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Should You Pay a PR Firm? [+PR Tactics You Can Manage In-House]



It’s a question almost every fast-growing company runs into: should we hire a PR firm or build an in-house team? And if you wrestle with this question long enough, it quickly spirals into an endless back-and-forth (“on the other hand…“).

The truth is, depending on your specific goals, resources, and budget, one path may make more sense than the other. We’ve rounded up some helpful advice from PR pros at HubSpot to help you make the right call.

Let’s dive into the key benefits and drawbacks of hiring an agency, explore how to make the right decision for your business, and cover five PR tasks you can manage in-house.

Reasons to Hire a PR Firm

1. You know what you want.

Hiring a firm without knowing what you want is like driving to a new destination without a map. Chances are, you’ll get lost — quickly.

“Hiring a PR firm can be a significant investment, so before doing so, you need to be clear about your goals and what you’re hoping to achieve through PR,” advises Ellie Flanagan, Manager of Product & Corporate Communications at HubSpot.

Your goals are your compass. They influence your budget, timeline, and even the tactics you want to employ. Just as importantly, they give you a clear picture of what you need from an agency.

2. You’re ready to “feed the PR machine.”

PR is not a “set it and forget it” activity — even if you hire an agency to do the heavy lifting.

Mia MacKinnon, Head of Brand & Public Relations, APAC at HubSpot, echos this point, telling me, “If, as a founder or business leader, you don’t have capacity to invest in supporting your agency or in-house lead with developing and approving narratives, supporting launches, prepping for media interactions and events and being available for speaking opportunities, it’s going to be tough to see results.”

She continues, “If an agency’s drip-fed information, with little visibility of your business strategy and the challenges you’re facing, they’re going to have an incredibly tough time delivering results. You get out what you put in with public relations and my best agency partners have been ones where the team we’ve worked with have become an extension of our in-house team.”

In other words, you play a huge role in setting up your agency for success. If you treat your agency like a true partnership, you’re more likely to see great results.

3. You want to extend your media reach.

When you hire a PR firm, you not only access new ideas, perspectives, and expertise — you also work with people who have relationships with key contacts in the media. And when it comes to media outreach, you’re only as strong as your relationships.

Flanagan adds, “Building relationships with reporters is a core component of successful PR. If you do decide to go the agency route, it’s important that they have a day-to-day contact at your company that can bring them information and help them connect to internal stakeholders.”

That said, your budget may get in the way here. If that’s the case, fear not. Flanagan advises: “If you have a limited budget, hiring an in-house PR person to focus on relationship building can be a better investment. In-house teams also have better access to internal resources and spokespeople.”

4. You need specialized knowledge.

They say all press is good press — but that’s up for debate. Regardless, when a crisis situation comes a-knocking, most small businesses and start-ups are not equipped to handle it. Even negative feedback and disgruntled customers can impact a brand’s reputation and image.

All this to say, if your business needs crisis communication — or any specialized PR knowledge — it’s better to leave it to the pros. PR firms are more experienced and specially trained to handle (and prevent) these types of situations.

Now let’s explore some red flags you should consider before moving to the next step.

Reasons Why You Might Not Need a PR Firm

1. Your in-house team is closer to the information.

Your in-house team only has one client: you. Meaning they can give their complete and undivided attention, whereas an agency has to spread its time across multiple clients.

As Flanagan tells me, “In-house teams also have better access to internal resources and spokespeople.”

Whereas you need to educate an outside agency about the ins and outs of your business — and monitor their work for accuracy — your in-house team already has a strong grasp of internal company knowledge.

Additionally, with tools like HubSpot’s Marketing Hub and Hootsuite, working on PR-related tasks — like sending promotional emails and social monitoring — has never been easier.

2. You haven’t found a good fit with an agency.

When hiring an agency, never underestimate the importance of finding a good fit.

MacKinnon tells me, “There are many moving parts to finding the right agency — industry specialization, B2B versus consumer, agency size and how they structure their teams, how flexible an agency is, their model — are they pure media relations, or are they more integrated, and which of the two do you need?”

For small businesses that are new to the PR game, MacKinnon suggests looking for agencies that offer flexibility:

“Agencies who have a flexible model and can adapt to suit your businesses needs are often where smaller businesses find a great fit — until you have a set model of working, it’s important that the agency can flex to align with you — this might be a big launch one month, and a quiet period the next, as you prepare for your next campaign.”

Additionally, reputation is paramount in the PR world. Don’t hesitate to ask around for recommendations from others.

MacKinnon explains, “Exceptional agencies tend to be known and talked about — ask for recommendations from businesses whose public relations campaigns you admire, from businesses in an industry similar to yours, or who face similar challenges when it comes to awareness, perception and trust.”

3. You’re looking for a quick fix.

PR isn’t a “quick fix.” The PR seeds you plant today need time to grow, especially considering the nature of public relations is all about building real relationships. As a result, the relationship you have with your agency should feel like a true partnership — not a short-term investment.

If all that sounds daunting, the agency route may not be the answer.

MacKinnon echos this, saying: “One of the biggest learnings I’ve had in my career working in-house, and something I share with my team, is that once you find your agency, you have a huge role to play in setting you both up for success, and that’s to treat them like a true partner.”

5 PR Tasks Your In-House Team Can Manage

1. Press releases.

In today’s world, businesses have to generate their own buzz. Whether sharing a new product drop, an upcoming event, or changes in your organizational structure, a well-written press release can get the word out about your business. Check out this helpful guide on how to write a press release that stands out from the crowd.

2. Social media communications.

What people say about your business on social media can impact your overall reputation. Every in-house team should have their “ear to the ground” monitoring these conversations.

Social listening tools — like HubSpot’s Social Media Management Software, Sprout Social, and Buffer — track mentions of your brand, relevant keywords, and direct feedback through hashtags and DMs. Additionally, many of these tools will allow you to respond to mentions on your social media accounts directly from the dashboard.

3. Blog writing.

Community outreach is a pillar of public relations. A great way to engage with an audience is through owned channels, like a company blog. When it comes to developing a well-rounded blogging strategy, your in-house team may need to divide and conquer — one person creates an editorial calendar, another person looks for guest contributors, while another person writes blog content.

4. Promotional emails.

Thanks to tools like HubSpot’s Marketing Hub, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact, it’s easier than ever to manage, design, and send emails to customers. However, in order to send emails, you first need people to send them to. Therefore, building a healthy email list — and making it easy to opt in — should be a long-standing focus for your in-house team.

5. Employee communications.

Employee communications, also known as internal communications, has quickly become a major focus in PR. After all, employees can be a company’s harshest critics or most passionate advocates.

Employee communications involve sharing info through various channels, like email or an internal forum. In-house PR teams can share company news, project updates, and more. When employees feel “in the loop,” they’re more engaged, connected, and empowered at work.

Back To You

Ultimately, no one knows your business — and its needs — better than you. If you’re deciding whether to hire a PR firm or not, start with the advice in this article. And remember, as long as you factor PR in your business strategy to some capacity, you’re already headed in the right direction.

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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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