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What marketers need to know to prepare for 2023

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What marketers need to know to prepare for 2023

Well, friends, it’s that time of year again. If you’re a retailer, I hope you’re hanging in there, all your campaigns are going according to plan, and the screaming-down-the-hall moments are few and far between.

This also is the season when anyone with a blog, a column or a webinar will start predicting what will happen in marketing in 2023. I’m not immune to that, but I’m also honest enough to admit nobody really has a clue right now. 

There’s so much we don’t know about what will happen in the next 12 months. One thing is for sure: We definitely can look forward to many twists and turns in the online space and the real world — again. 

So, instead of predicting, I’m going to look at what marketers should remember as they plan for 2023. I hope my insights will give you some direction, help you set some goals and put you in the right frame of mind in the next five minutes before somebody comes down the hall to request another Black Friday email campaign.

A global recession is coming

No matter what American politicians say, a recession isn’t just a U.S. concern. It’s happening everywhere. It poses another challenge for email. But email can rise to meet it, just as it emerged as a winner in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I’m a big believer in staying informed whether it means reading marketing, economic and political news or keeping an eye on the five screens in my office, each of which streams different information. So I’ve been on top of news stories reporting that some companies are already pulling back some ad spend. Others are investing in processes now to get ahead should we hit recessionary headwinds. 

Because email proved its value in the pandemic, I don’t expect email budgets will get eviscerated to fund other channels. But we’ll test the concept that email is still recession-proof. 

That doesn’t mean email will emerge unscathed. But we email marketers should get ready for a different kind of challenge. Companies could go back to their pandemic tactics, in which they invested in email to keep customers informed and build authentic relationships. Or they could revert to their business practices in the 2008 recession and just discount everything in a mission to save revenue targets.

We’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty right now. We could be in a recession that in some parts of the world doesn’t even look like a recession because of high job growth, even with a higher-than-normal inflation rate.

So now we have to look at how email can live up to its recession-proof reputation. Our twin challenges will be the evolving state of the global economy and how we can adapt email to survive. 

The email channel itself will survive. What remains to be seen is whether we can retain the primacy email has gained.

Dig deeper: 5 email marketing lessons learned in the pandemic

Segmentation will help increase revenue from inflation-weary customers

Consumers pulled back on spending during the pandemic. Now, inflation is driving similar cutbacks. Reduced consumer spending puts even greater pressure on email marketers to perform.

Retailers are responding to their bargain-hunting customers by launching holiday campaigns even earlier this year. I saw many campaigns in early October that I would normally expect to see closer to November. 

Consumer spending predictions are all over the board this year, too. The most optimistic say holiday spending will rise 4% to 6% over 2021, while others expect consumers will either hold the line or spend less. 

I expect retailers will pull the usual levers to capture more holiday spending — heavier discounting, higher email frequency or some other tactics. But instead of pulling on those levers indiscriminately, marketers should rethink and revise their list segmentation to keep revenue flowing reliably. 

Segmentation represents an untapped market across the board for motivating and incentivizing consumers to spend their money with you instead of your competitors.

Segmentation comes into play with the customer data platforms (CDPs) and advanced analytical tools. Email marketers can use these tools to fight both recession-driven budget cutbacks and reduced consumer spending.

Use what you learn about your customers — what works and what doesn’t — to support requests for resources to support segmentation and win higher priority in the marketing tech stack. 

Although marketers worldwide might encounter a global recession in 2023, lower consumer spending could finally force us to become smarter marketers, not just “more” marketers.


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The pressure will be on CDPs to prove value

Customer data platforms, or CDPs, have been around for a while, but they’re just now moving into the reach of middle-level brands and full implementation at the enterprise level. But we still don’t know whether they’re the savior for data-driving marketing or the latest shiny object.

In 2023, I expect we’ll see the proof point for CDPs and whether we as email marketers can use them to transform our email campaigns into messages that elevate the customer conversation. 

Vendors have sold CDPs as the gateway to customer intent, purchase propensity and data orchestration. Next year, we will see whether CDPs bridge the gaps between data lakes and CRMs, resulting in more intelligent marketing and boosting messaging automation, targeting and personalization.

But this move also could end up shifting priorities away from email. Historically, email has been stuck at the far end of the investment dinner table, waiting to see what’s left on the platter when it finally reaches us. 

We might learn that CDPs do give us easier access to data for segmentation and personalization. Or we could find out that the money companies spend on installing them is wasted without the data, technical structure or know-how to manage them.

Dig deeper: How to manage email addresses in a customer data platform

Martech stacks will get a lot more scrutiny

This year, my agency was insanely busy working with both long-term and new clients on their tech stacks. Not just their email platforms, but all of their adjacent and connected systems.

Many of these clients were unhappy with their technology and asked us to find new vendors or move to new ones. 

We all know how the pandemic accelerated digital transformation. Your tech stack might be a casualty if it hasn’t kept up with the changes. I heard clients say, “We aren’t agile enough.” 

Or, “This platform doesn’t help make us smarter.” 

Even, “This platform isn’t complex enough for all of our needs now.”

Some companies outgrew their systems, too. The pandemic forced them to react faster and communicate better with customers, employees and stakeholders and forced many to push their systems beyond their limits. 

Today, many of our clients want technology that’s better, faster, more complex and more capable to meet their needs because they have evolved and need support that can meet them where they are now.

I expect more companies will examine whether they have the right technology and look to see what else is out here and what they can get to meet their new demands.

As part of this re-examination, we also will see companies using more of the technology they’re already paying for.

Maybe you saw Gartner’s study that found companies use only an average of 42% of their tech stack capabilities, a figure that’s actually down from a slightly less dismal 58% in 2020. 

When I worked at Responsys, we found platform usage was actually closer to 10%. Back then (I’m older — “then” was 2007), marketers didn’t know how to use all the advanced features, many of which are standard equipment today.

If you’re dissatisfied with your tech stack, figure out whether it truly doesn’t meet your needs anymore or you just haven’t used all of its capabilities.

Before you start looking for new tech providers, go to your vendors and ask them to show you their latest demos. They’ll be happy to do it. Challenge your providers to show you what you should be using but aren’t yet. You’ll understand your tech capabilities and limits much better.

Dig deeper: The secret to building a useful martech stack

Looking to the future

As usual, I could be full of crap. Not about asking your vendors to audit your tech use — that’s always good advice — but for everything else, it’s what I’m seeing in my work, in the news and in talking with other marketers. 

Plus, I’ve been through a recession, COVID, the birth and evolution of the internet, the Amazon wave, consolidation in the email space and so much more. That also informs my views about what will happen. 

My focus is always on marketers and what they need to think about when planning for the coming year. 

So let’s get back to it and knock out the rest of our 2022 plans. Don’t forget to celebrate with your team, whether by taking them out for drinks and dinner or supporting your remote staffers. 

Tune in next month for my annual December motivation and year-end reviews!


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



About The Author

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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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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