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How to tackle the challenges of running successful hybrid events



How to tackle the challenges of running successful hybrid events

We can see in the platform, when our customers are scheduling events, whether they’re doing virtual, in-person or hybrid, and consistently we’re seeing hybrid as their answer.”

Eric Holmen, CEO of event marketing platform Splash, was responding to our observation that there seems to be consistent and enduring interest in hybrid events. Just over a year ago, Splash’s survey of 270 events professionals showed that 79% of companies expected to host events that include an online component even once in-person events resume. Fast forward to January this year and guess what? Splash’s latest “Getting Back to Business” survey shows that number holding steady: 79% of companies plan to host hybrid events in 2022.

Other headlines from the survey include:

  • 50% of companies anticipate hosting more in-person events in 2022.
  • 46% of companies anticipate hosting more virtual events in 2022 than they did in 2021.
  • 38% of companies increased their event marketing budgets compared to only 28% in 2020.

Holmen sees both a positive and negative aspect to that persistent high number for hybrid events. “I think right now it’s for a different reason than it will be in six months from now,” he said. “Right now it’s because of the uncertainty of whether it will be possible to hold an in-person event. A hybrid/virtual insurance policy means I can still get my content into the market and not miss my event goals.”

Hybrid programs rather than just hybrid events

Nevertheless, excitement about hybrid events among Splash’s customer base is palpable. “They’re seeing that virtual is great for building a database while in-person is great for converting attendees,” he explained. “It’s not just about registrations and who attends and the ROI – which are all very important – but, stepping back a little bit, it’s also about building a database of the right people who may be future event attendees.

Read next: Fearing Omicron wave, marketers less likely to attend upcoming in-person conferences

The concept of a hybrid event may be a little clearer than it was a year ago, but we asked what it meant to Holmen. “The word ‘event’ has such a poor definition,” he reminded us. “It could be a birthday party or it could be Dreamforce. The way we’re talking about hybrid now it’s more a part of a program; that could mean that you’re simulcasting a live event and streaming it, or it could mean that you’re going to re-broadcast a live event later. What we’re seeing a lot of is it’s part of a sequence where you might have a virtual event followed by an in-person event, and mixed in maybe another virtual event: so it’s more about a hybrid program than about the actual event.”

He’s also seeing a trend towards smaller events — another boost for hybrid. “Coming out of the pandemic what was very clear was that in-person events that are small are better. The win is intimacy, but it’s difficult to build mass. So if you’re going to have five or ten smaller events with less than fifty people, to get the mass you need for your event program you’re probably going to have to supplement with some virtual and we would consider that a hybrid event program.”

These trends are reflected in Splash’s investment in virtual capabilities with the January launch of Splash Studio, a clear admission that virtual and hybrid are here for the long haul. “If you’d asked me when I joined Splash two years ago, would we be doing virtual events, I’d have said, no, we’re going to focus where we’re strong, on in-person events.” The customer’s voice was the decisive factor. “The customers were saying, we want one platform that’s not just a webinar platform.”

So far, we’d been discussing hybrid event programs in the context of outward-facing customer events — but, of course, there’s another form of hybrid event with which everyone is familiar, especially as the drift back to the workplace continues. That’s the internal hybrid event, with some staff present and some participating remotely. Larger external and small internal hybrid events face a common dilemma. How does the remote audience not feel left out?

In concept, hybrid internal events go way back before video capabilities became commonplace — and before anyone would have called them “hybrid.” Remember conference calls? Those meetings with staff sitting around the table, plus one or more employees on a speakerphone, are largely being ignored. “I have 30,000 or more data points that teleconferences are terrible, especially for the person on the phone that no one is paying attention to,” said Joseph Allen, a psychologist, professor and director of the Center for Meeting Effectiveness at the University of Utah.

Why are meetings so terrible?

“Why are meetings so terrible and why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?” That’s the question that drives Allen, who describes himself as a “meeting scientist.” What is that? “It means that I study meetings, that my area of expertise is workplace meetings. It’s someone who applies the principles of scientific inquiry to the world of meetings in all their various forms.”

Allen has collaborated with Karin Reed on a just-released book, “Suddenly Hybrid,” a follow-up to last year’s “Suddenly Virtual.”

Reed explained her role in the partnership. “I’m a video communication expert,” she said. “I began my career as a broadcast journalist, won an Emmy along the way and various other awards. I left the business in 2004 to apply my skills in the corporate world. I found that I would be hired as a professional on-camera spokesperson. They were bringing in people from the corner office to appear on camera alongside me and expecting them to perform at the same level. That often did not go well. So I recognized this opportunity to teach people who never imagined they would be good on-camera communicators to be just that. During the pandemic, those skills became mission-critical because suddenly everybody was speaking through a camera.”

Reed and Allen started working together after meeting through mutual clients. In addition to the two books, they consult on how to improve meetings and meeting outcomes. Getting meetings — especially virtual or hybrid — right has never been more important.

In February 2020,” said Allen, “nobody wanted to talk to me. In March and April, suddenly, everybody wanted to talk to me. The pandemic was a moment in time when suddenly we were very aware of how we communicate in this way, in hybrid ways.” Before that? “We just took for granted that meetings were terrible and this was the way life was.”

Reed agreed: “There was a meeting explosion during the pandemic. Meetings became more numerous and lasted longer. Video meeting after video meeting after video meeting. We are in more meetings now and business really needs to get done in those meetings; bad meetings can lead to bad meeting outcomes, so that needs to be addressed. And with hybrid meetings, the reason they’re more important today is that flexible work demands them. There has been a change in mindset where people want to be able to work from where they want to work – and hybrid meetings are the only way to connect people who are working from anywhere.”

The challenges of hybrid

Hybrid meetings introduce a very complex communication environment,” explained Allen. “With a face-to-face meeting, there’s only one modality – face-to-face. With virtual, you typically have one modality, video-to-video. With hybrid, now you have face-to-face, video-to-video and potentially also audio-only. Just as we forgot about the people on the phone, we forget about people on video too. What that means is that, if you’re in person, you actually have more power in that meeting to make decisions and cause things to happen. Some people take advantage of that.”

That’s a dilemma familiar from pre-pandemic days, when someone working remotely could find themselves omitted from decision-making and even just water-cooler gossip. But the remote situation was less common then.

Reed explained: “Ensuring presence for all, trying to create participation and collaboration equity so that no matter how you’re joining the meeting, your opinions are equally valued and heard. That requires effort on the part of the meeting leader as well as on the part of the meeting attendees. Hybrid meetings actually can be the most inclusive kind of meeting to date, but it requires an intentional approach. If it’s left to chance then you can end up with productivity dips.”

Access to video technology for meetings is now table stakes, whether it be one of the free platforms or something more elaborate like Splash Studio. The problem is, the technology has outstripped the skill-set. “You need to understand the software, hardware and skillware required to be able to have a productive hybrid meeting because they don’t happen by chance.”

Splash supports internal meetings too

Splash may be best known as a marketing platform for small, medium and large-scale customer events, but that’s only part of the picture. “Our third most popular use case is internal events, following field marketing events and recruiting events,” said Holmen. “Sometimes those are more challenging because you may not have the equipment in the office to provide nice production values – you have to make a shift with the resources you have.”

Splash Studio was explicitly tested in that context. “When we were beta testing Splash Studio during the fourth quarter we used it for all our internal events,” said Holmen, “and we did have multiple hybrid events.” For one such event, they flew staff willing to travel to a Scottsdale, Arizona resort for a few days. Those staff members that preferred were able to call in from home.

“This was a great test for us,” Holmen said, “because it turned out to be very easy for us to execute this combination of a resort in Scottsdale with employees around the world. We did some really fun activities., we had breakout sessions. It’s challenging but it can be done with the right tools.”

Typically customers invest in Splash for one of the more common use cases, then realize it can be used for internal meetings too.

How to make hybrid meetings work

But as Reed and Allen had emphasized, it’s not enough just to have the right tools. We asked them to give us the highlights of what they call “skillware,” both from a leadership and an attendee perspective.

“A key thing for a leader? You have to recognize yourself as a facilitator,” said Allen. “These hybrid meetings can be very different. One could be three people in person with two people on video and one on audio; the next could be two people in person and five on video. You have to be an advocate for everyone being able to participate. A lot of times, the leader says ‘Here’s what we’re talking about, go.’ If you do that, the natural thing to happen will be the people in the room have a nice conversation and the people everywhere else will not.” The leader needs to create an environment in which everyone can participate, even if it means calling people out by name.

Reed said there are specific strategies to ensure that remotes are not forgotten. “One of them is remotes speak first. Not only does that ensure they’re voices are heard, but it also raises the collective awareness of everyone in the meeting room.”

Read next: Virtual events — The ultimate marketer’s guide

The other side of the coin is that the remotes need to be willing to talk. “People need to be willing and prepared to say something,” said Allen, “and they need to be comfortable saying, ‘I don’t have anything to add’ and not feel like it’s bad to say that.”

A strategy in-person attendees can work in is being an “in-room ally,” Reed said, “For example, if you are aware that your colleague, Jane, is joining virtually and you know she has something of value to add, rather than leaving it up to Jane to figure out when to insert herself, you as an in-room person can raise a hand for her.”

What about larger-scale hybrid events like conferences? “I think about it from a training perspective,” said Reed, “and the ways I deliver my material. What I find works really well is, if you are just doing information-sharing or trying to teach a skill, I find that to be relatively easy to do in a virtual setting — because you can get it out to the masses. You can even record it asynchronously and they can go back and watch it. Those in-person moments I reserve for team-building or things that really require collaboration.”

Team-building or collaboration? For event marketers that might translate to relationship-building and conversion.

About The Author

Integrate announces the recipients of its College Game Changers awards
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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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.

Disruptive Design Raising the Bar of Content Marketing with Graphic

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