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How to Use AI For a More Effective Social Media Strategy, According to Ross Simmonds

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How to Use AI For a More Effective Social Media Strategy, According to Ross Simmonds

Welcome to Creator Columns, where we bring expert HubSpot Creator voices to the Blogs that inspire and help you grow better.

It’s the age of AI, and our job as marketers is to keep up.

My team at Foundation Marketing recently conducted an AI Marketing study surveying hundreds of marketers, and more than 84% of all leaders, managers, SEO experts, and specialists confirmed that they used AI in the workplace.

AI in the workplace data graphic, Foundation Labs

If you can overlook the fear-inducing headlines, this technology is making social media marketers more efficient and effective than ever. Translation: AI is good news for social media marketers.

Download Now: The 2024 State of Social Media Trends [Free Report]

In fact, I predict that the marketers not using AI in their workplace will be using it before the end of this year, and that number will move closer and closer to 100%.

Social media and AI are two of the most revolutionizing technologies of the last few decades. Social media has changed the way we live, and AI is changing the way we work.

So, I’m going to condense and share the data, research, tools, and strategies that the Foundation Marketing Team and I have been working on over the last year to help you better wield the collective power of AI and social media.

Let’s jump into it.

What’s the role of AI in social marketing strategy?

In a recent episode of my podcast, Create Like The Greats, we dove into some fascinating findings about the impact of AI on marketers and social media professionals. Take a listen here:

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the benefits of this technology:

Benefits of AI in Social Media Strategy

AI is to social media what a conductor is to an orchestra — it brings everything together with precision and purpose. The applications of AI in a social media strategy are vast, but the virtuosos are few who can wield its potential to its fullest.

AI to Conduct Customer Research

Imagine you’re a modern-day Indiana Jones, not dodging boulders or battling snakes, but rather navigating the vast, wild terrain of consumer preferences, trends, and feedback.

This is where AI thrives.

Using social media data, from posts on X to comments and shares, AI can take this information and turn it into insights surrounding your business and industry. Let’s say for example you’re a business that has 2,000 customer reviews on Google, Yelp, or a software review site like Capterra.

Leveraging AI you can now have all 2,000 of these customer reviews analyzed and summarized into an insightful report in a matter of minutes. You simply need to download all of them into a doc and then upload them to your favorite Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) to get the insights and data you need.

But that’s not all.

You can become a Prompt Engineer and write ChatGPT asking it to help you better understand your audience. For example, if you’re trying to come up with a persona for people who enjoy marathons but also love kombucha you could write a prompt like this to ChatGPT:

ChatGPT prompt example

The response that ChatGPT provided back is quite good:

GPT response example

Below this it went even deeper by including a lot of valuable customer research data:

  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Consumer behaviors
  • Needs and preferences

And best of all…

It also included marketing recommendations.

The power of AI is unbelievable.

Social Media Content Using AI

AI’s helping hand can be unburdening for the creative spirit.

Instead of marketers having to come up with new copy every single month for posts, AI Social Caption generators are making it easier than ever to craft catchy status updates in the matter of seconds.

Tools like HubSpot make it as easy as clicking a button and telling the AI tool what you’re looking to create a post about:

AI social media caption generator step 1

The best part of these AI tools is that they’re not limited to one channel.

Your AI social media content assistant can help you with LinkedIn content, X content, Facebook content, and even the captions that support your post on Instagram.

It can also help you navigate hashtags:

AI social media hashtags generator example, HubSpot

With AI social media tools that generate content ideas or even write posts, it’s not about robots replacing humans. It’s about making sure that the human creators on your team are focused on what really matters — adding that irreplaceable human touch.

Enhanced Personalization

You know that feeling when a brand gets you, like, really gets you?

AI makes that possible through targeted content that’s tailored with a level of personalization you’d think was fortune-telling if the data didn’t paint a starker, more rational picture.

What do I mean?

Brands can engage more quickly with AI than ever before. In the early 2000s, a lot of brands spent millions of dollars to create social media listening rooms where they would hire social media managers to find and engage with any conversation happening online.

Thanks to AI, brands now have the ability to do this at scale with much fewer people all while still delivering quality engagement with the recipient.

Analytics and Insights

Tapping into AI to dissect the data gives you a CSI-like precision to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what makes your audience tick. It’s the difference between guessing and knowing.

The best part about AI is that it can give you almost any expert at your fingertips.

If you run a report surrounding the results of your social media content strategy directly from a site like LinkedIn, AI can review the top posts you’ve shared and give you clear feedback on what type of content is performing, why you should create more of it, and what days of the week your content is performing best.

This type of insight that would typically take hours to understand.

Now …

Thanks to the power of AI you can upload a spreadsheet filled with rows and columns of data just to be met with a handful of valuable insights a few minutes later.

Improved Customer Service

Want 24/7 support for your customers?

It’s now possible without human touch.

Chatbots powered by AI are taking the lead on direct messaging experiences for brands on Facebook and other Meta properties to offer round-the-clock assistance.

The fact that AI can be trained on past customer queries and data to inform future queries and problems is a powerful development for social media managers.

Advertising on Social Media with AI

The majority of ad networks have used some variation of AI to manage their bidding system for years. Now, thanks to AI and its ability to be incorporated in more tools, brands are now able to use AI to create better and more interesting ad campaigns than ever before.

Brands can use AI to create images using tools like Midjourney and DALL-E in seconds.

Brands can use AI to create better copy for their social media ads.

Brands can use AI tools to support their bidding strategies.

The power of AI and social media is continuing to evolve daily and it’s not exclusively found in the organic side of the coin. Paid media on social media is being shaken up due to AI just the same.

How to Implement AI into Your Social Media Strategy

Ready to hit “Go” on your AI-powered social media revolution?

Don’t just start the engine and hope for the best. Remember the importance of building a strategy first. In this video, you can learn some of the most important factors ranging from (but not limited to) SMART goals and leveraging influencers in your day-to-day work:

The following seven steps are crucial to building a social media strategy:

  1. Identify Your AI and Social Media Goals
  2. Validate Your AI-Related Assumptions
  3. Conduct Persona and Audience Research
  4. Select the Right Social Channels
  5. Identify Key Metrics and KPIs
  6. Choose the Right AI Tools
  7. Evaluate and Refine Your Social Media and AI Strategy

Keep reading, roll up your sleeves, and follow this roadmap:

1. Identify Your AI and Social Media Goals

If you’re just dipping your toes into the AI sea, start by defining clear objectives.

Is it to boost engagement? Streamline your content creation? Or simply understand your audience better? It’s important that you spend time understanding what you want to achieve.

For example, say you’re a content marketing agency like Foundation and you’re trying to increase your presence on LinkedIn. The specificity of this goal will help you understand the initiatives you want to achieve and determine which AI tools could help you make that happen.

Are there AI tools that will help you create content more efficiently? Are there AI tools that will help you optimize LinkedIn Ads? Are there AI tools that can help with content repurposing? All of these things are possible and having a goal clearly identified will help maximize the impact. Learn more in this Foundation Marketing piece on incorporating AI into your content workflow.

Once you have identified your goals, it’s time to get your team on board and assess what tools are available in the market.

Recommended Resources:

2. Validate Your AI-Related Assumptions

Assumptions are dangerous — especially when it comes to implementing new tech.

Don’t assume AI is going to fix all your problems.

Instead, start with small experiments and track their progress carefully.

3. Conduct Persona and Audience Research

Social media isn’t something that you can just jump into.

You need to understand your audience and ideal customers. AI can help with this, but you’ll need to be familiar with best practices. If you need a primer, this will help:

Once you understand the basics, consider ways in which AI can augment your approach.

4. Select the Right Social Channels

Not every social media channel is the same.

It’s important that you understand what channel is right for you and embrace it.

The way you use AI for X is going to be different from the way you use AI for LinkedIn. On X, you might use AI to help you develop a long-form thread that is filled with facts and figures. On LinkedIn however, you might use AI to repurpose a blog post and turn it into a carousel PDF. The content that works on X and that AI can facilitate creating is different from the content that you can create and use on LinkedIn.

The audiences are different.

The content formats are different.

So operate and create a plan accordingly.

Recommended Tools and Resources:

5. Identify Key Metrics and KPIs

What metrics are you trying to influence the most?

Spend time understanding the social media metrics that matter to your business and make sure that they’re prioritized as you think about the ways in which you use AI.

These are a few that matter most:

  • Reach: Post reach signifies the count of unique users who viewed your post. How much of your content truly makes its way to users’ feeds?
  • Clicks: This refers to the number of clicks on your content or account. Monitoring clicks per campaign is crucial for grasping what sparks curiosity or motivates people to make a purchase.
  • Engagement: The total social interactions divided by the number of impressions. This metric reveals how effectively your audience perceives you and their readiness to engage.

Of course, it’s going to depend greatly on your business.

But with this information, you can ensure that your AI social media strategy is rooted in goals.

6. Choose the Right AI Tools

The AI landscape is filled with trash and treasure.

Pick AI tools that are most likely to align with your needs and your level of tech-savviness.

For example, if you’re a blogger creating content about pizza recipes, you can use HubSpot’s AI social caption generator to write the message on your behalf:

AI social media generator example

The benefit of an AI tool like HubSpot and the caption generator is that what at one point took 30-40 minutes to come up with — you can now have it at your fingertips in seconds. The HubSpot AI caption generator is trained on tons of data around social media content and makes it easy for you to get inspiration or final drafts on what can be used to create great content.

Consider your budget, the learning curve, and what kind of support the tool offers.

7. Evaluate and Refine Your Social Media and AI Strategy

AI isn’t a magic wand; it’s a set of complex tools and technology.

You need to be willing to pivot as things come to fruition.

If you notice that a certain activity is falling flat, consider how AI can support that process.

Did you notice that your engagement isn’t where you want it to be? Consider using an AI tool to assist with crafting more engaging social media posts.

Make AI Work for You — Now and in the Future

AI has the power to revolutionize your social media strategy in ways you may have never thought possible. With its ability to conduct customer research, create personalized content, and so much more, thinking about the future of social media is fascinating.

We’re going through one of the most interesting times in history.

Stay equipped to ride the way of AI and ensure that you’re embracing the best practices outlined in this piece to get the most out of the technology.

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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.

​​

via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

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

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

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

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

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

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

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.

1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

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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