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What’s a Competitive Analysis & How Do You Conduct One?

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What's a Competitive Analysis & How Do You Conduct One?

When was the last time you ran a competitive analysis for your brand? And most importantly, do you know how to do one efficiently?

If you’re not sure, or if the last “analysis” you ran was a quick perusal of a competitor’s website and social media presence, you’re likely missing out on important intelligence that could help your brand grow.

In this detailed guide, you’ll learn how to conduct a competitive analysis that will give your business a competitive advantage in the market.

Access Now: 10 Competitive Analysis Templates [Free Download]

A competitive analysis can help you learn the ins and outs of how your competition works, and identify potential opportunities where you can out-perform them.

It also enables you to stay atop of industry trends and ensure your product is consistently meeting — and exceeding — industry standards.

Let’s dive into a few more benefits of conducting competitive analyses:

  • Helps you identify your product’s unique value proposition and what makes your product different from the competitors’, which can inform future marketing efforts.
  • Enables you to identify what your competitor is doing right. This information is critical for staying relevant and ensuring both your product and your marketing campaigns are outperforming industry standards.
  • Tells you where your competitors are falling short — which helps you identify areas of opportunities in the marketplace, and test out new, unique marketing strategies they haven’t taken advantage of.
  • Learn through customer reviews what’s missing in a competitor’s product, and consider how you might add features to your own product to meet those needs.
  • Provides you with a benchmark against which you can measure your growth.

What is competitive market research?

Competitive market research focuses on finding and comparing key market metrics that help identify differences between your products and services and those of your competitors.

Comprehensive market research helps establish the foundation for an effective sales and marketing strategy that helps your company stand out from the crowd.

Next, let’s dive into how you can conduct a competitive analysis for your own company.

Competitive Analysis in Marketing

Every brand can benefit from regular competitor analysis. By performing a competitor analysis, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify gaps in the market
  • Develop new products and services
  • Uncover market trends
  • Market and sell more effectively

As you can see, learning any of these four components will lead your brand down the path of achievement.

Next, let’s dive into some steps you can take to conduct a comprehensive competitive analysis.

To run a complete and effective competitive analysis, use these ten templates, which range in purpose from sales, to marketing, to product strategy.

Featured Resource: 10 Competitive Analysis Templates

competitive analysis template report

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1. Determine who your competitors are.

First, you’ll need to figure out who you’re really competing with so you can compare the data accurately. What works in a business similar to yours may not work for your brand.

So how can you do this?

Divide your “competitors” into two categories: direct and indirect.

Direct competitors are businesses that offer a product or service that could pass as a similar substitute for yours, and that operate in your same geographic area.

On the flip side, an indirect competitor provides products that are not the same but could satisfy the same customer need or solve the same problem.

It seems simple enough on paper, but these two terms are often misused.

When comparing your brand, you should only focus on your direct competitors. This is something many brands get wrong.

Let’s use an example: Stitch Fix and Fabletics are both subscription-based services that sell clothes on a monthly basis and serve a similar target audience.

But as we look deeper, we can see that the actual product (clothes in this case) are not the same; one brand focuses on stylish everyday outfits while the other is workout-centric attire only.

Yes, these brands satisfy the same need for women (having trendy clothes delivered right to their doorstep each month), but they do so with completely different types of clothing, making them indirect competitors.

This means Kate Hudson’s team at Fabletics would not want to spend their time studying Stitch Fix too closely since their audiences probably vary quite a bit. Even if it’s only slightly, this tiny variation is enough to make a big difference.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should toss your indirect competitors out the window completely.

Keep these brands on your radar since they could shift positions at any time and cross over into the direct competitor zone. Using our example, Stitch Fix could start a workout line, which would certainly change things for Fabletics.

This is also one of the reasons why you’ll want to routinely run a competitor analysis. The market can and will shift at any time, and if you’re not constantly scoping it out, you won’t be aware of these changes until it’s too late.

2. Determine what products your competitors offer.

At the heart of any business is its product or service, which is what makes this a good place to start.

You’ll want to analyze your competitor’s complete product line and the quality of the products or services they’re offering.

You should also take note of their pricing and any discounts they’re offering customers.

Some questions to consider include:

  • Are they a low-cost or high-cost provider?
  • Are they working mainly on volume sales or one-off purchases?
  • What is their market share?
  • What are the characteristics and needs of their ideal customers?
  • Are they using different pricing strategies for online purchases versus brick and mortar?
  • How does the company differentiate itself from its competitors?
  • How do they distribute their products/services?

3. Research your competitors’ sales tactics and results.

Running a sales analysis of your competitors can be a bit tricky.

You’ll want to track down the answers to questions such as:

  • What does the sales process look like?
  • What channels are they selling through?
  • Do they have multiple locations and how does this give them an advantage?
  • Are they expanding? Scaling down?
  • Do they have partner reselling programs?
  • What are their customers’ reasons for not buying? For ending their relationship with the company?
  • What are their revenues each year? What about total sales volume?
  • Do they regularly discount their products or services?
  • How involved is a salesperson in the process?

These helpful pieces of information will give you an idea of how competitive the sales process is, and what information you need to prepare your sales reps with to compete during the final buy stage.

For publicly held companies, you can find annual reports online, but you’ll have to do some sleuthing to find this info from privately owned businesses.

You could find some of this information by searching through your CRM and reaching out to those customers who mentioned they were considering your competitor. Find out what made them choose your product or service over others out there.

To do this, run a report that shows all prospective deals where there was an identified competitor.

If this data is not something you currently record, talk to marketing and sales to implement a system where prospects are questioned about the other companies they are considering.

Essentially, they’ll need to ask their leads (either through a form field or during a one-on-one sales conversation) to identify who their current service providers are, who they’ve used in the past, and who else they are considering during the buying process.

When a competitor is identified, have your sales team dive deeper by asking why they are considering switching to your product. If you’ve already lost the deal, be sure to follow up with the prospect to determine why you lost to your competitor. What services or features attracted the prospect? Was it about price? What’s the prospect’s impression of your sales process? If they’ve already made the switch, find out why they made this decision.

By asking open-ended questions, you’ll have honest feedback about what customers find appealing about your brand and what might be turning customers away.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start scoping out your competitor’s marketing efforts.

4. Take a look at your competitors’ pricing, as well as any perks they offer.

There are a few major factors that go into correctly pricing your product — and one major one is understanding how much your competitors are charging for a similar product or service.

If you feel your product offers superior features compared to those of a competitor, you might consider making your product or service more expensive than industry standards. However, if you do that, you’ll want to ensure your sales reps are ready to explain why your product is worth the additional cost.

Alternatively, perhaps you feel there’s a gap in your industry for affordable products. If that’s the case, you might aim to charge less than competitors and appeal to prospects who aren’t looking to break the bank for a high-quality product.

Of course, other factors go into correctly pricing a product, but it’s critical you stay on top of industry pricing to ensure you’re pricing your product in a way that feels reasonable to prospects.

Additionally, take a look at any perks your competitors’ offer and how you might match those perks to compete. For instance, perhaps your competitors offer a major referral discount or a month-long free trial version. These perks could be the reason you’re losing customers, so if it feels reasonable for your brand, consider where you might match those perks — or provide some unique perks of your own if competitors’ don’t offer any.

5. Ensure you’re meeting competitive shipping costs.

Did you know expensive shipping is the number one reason for cart abandonment?

Nowadays, free shipping is a major perk that can attract consumers to choose one brand over another. If you work in an industry where shipping is a major factor — like ecommerce — you’ll want to take a look at competitors’ shipping costs and ensure you’re meeting (if not exceeding) those prices.

If most of your competitors’ offer free shipping, you’ll want to look into the option for your own company. If free shipping isn’t a practical option for your business, consider how you might differentiate in other ways — including loyalty programs, holiday discounts, or giveaways on social media.

6. Analyze how your competitors market their products.

Analyzing your competitor’s website is the fastest way to gauge their marketing efforts. Take note of any of the following items and copy down the specific URL for future reference:

  • Do they have a blog?
  • Are they creating whitepapers or ebooks?
  • Do they post videos or webinars?
  • Do they have a podcast?
  • Are they using static visual content such as infographics and cartoons?
  • What about slide decks?
  • Do they have a FAQs section?
  • Are there featured articles?
  • Do you see press releases?
  • Do they have a media kit?
  • What about case studies?
  • Do they publish buying guides and data sheets?
  • What online and offline advertising campaigns are they running?

7. Take note of your competition’s content strategy.

Then, take a look at the quantity of these items. Do they have several hundred blog posts or a small handful? Are there five white papers and just one ebook?

Next, determine the frequency of these content assets. Are they publishing something new each week or once a month? How often does a new ebook or case study come out?

Chances are if you come across a robust archive of content, your competitor has been publishing regularly. Depending on the topics they’re discussing, this content may help you hone in on their lead-generating strategies.

From there, you should move on to evaluating the quality of their content. After all, if the quality is lacking, it won’t matter how often they post since their target audience won’t find much value in it.

Choose a small handful of samples to review instead of tackling every single piece to make the process more manageable.

Your sampler should include content pieces covering a variety of topics so you’ll have a fairly complete picture of what your competitor shares with their target audience.

When analyzing your competitor’s content, consider the following questions:

  • How accurate is their content?
  • Are spelling or grammar errors present?
  • How in-depth does their content go? (Is it at the introductory level that just scratches the surface or does it include more advanced topics with high-level ideas?)
  • What tone do they use?
  • Is the content structured for readability? (Are they using bullet points, bold headings, and numbered lists?)
  • Is their content free and available to anyone or do their readers need to opt-in?
  • Who is writing their content? (In-house team? One person? Multiple contributors?)
  • Is there a visible byline or bio attached to their articles?

As you continue to scan the content, pay attention to the photos and imagery your competitors are using.

Do you quickly scroll past generic stock photos or are you impressed by custom illustrations and images? If they’re using stock photos, do they at least have overlays of text quotes or calls-to-action that are specific to their business?

If their photos are custom, are they sourced from outside graphic professionals or do they appear to be done in-house?

When you have a solid understanding of your competitor’s content marketing strategy, it’s time to find out if it’s truly working for them.

8. Learn what technology stack your competitors’ use.

Understanding what types of technology your competitors’ use can be critical for helping your own company reduce friction and increase momentum within your organization.

For instance, perhaps you’ve seen positive reviews about a competitor’s customer service — as you’re conducting research, you learn the customer uses powerful customer service software you haven’t been taking advantage of. This information should arm you with the opportunity to outperform your competitors’ processes.

To figure out which software your competitors’ use, type the company’s URL into Built With, an effective tool for unveiling what technology your competitors’ site runs on, along with third-party plugins ranging from analytics systems to CRMs.

Alternatively, you might consider looking at competitors’ job listings, particularly for engineer or web developer roles. The job listing will likely mention which tools a candidate needs to be familiar with — a creative way to gain intel into the technology your competitors’ use.

9. Analyze the level of engagement on your competitor’s content.

To gauge how engaging your competitor’s content is to their readers, you’ll need to see how their target audience responds to what they’re posting.

Check the average number of comments, shares, and likes on your competitor’s content and find out if:

  • Certain topics resonate better than others
  • The comments are negative, positive, or a mix
  • People are tweeting about specific topics more than others
  • Readers respond better to Facebook updates about certain content
  • Don’t forget to note if your competitor categorizes their content using tags, and if they have social media follow and share buttons attached to each piece of content.

10. Observe how they promote their marketing content.

From engagement, you’ll move right along to your competitor’s content promotion strategy.

  • Keyword density in the copy itself
  • Image ALT text tags
  • Use of internal linking

The following questions can also help you prioritize and focus on what to pay attention to:

  • Which keywords are your competitors focusing on that you still haven’t tapped into?
  • What content of theirs is highly shared and linked to? How does your content compare?
  • Which social media platforms are your target audience using?
  • What other sites are linking back to your competitor’s site, but not yours?
  • Who else is sharing what your competitors are publishing?
  • Who is referring traffic to your competitor’s site?
  • For the keywords you want to focus on, what is the difficulty level? There are several free (and paid) tools that will give you a comprehensive evaluation of your competitor’s search engine optimization.

11. Look at their social media presence, strategies, and go-to platforms

The last area you’ll want to evaluate when it comes to marketing is your competitor’s social media presence and engagement rates.

How does your competition drive engagement with their brand through social media? Do you see social sharing buttons with each article? Does your competitor have links to their social media channels in the header, footer, or somewhere else? Are these clearly visible? Do they use calls-to-action with these buttons?

If your competitors are using a social network that you may not be on, it’s worth learning more about how that platform may be able to help your business, too. To determine if a new social media platform is worth your time, check your competitor’s engagement rates on those sites. First, visit the following sites to see if your competition has an account on these platforms:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

Then, take note of the following quantitative items from each platform:

  • Number of fans/followers
  • Posting frequency and consistency
  • Content engagement (Are users leaving comments or sharing their posts?)
  • Content virality (How many shares, repins, and retweets do their posts get?)

With the same critical eye you used to gauge your competition’s content marketing strategy, take a fine-toothed comb to analyze their social media strategy.

What kind of content are they posting? Are they more focused on driving people to landing pages, resulting in new leads? Or are they posting visual content to promote engagement and brand awareness?

How much of this content is original? Do they share curated content from other sources? Are these sources regular contributors? What is the overall tone of the content?

How does your competition interact with its followers? How frequently do their followers interact with their content?

After you collect this data, generate an overall grade for the quality of your competitor’s content. This will help you compare the rest of your competitors using a similar grading scale.

12. Perform a SWOT Analysis to learn their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

As you evaluate each component in your competitor analysis (business, sales, and marketing), get into the habit of performing a simplified SWOT analysis at the same time.

This means you’ll take note of your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats any time you assess an overall grade.

Some questions to get you started include:

  • What is your competitor doing well? (Products, content marketing, social
  • Where does your competitor have the advantage over your brand?
  • What is the weakest area for your competitor?
  • Where does your brand have the advantage over your competitor?
  • What could they do better with?
  • In what areas would you consider this competitor a threat?
  • Are there opportunities in the market that your competitor has identified?

You’ll be able to compare their weaknesses against your strengths and vice versa. By doing this, you can better position your company, and you’ll start to uncover areas for improvement within your own brand.

 

Competitive Product Analysis

Product analysis drills down to discover key differences and similarities in products that share the same general market. This type of analysis if you have a competitor selling products in a similar market niche to your own – you want to make sure that wherever possible, you aren’t losing market share to the competition.

Leveraging the example above, we can drill down and discover some of the key differentiators in product offerings.

Step 1: Assess your current product pricing.

The first step in any product analysis is to assess current pricing.

Nintendo offers three models of its Switch console: The smaller lite version is priced at $199, the standard version is $299, and the new OLED version is $349.

Sony, meanwhile, offers two versions of its Playstation 5 console: The standard edition costs $499 and the digital version, which doesn’t include a disc drive, is $399.

Step 2: Compare key features

Next is a comparison of key features. In the case of our console example, this means comparing features like processing power, memory, and hard drive space.

Feature

PS5 Standard

Nintendo Switch

Hard drive space

825 GB

32 GB

RAM

16 GB

4 GB

USB ports

4 ports

1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0

Ethernet connection

Gigabit

None

Step 3: Pinpoint differentiators

With basic features compared, it’s time to dive deeper with differentiators. While a glance at the chart above seems to indicate that the PS5 is outperforming its competition, this data only tells part of the story.

Here’s why: The big selling point of the standard and OLED Switch models is that they can be played as either handheld consoles or docked with a base station connected to a TV. What’s more, this “switching” happens seamlessly, allowing players to play whenever, wherever.

The Playstation offering, meanwhile, has leaned into market-exclusive games that are only available on its system to help differentiate them from their competitors.

Step 4: Identify market gaps

The last step in a competitive product analysis is looking for gaps in the market that could help your company get ahead. When it comes to the console market, one potential opportunity gaining traction is the delivery of games via cloud-based services rather than physical hardware. Companies like Nvidia and Google have already made inroads in this space and if they can overcome issues with bandwidth and latency, it could change the market at scale.

Competitive Analysis Example

How do you stack up against the competition? Where are you similar, and what sets you apart? This is the goal of competitive analysis. By understanding where your brand and competitors overlap and diverge, you’re better positioned to make strategic decisions that can help grow your brand.

Of course, it’s one thing to understand the benefits of competitive analysis, and it’s another to actually carry out an analysis that yields actionable results. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with a quick example.

Sony vs. Nintendo: Not all fun and games

Let’s take a look at popular gaming system companies Sony and Nintendo. Sony’s newest offering – the Playstation 5 – recently hit the market but has been plagued by supply shortages. Nintendo’s Switch console, meanwhile, has been around for several years but remains a consistent seller, especially among teens and children. This scenario is familiar for many companies on both sides of the coin; some have introduced new products designed to compete with established market leaders, while others are looking to ensure that reliable sales don’t fall.

Using some of the steps listed above, here’s a quick competitive analysis example.

1. Determine who your competitors are.

In our example, it’s Sony vs Nintendo, but it’s also worth considering Microsoft’s Xbox, which occupies the same general market vertical. This is critical for effective analysis; even if you’re focused on specific competitors and how they compare, it’s worth considering other similar market offerings.

2. Determine what products your competitors offer.

Playstation offers two PS5 versions, digital and standard, at different price points, while Nintendo offers three versions of its console. Both companies also sell peripherals – for example, Sony sells virtual reality (VR) add-ons while Nintendo sells gaming peripherals such as steering wheels, tennis rackets, and differing controller configurations.

3. Research your competitors’ sales tactics and results.

When it comes to sales tactics and marketing, Sony and Nintendo have very different approaches.

In part thanks to the recent semiconductor shortage, Sony has driven up demand via scarcity – very low volumes of PS5 consoles remain available. Nintendo, meanwhile, has adopted a broader approach by targeting families as their primary customer base. This effort is bolstered by the Switch Lite product line, which is smaller and less expensive, making it a popular choice for children.

The numbers tell the tale: Through September 2021, Nintendo sold 14.3 million consoles, while Sony sold 7.8 million.

4. Take a look at your competitors’ pricing, as well as any perks they offer.

Sony has the higher price point: Their standard PS5 sells for $499, while Nintendo’s most expensive offering comes in at $349. Both offer robust digital marketplaces and the ability to easily download new games or services.

Here, the key differentiators are flexibility and fidelity. The Switch is flexible – users can dock it with their television and play it like a standard console, or pick it up and take it anywhere as a handheld gaming system. The PS5, meanwhile, has superior graphics hardware and processing power for gamers who want the highest-fidelity experience.

5. Analyze how your competitors market their products.

If you compare the marketing efforts of Nintendo and Sony, the difference is immediately apparent: Sony’s ads feature realistic in-game footage and speak to the exclusive nature of their game titles; the company has managed to secure deals with several high-profile game developers for exclusive access to new and existing IPs.

Nintendo, meanwhile, uses brightly-lit ads showing happy families playing together or children using their smaller Switches while traveling.

6. Analyze the level of engagement on your competitor’s content.

Engagement helps drive sales and encourage repeat purchases. While there are several ways to measure engagement, social media is one of the most straightforward: In general, more followers equates to more engagement and greater market impact.

When it comes to our example, Sony enjoys a significant lead over Nintendo: While the official Playstation Facebook page has 38 million followers, Nintendo has just 5 million.

Competitive Analysis Templates

Competitive analysis is complex, especially when you’re assessing multiple companies and products simultaneously. To help streamline the process, we’ve created 10 free templates that make it possible to see how you stack up against the competition – and what you can do to increase market share.

Let’s break down our SWOT analysis template. Here’s what it looks like:

competitive analysis template fro SWOTDownload Free Templates

Strengths – Identify your strengths. These may include specific pieces of intellectual property, products that are unique to the market, or a workforce that outperforms the competition.

Weaknesses – Here, it’s worth considering potential issues around pricing, leadership, staff turnover, and new competitors in the market.

Opportunities – This part of the SWOT analysis can focus on new market niches, evolving consumer preferences, or new technologies being developed by your company.

Threats – These might include new taxes or regulations on existing products or an increasing number of similar products in the same market space that could negatively affect your overall share.

How Does Your Business Stack Up?

Before you accurately compare your competition, you need to establish a baseline. This also helps when it comes time to perform a SWOT analysis.

Take an objective look at your business, sales, and marketing reports through the same metrics you use to evaluate your competition.

Record this information just like you would with a competitor and use this as your baseline to compare across the board.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published prior to July 2018 but has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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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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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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