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One of the Best Reasons for Content Marketing

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One of the Best Reasons for Content Marketing

Updated April 26, 2022

Only one channel satisfies every reason you will ever have for distributing and promoting your content.

Organic search.

That’s not an overstatement. Let me explain.

Organic search traffic is the super KPI of content marketing

You’re creating content for people to discover your responses to their problems, questions, or curiosities, right?

Think about your organizational goals for content marketing.

Ten years ago, CMI’s B2B content marketing benchmark study found brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation, customer retention/loyalty, website traffic, engagement, and thought leadership as organizational goals for at least half of the respondents.

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In 2022, though the study’s response options aren’t worded exactly the same, little has changed. Over 50% of marketers say their organizational goals include creating brand awareness, building credibility/trust, educating audiences, building loyalty with existing clients/customers, and generating demands/leads.

Let me walk you through how organic search acts as a catalyst to achieve the common organizational goals of content marketing.

Organic search is the biggest source of website traffic

Where do you put your best content? That’s right. On your website.

And which channel, source, or platform – whatever you choose to call it – brings the most visitors to your website?

Most likely, it’s search. Of all trackable website traffic, 53% comes from organic search, according to a 2019 BrightEdge study – a two percentage point increase over its 2014 study.

53% of all trackable website traffic comes from organic search: @BrightEdge #research via @BrennerMichael @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Whip up your Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and look.

Go on, do this before you read further.

What did you pay directly for that traffic? Nothing.

Ask yourself:

  • How can we improve SEO to get more traffic from Google?
  • What sections of the site are they visiting? What sort of content appeals to them?

Organic search traffic builds brand awareness

Search queries fit primarily into three types of intent: informational, navigational, and transactional. Keywords for each query can be further classified as branded and nonbranded.

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Total Retail research found 88% of B2B sites and 58% of consumer retail sites are found through unbranded search terms. And yet most company websites focus on ranking and paid search for branded terms.

88% of B2B sites and 58% of consumer retail sites are found through unbranded search terms, according to @MyTotalRetail #research via @BrennerMichael @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

But when you build content to target each type of keyword, you can hold your customers’ hands along every stage of their buyer’s journey until they make the decision. Or, as I love to say, you can reach, engage, and convert buyers you would have never seen.

Along the way, you build brand awareness, recall, and eventually, trust.

Ask yourself:

  • Does our content appeal to visitors at different stages of the buyer’s funnel?
  • How is our brand being highlighted in this content?

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Organic search traffic cements your thought leadership

Quite simply, the search engine is the best vehicle to build thought leadership. When you create relevant content with a hub-and-spoke approach, your pages start popping up for searches related to that topic.

Search engines are the best vehicle to build thought leadership, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet

As people associate your content with the topic more and more, it builds not only awareness but also trust for your brand. It also can help your content get recognized as a featured snippet, answer box, or knowledge panel in Google search results. And that can mean more exposure for your content. Use it to bring in more clicks to the in-depth content you created on the topic.

Ask yourself:

  • How do we create content that answers all our audience’s questions on a topic and associate our brand with that topic?
  • How can we take advantage of Google’s featured snippets to increase our visibility?

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Organic search traffic opens vistas for engagement

Your visitors may find a piece of your content through search, but you can take steps to keep them around:

  • Measure types of engagement with each piece of content.
  • Take actions to improve engagement and encourage visitors to explore other relevant content on your site.

You also can use the SERP feature that highlights other related searches to find else what this audience may be searching for on the topic.

Ask yourself:

  • How do we get visitors from organic search to bookmark our pages, share them on social media, or subscribe to our newsletter?
  • Do we have a good CTA and internal-linking strategy that encourages organic visitors to check out other pages on the site?

Organic search has been and continues to be the best reason to do content marketing. It can help us to reach and engage buyers and consumers we would never have reached if we hadn’t done content marketing.

Organic search has been and continues to be the best reason to do #ContentMarketing, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

But what about leads, revenue, loyalty, and retention?

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Organic search traffic brings quality leads

We know the three types of search keywords: informational, navigational, and transactional. They clarify the intent of the searcher. Intent is one of the most valuable variables in lead generation and sales. Whether a prospect is searching for information, comparing brands, or evaluating a product, all customer journeys begin, progress, and end with intent.

It is easy to dig into your organic traffic analytics and match keywords with intent. Done correctly, you get an exact idea of how far the visitor has come along the buyer’s journey. To illustrate that, here’s an example of progressive long-tail search terms:

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Based on the search queries (and the nature of the queries), it is possible to qualify the organic search visitor as marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or sales-qualified leads (SQLs) and target them with appropriate content. At the top of the funnel, it could be a blog article or e-book. In the middle of the funnel, it might be a webinar or case study. At the bottom of the funnel, it would be a demo video or landing page.

While that search effect relates to the quality of leads, let us not ignore what salespeople ultimately want: volume. Well, organic traffic doesn’t disappoint here either. A HubSpot study found SEO beats social media, email marketing, paid search, and other marketing channels at increasing new leads.

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Ask yourself:

  • Does our keyword research help us understand the intent of visitors at different stages of the buyer’s funnel?
  • What criteria do we use to classify organic visitors as leads, and how do we nurture and convert them?

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Organic search traffic converts better and results in sales

The HubSpot study also found search ranked the third most popular tactic to gain leads. Blogging, which often relates to search, took the second position. (The No. 1 position was landing pages, calls to action, etc.)

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In affecting sales, organic search beats social media and paid search.

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When combining SEO, blog posts, and landing page copy with compelling CTAs makes a 47% contribution to increasing sales. Add a bit of lead intelligence to that, and you have an unstoppable sales machine. One way to go about it is to use compelling conversion points with the promise of more valuable content in your blog posts.

A combo of #SEO, blog posts, & landing page copy with CTAs makes a 47% contribution to increasing sales, according to a @HubSpot study via @BrennerMichael @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Ask yourself:

  • Are we integrating our SEO efforts with conversion rate optimization (CRO) on our site?
  • Does every piece of content on the site augment our sales process?

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Organic search improves customer retention and loyalty

Google delivers personalized results for searchers based on the terms they use and the URLs they click.

While location and device play a significant part in personalization, the nature of previous searches also matters. Search engines place a significant focus on first impressions, brands, and the match of real-world customer journeys and experiences with digital. This AI response mimics natural search behavior – if someone has had a great experience on your website, they tend to click or even seek your brand in search results even when it’s below other listings.

This simply means people who clicked from Google (or any other search engine) to one or more of your pages are likely to see more of your URLs in their SERP for search terms related to similar topics.

This is a virtuous cycle. Organic search keeps sending your customers and brand advocates back to your site. It keeps them consuming your content. Every time they do so, it’s an opportunity to give them more of what they want.

Ask yourself:

  • Do we have enough content that enables our customers to use our product or service to its fullest?
  • Do we create authoritative and informative content that makes people think of our brand for anything related to our industry?

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Organic search is the most cost-effective way of distributing content

Let’s make one thing clear: Organic search really isn’t “free.” But it is exceedingly hard to accurately compare the ROI of organic search to paid or any other marketing channel for that matter. (Trust me, I tried and didn’t find a single reliable study.)

There is no such thing as cheap #SEO, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The primary reason is that it’s not easy to attribute “spend” to SEO as you can for PPC or email marketing. Multiple costs overlap – the cost of producing content, optimizing it for search engines, and marketing it via off-page inbound tactics.

That said, once you have an approximate figure for your SEO spend, you can measure the reach and ROI that it gives your brand and compare the ROI with other digital channels. And then set up conversion tracking and goals to determine the ROI of your ongoing SEO and content campaigns.

Ask yourself:

  • How much do we spend on SEO and content marketing every month?
  • Do we have an accurate attribution model to determine which channels deliver ROI for our content?

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Organic search spins your content marketing flywheel

Google wants to see structure and metadata for your content. They want that content formatted to suit the devices and methods your audience uses. Further, structured information in the form of lists and tables also can be helpful to searchers (and thus, Google.)

Not only that, provide searchers with quick answers that also draw them to your site. Then, keep them there with great content and CTAs, leading to more virtuous cycles.

The more content you have in different forms on different platforms, the better your chance to dominate the search results for branded terms related to your industry.

You can create blog posts, landing pages, slide decks, social media updates, graphics, videos, slide decks, and podcasts, and have all of them ranking for a given set of related keywords.

Organic traffic gives you a competitive edge and creates a digital flywheel on Google – good, optimized content leads to better search visibility, more clicks increase your site authority, and site authority gives your content better chances of ranking.

Ask yourself:

  • What is our strategy for repurposing and redistributing our best content?
  • On which platforms, publications, and media other than our site do you post content?

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Organic content marketing is here to stay

No, SEO is not dead. But it has a constantly changing face. What doesn’t change are the business benefits that organic traffic brings to your digital content marketing strategy. It’s up to you to optimize your content to take advantage of Google’s evolving SERP features, and improve reach, conversions, and sales in the process.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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

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

Amazon pillows.

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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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