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What is digital transformation?

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What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of transitioning an organization’s operations to completely digital systems to better meet brand and customer needs. Throughout this process, digital technologies become infused throughout the brand’s core strategy, allowing marketing, sales, product, customer service, operations and finance teams to work together more effectively and provide more engaging products, services, and customer experiences.

It’s a strategy that has seen significant acceleration during the COVID-19 pandemic as homebound or socially distancing consumers became not only digital-first, but “digital-everywhere” too. Businesses have been forced to embrace digital transformation efforts and learn how to deliver value to customers who can only be reached online. In fact. many of the digital-first businesses that thrived during the pandemic offered seamless customer journeys despite the many fragmented channels that their customers use. 

Why we care. Marketers, in particular, need to align their strategies and operations with these transformation efforts to keep up with changing customer expectations and demands.

Marketing technologies are a key driver of digital transformation, empowering marketers to facilitate seamless digital interactions with customers. Yet this type of innovation is not easy to implement. Many companies struggle to put the right skills, structure, and processes in place to drive digital transformation success. Fortunately, the introduction of “low-code” tools, marketing technology replacements, and an increasing brand commitment to improved customer digital experiences has made this process more achievable.

In this piece, we’ll dive deep into digital transformation to answer the following questions: 

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

What’s driving digital transformation growth?

Customers are craving seamless, connected experiences more than ever before, forcing many brands to ditch older methods of marketing in favor of new tactics. But many factors make this transformation easier said than done. Changes in customer behavior due to the pandemic, the restrictions on third-party data collection, and rapidly evolving digital technologies make it difficult for some organizations to adapt.

Here are some of the other top drivers of digital transformation today.

Organizational changes. The pandemic shifted the way companies work. Many brands are rethinking their organizational structures; some are moving to remote-first cultures while others are changing the ways their marketing and sales teams conduct campaigns. To ensure these changes don’t interfere with customer experience or affect product/service quality, more companies are adopting digital platforms to consolidate tasks and better connect departments.

Changing customer expectations. COVID-19 and its repercussions have exacerbated the need to meet customer expectations. Customers have high standards for brands – they expect personalized online shopping options, customized email and text messages, product recommendations and more – and marketers need the digital tools to meet them.

Marketing automation. Increased demand for personalization has paved the way for higher levels of marketing automation platform adoption. These tools can provide marketers with key customer data insights while simultaneously deploying numerous marketing tasks at scale across all digital channels.

Given these trends, it’s clear that before the pandemic, digital transformation was a great way to improve customer engagement. Since the pandemic, it has become a necessity for any organization trying to stay competitive.

How does digital transformation start?

Digital transformation starts with a business strategy. Product, service, marketing, and sales goals provide the basic framework and necessary information to support the organization’s customer experience objectives. The executive team then sets the tone for creating alignment and an achievable digital transformation plan that can adapt quickly to changing marketing and technology trends.

Successful digital transformations happen because of two things: communication and involvement. Change does not succeed if it’s forced on people, so it is essential to get buy-in across the organization. Digital transformation needs to be rolled out with the support of the people operations — the employees who make things happen on a daily basis and are closest to the customers. Being clear about processes, roles and responsibilities is central to scaling digital activities. After all, managing data to enhance customer experiences is a lot of work.

Sometimes digital wins don’t come easily, and innovation often happens more slowly than expected. In the retail sector, for example, e-commerce sales in 2021 only accounted for 13.2% of total purchases. However, e-commerce has become the driving force for brand engagement with customers, innovating television advertising and in-store experiences across industries.

For these reasons, many organizations use an agile strategy to begin their digital transformation. Agile refers to the ability to create and respond to change. It is the way many companies are now approaching — and succeeding — in the uncertain business environment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Agile organizations stress collaboration over silos, which is an important element in managing data and creating new digital processes. Embracing change, setting priorities, and making adjustments on the fly are also critical to success. The pandemic has shown that plans change, so businesses must be flexible, rather than static or unchangeable. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that digital transformation is not a “one-and-done” type of initiative: there will never be that one moment when the organization can say it’s over.


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What skills are needed for digital transformation?

Executing digital transformation depends on having a staff with strong digital skills who can manage a marketing machine that is always on. For marketing leaders, that means a team that can deliver the organization’s end goal: a compelling and seamless customer experience.

Here are some of the skills marketers are expected to have.

Prioritize and target audiences. Too many campaigns waste hundreds of media dollars on the wrong audiences. Marketers today must be able to use digital transformation tools to generate data-based buyer personas and target audiences with the highest expected ROI.

Coordinate orchestration. With so many digital channels available, marketers need to employ innovative strategies to reach customers on each one. They’re required to coordinate marketing efforts with other digital initiatives to ensure these audiences enjoy seamless experiences.

Create data-driven content. Customers respond well to content that speaks to their needs, so marketers need an effective way to pull relevant data to aid their content creation efforts. It’s common to see more of these specialists well-versed with CDPs and other data collection tools.


What is digital transformation

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On the marketing operations side, employees must be accountable for the smooth running of the marketing technology stack, including:

  • Designing and managing internal workflows and processes.
  • Operating marketing software (as administrators).
  • Running and implementing campaigns.
  • Researching and recommending marketing software tools.
  • Analytics and measurement.

Not every company has the internal resources to successfully manage digital transformation. If that is the case, an agency partner can provide the digital services needed to support the organization. 

There are also digital transformation specialists like Publicis Sapient, which re-evaluated its talent levels and approach to better assist clients in their digital transformation efforts. Its executives sought people with the right skills, as well as the right mindset and experience. According to CMO Teresa Barreira, the company was hiring for “diversity of thought, diversity of experience and – really important – diversity of background.” As a result, it expanded to 150 employees, with about 70% being new to the agency (two years or less).

These transformative efforts have the potential to improve brand performance in a variety of industries. The key is to work with specialists that can recognize digital opportunities and guide your organization toward actionable solutions.

What role does technology play in digital transformation?

Digital transformation strategies cannot be separated from the tools needed to execute them. Many organizations continually evaluate their technology stacks, given how rapidly the technology changes. According to The MarTech Replacement Survey 2021, 67% of marketers replaced a marketing technology application in the past 12 months. Most upgraded from one commercial solution to another, and the upgraded solutions were exactly the kinds of technologies needed to begin digital transformation during the pandemic. 

What is digital transformation

Empowered with more advanced toolsets, marketers are embracing innovative forms of advertising, including digital out-of-home (DOOH) programmatic that can be integrated into omnichannel strategies. Two-thirds of media decision-makers activated new DOOH campaigns in the past 18 months, and more than 80% will recommend DOOH for their media plans over the next 12 months.

But the combination of rising demand for digital capabilities and a shortage of developers with coding skills has created a huge need for applications that are accessible to marketing end-users. Many of the tools that businesses adopt during digital transformation are “low code” or “no code,” meaning they enable organizations to build sophisticated processes with little or no coding experience.

Data democratization

This “democratization of data” is one of the most important aspects of digital transformation because it makes data easily available to people who aren’t data scientists or in the IT department. It’s been especially popular following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: According to research from the Harris Poll and Salesforce, 71% of small and medium businesses reported they survived by turning to digital applications.

Digital transformation fuels data democratization by providing team members with the digital resources they need to address ever-changing customer needs. It also helps brands solve data challenges by bringing in more viewpoints and perspectives – not to mention additional hands available to tackle big projects.

Still, data access is the means to an end, and the goal is to use digital transformation to improve customer experiences and increase customer engagement. Viewed through this lens, the benefits of data democratization include the following:

  • Stronger ability to identify customer intent: Driven by AI-powered tools, data democratization provides a wider range of insights into customer intent. Multiple departments can analyze and leverage data, using different philosophies and approaches.
  • Greater operational efficiency: Data democratization backed by low-code or no-code tools allow businesses to house data in a single and accessible location. In addition to making data access more convenient, this approach facilitates compliance with data privacy regulations and data standardization, which increases accuracy and targeting relevance. 
  • Improved customer experience: The organization’s understanding of customer needs increases as more departments have access to data. Channel preferences, along with buying histories, enable sales and marketing teams to personalize messages and customer support. 

What are some of the benefits of digital transformation?

One of the main reasons organizations undertake digital transformation is the fear of falling behind their competitors. Digital transformation investments are forecast to reach $6.8 trillion by 2023 and grow at a 15.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to technology research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). At the same time, IDC projects that 75% of all global organizations will have a comprehensive digital transformation roadmap.

Organizations that have embraced digital transformation have experienced a number of tangible business benefits, including:

  • Greater operational efficiency.
  • Higher levels of revenue.
  • Improved new product quality.
  • Stronger network infrastructures.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Higher marketing ROI.

Each of these digital transformation benefits contributes to better data governance, as well as compliance with government regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, which are meant to safeguard consumer privacy. As organizations shift away from third-party data strategies and move toward using their first-party customer data more efficiently, many have also experienced an increase in customer trust and engagement.

For example, Domino’s is using digital to transform the brand from a pizza delivery company to an experience company. Domino’s original 30-minute delivery campaign opened the door to digital success via its “pizza tracker.” Customer insights are collected through social media, smart assistants, and wearables, then analyzed to provide enhanced customer personalization. The goal is to build brand loyalty by offering operational transparency, while also reducing real and perceived delivery times. 

AGI, a B2B food infrastructure company operating in 102 countries, found that going digital has completely transformed its customer relationships. The company historically employed field salespeople, as well as in-person meetings, training, and trade shows to market and sell its products. The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to those live events, forcing AGI to adopt webinars and online learning to connect with prospects and customers. Online engagement skyrocketed, and the company enlisted Apply Digital, a Vancouver-based digital agency, to help consolidate its branded digital properties and ramp up content development. Today, AGI’s marketing technology stack includes SalesforceOptimizelyBynder, and Hubilo.

What are some of the challenges to digital transformation?

Although the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many organizations’ digital transformations, it also created some obstacles. With changing customer preferences, marketers have been forced to focus on short-term acquisition goals, rather than long-term customer retention. In the process, data quality has emerged as a key issue. According to the  2021 Nielsen Marketing Report: Era of Adaptation, 41% of marketers at large companies view their data quality as a challenge. Data silos are another common problem in digital transformation because of the sheer volume of customer data that most organizations now gather and house. With more touchpoints in the average customer journey, it is nearly inevitable that every SaaS tool in the marketing technology stack is creating a new silo of data.

Not all companies are confident about their digital transformation efforts. It’s difficult to layer a digital transformation strategy on top of a complex marketing technology stack. Fortunately, low-cost SaaS solutions have made it easier to purchase and experiment with new tools, and marketing teams have deployed hundreds of software products across their organizations to acquire, engage and retain customers.

Yet digital transformation efforts that are underway don’t always create the unified customer experience that companies are seeking. To avoid setbacks, marketers must create objectives and develop a roadmap that will help their organizations meet digital transformation goals.

What is the future of digital transformation?

Digital transformation efforts aren’t a one-and-done undertaking – they’re vital for any brand’s hope of digital success going forward.

Here are some of our predictions for the future of digital transformation.

Responsible AI. AI solutions have been used to enhance marketing campaigns for years, but more brands are seeking responsible solutions to address the technologies’ issues. Companies such as Google and Microsoft are already leading the charge with calls for more AI regulations, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Bias and other unintended consequences can cause great harm to customers and brands, so more data scientists and developers will likely focus on creating more effective safeguards.

Low-code tools. Rather than relying solely on teams of technology specialists to transform their organizations, many brands are adopting low-code tools to empower their marketers. These allow team members to implement complex frameworks and solutions with little to no coding experience. These capabilities are helping low code pave the way for greater digital transformation.

Zero-trust security implementation. More and more companies are adopting remote-first work environments, which means there’s an even greater need for cyber security solutions. Enter zero-trust – a new security framework built on the principle that no user should be trusted by default. Instead, brands can grant permission based on user context and proper authentication, making their networks more secure and building trust in their infrastructure.

Virtual and augmented reality. The advent of VR and AR technologies – spurred on by major brands like Meta – has the potential to change the way brands interact with customers. Our world is more dependent on digital technologies than ever before, and the capabilities of VR and AR platforms – such as product showcases or work collaboration – make it a must-have for brands looking to take their campaigns to the next level.

Empathy as an engagement strategy. Increased consumer data privacy legislation, coupled with calls for greater personalization, means marketers need to make empathy a cornerstone of their campaigns. Customers want to interact with brands that understand their values and needs, and in our ever-changing world, failure to do so could lead to less engagement.

Rapidly evolving technologies, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a whole host of other forces affecting society have made digital transformation an imperative, not optional. By paying attention to customer needs and forecasting trends in behavior, marketers can stay ahead of the curve with informed digital transformation efforts.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

What is digital transformation
Karen Burka, Senior Research Consultant, conducts research and provides analysis for Third Door Media’s Martech Intelligence Reports. She has worked as a digital marketer and industry analyst for more than 20 years at companies such as Peppers and Rogers Group, Cowles Business Media and Simon & Schuster.


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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.


Disruptive Design Raising the Bar of Content Marketing with Graphic

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