – one that can make the work you do more fulfilling because it’s contributive instead of merely extractive. Good luck in bringing a new level of attention to something great within a community, with your professional skills! 

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



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

Amazon pillows.


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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots



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)



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.



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.

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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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