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How to Pivot Your Content Plan According to HubSpot Marketers

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How to Pivot Your Content Plan According to HubSpot Marketers

Imagine this: as a content marketer, things are going pretty well for you — you’re confident about your upcoming campaign, the ROI from your last couple were stellar, and projections for the new one looked just as good, if not better, than ever before.

And then something happened, and you need to pivot your content.

Maybe it’s a sudden trend or global event that diverts your audience’s attention. Or, perhaps a competitor’s campaign launch has everyone talking, and you’re unsure if your current content strategy is good enough to outshine theirs.

Regardless, this shift has impacted your company directly, which means, your entire campaign is impacted directly.

With that being said, now you have to decide if you need to pivot your content plan — and quickly. But how do you respond to an event like this?

We asked HubSpot managers to give their insights about how to navigate major changes that alter your content planning. The HubSpot Blog also surveyed 1,000 marketers to learn more about their content planning practices.

In this post, we’ll learn what they have to say. We’ll go over how to identify when you need to pivot quickly, and strategies you can take in order to make that transition as smooth as possible.

How to Pivot Your Content Plan

When something major happens to alter your content strategy, think about how it will affect your business goals. After all, the content you’re creating reflects the goals of your business.

“The content HubSpot creates is intended to help businesses around the world grow better by addressing their current needs. When we have to pivot our content plans quickly, it is because those needs have changed quickly,” says HubSpot’s Vice President of Acquisition, Emmy Jonassen.

Let’s take a look at advice from Jonassen, as well as tips from managers across the marketing field — including Senior Social Media Manager Kelly Hendrickson, Global Brand Marketing Manager Alicia Collins, and Content Growth Strategy Manager Karla Hesterberg.

Let’s get started!

1. Know when to pivot.

Knowing when to switch up your content strategy is never an easy decision to make. There are a couple of aspects you should consider when you find yourself needing to re-work your content strategy, but first is knowing when the right time is to do that.

“The toughest part about pivoting your strategy is knowing when,” Hendrickson says. “As a social media manager, I would ask myself, ‘Right now, can we provide value to our audience?’ ‘Can we provide content that will be helpful and welcome in the social space?’

46% of marketers surveyed by the HubSpot Blog said they knew it was time to pivot because their previous content strategy was experiencing poor engagement.

If you’ve realized that altering your strategy will help you deliver more valuable, helpful, and timely content to your audience, then it’s a good time to pivot.

Ultimately, content plans should serve your business goals, but also deliver worthwhile content to your customer that’s timely. If your content isn’t providing a timely lens to customers, it might be time for you to pivot your strategy.

A content audit could be a good way to determine if you need a shift. Per the HubSpot Blog survey, 36% of marketers conduct content audits to identify gaps in their content strategy.

Take a look at your content plans. If your information aligns with your business’s goals, that’s great, but does it align with the times?

Instead of devoting all of your content planning to a new product launch, for instance, change up the frequency of your posts to include more content that can serve your customer’s needs depending on what’s going on in the industry, or in the world.

2. Put your audience first.

So, you’ve decided it’s a good time to pivot. How do you cater to the new shift in your audience’s lives, though?

Check your audience’s web behavior — you’ll find information that relates to what your audience is thinking about. For instance, if keyword search reports have indicated that keywords are changing from “local marketing tips” to “online marketing tips,” think of it as a clue that needs are shifting.

However, this shift isn’t exactly what you planned for — in fact, the content you’ve planned for is already scheduled, ready to go, and ultimately different from the results you’ve found from researching web behavior.

Hendrickson’s team was in the same boat. “In our case, we found we could provide our audience with helpful information,” she says. “But that information was not our previously produced and scheduled content.”

So, what do you do?

“We paused all publishing and pivoted immediately based on audience needs,” says Hendrickson. She and her team saw that they needed to rework how they catered to the needs of their audience with different content, so after some web behavior analysis, they found their answer. “At that time, an immediate need for our audience was tips about remote work and leading with empathy.”

She continues by saying, “We made that decision by looking at our audience, as we always do, and figuring out what challenges they were facing and prioritizing our changes there.”

HubSpot Social Media Manager discusses how to pivot contentAccording to a survey conducted by the HubSpot Blog, 46% of marketers have adapted content to reflect the issues going on in their customers’ lives.

When in doubt, start with your audience and put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to see from your favorite brands during certain times of year or periods of change?

If you have a large audience, it’s important to make sure your content addresses the needs of different groups you’re looking to serve. 38% of marketers surveyed by the HubSpot Blog said their biggest mistake when pivoting their content plan is focusing too much on one segment of their target audience.

As you look to pivot, take a holistic approach to addressing the needs of your broader audience.

3. Change your content lens.

We’ve talked a lot about how thinking about the customer will help guide your pivot decision and content planning. When you’ve got an idea of the type of content you need to deliver to your audience, the next step is the delivery itself.

“We need content and campaigns that are helpful and understanding,” Collins says. So while your content is framed around helping the audience, does the caption convey an understanding, empathetic point of view?

When you deliver content, you’re reflecting your brand and your brand’s goals. If one of your brand’s goals is to connect with your customer, you must change your message delivery to reflect comprehension of the situation.

Per the HubSpot Blog survey, 43% of marketers have changed the tone of their content to be more empathic and authentic in recent years.

“Companies and customers are operating in different ways — we can’t always assume that the same types of marketing will resonate,” Collins notes.

HubSpot Global Brand Manager discusses content pivotFor instance, let’s say a major cybersecurity issue upends your industry and is seen everywhere, from LinkedIn posts to newspaper headlines. Rather than shying away from the issue, consider how you might provide content that focuses on IT safety and security, or more generally, tips and tricks for successful online marketing and sales strategies.

4. Connect with other colleagues.

“During major industry or global changes, it becomes especially important that we understand our audiences’ needs so we can create relevant and helpful content fast,” Jonassen remarks.

Recall that Hendrickson’s team had to recognize the new needs of their target audiences, and discovered that remote work and how to lead during hard times was increasingly popular. From there, they were able to conduct research and figure out a plan.

However, if you’ve found that your team is struggling to collect insights, or you don’t know how, reach out to other colleagues to come up with a game plan that will be helpful to you. While your customers need actionable, timely, empathetic content, you need to understand how to figure out their other needs, as well.

“We start by analyzing user behavior, talking to our Sales and Customer Service teams, and interviewing prospects and customers,” Jonassen says.

HubSpot VP of Acquisition discusses content pivotSimilar to social media and branding, it’s important for team members working on customer acquisition to analyze how their customer will be thinking about their lives differently, so you can create offers that will be relevant to their new lifestyle.

If you find yourself struggling to deduce how your customer thinks because you don’t interact with them directly, think about the colleagues you have who do have a customer-facing role.

Sales and Customer Service colleagues are a great place to start — they’re in constant contact with customers, and because of that, will have a good grip on recognizing common problem areas among customers.

The best part about this strategy? It fits any business size. Even if your company is a small but mighty one, there’s at least one person constantly communicating with customers, and leading hiring efforts. They’re your front lines (and usually, talking to them is free, and less time-consuming than conducting multiple research quests).

5. Don’t overestimate your pivot.

When you recognize you need to shift, you don’t have to launch an entirely new product or completely re-identify your brand. In fact, that’s something you shouldn’t do.

Hesterberg states, “Don’t change everything at once. The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is pivot too hard and too fast in your rush to meet short-term needs.”

It can be startling to customers if a company overhauls their entire strategy overnight (Do you remember the “IHOb” fiasco?), and leave them confused.

My grandmother always used to say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” a mantra that should apply to your pivot process planning. Changing what your brand stands for can be messy, time-consuming, and confusing for customers.

“Remember that content strategy is always a long game — your short-term strategy can’t compromise your ability to solve for the ongoing, long-term needs of your content property. Find key areas where you can be flexible to meet immediate needs, but know what you can’t budge on,” Hesterberg suggests.

HubSpot Sr. Growth Manager discusses how to pivot contentYour pivot should be a balanced addition to the strategy you already have in place. Half of marketers surveyed by the HubSpot Blog said when they last pivoted their content, their content plan changed a moderate amount.

In every campaign you make, one of your goals is most likely to serve the needs of the customer. Keep these tips in mind, and stay calm throughout the storm.

6. Get ready to experiment.

Digital marketing is ever-evolving, and new platforms and features can often be a driving force behind a content pivot. According to the HubSpot Blog survey, 68% of marketers have pivoted their content plan to leverage a new social media platform. We’ve seen this play out in real-time with more brands looking to capitalize on the rise in popularity of TikTok in recent years.

In addition to emerging platforms, jumping on new features of existing platforms can be a key part of a content pivot. Per the HubSpot Blog survey, 77% of marketers have pivoted their content plan to try leveraging a new feature on an existing social media platform, such as Instagram Reels

Experimentation and flexibility are important for content pivots. When exploring new platforms and features, it can take some time for brands to navigate what their audience wants to see on a new medium.

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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.

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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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