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Workflow Automation Explained & 6 Best Workflow Software for 2022

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Manual data entry might be one of the most tedious and inefficient tasks in the corporate world. Not only does it put you to sleep, but it also wastes precious time and resources, slashing your productivity to bits.

According to Zapier, 94% of workers perform time-consuming, repetitive tasks. Fortunately, there’s technology that can automate these mind-numbing tasks, eliminating human error and letting you focus on the work that actually matters — workflow automation.

By leveraging self-operating processes that run manual tasks, workflow automation can help your business save time and money, diminish errors, and boost productivity.

Table of Contents

How does workflow automation work?

Workflow automation typically relies on a series of if/then statements to trigger another task. It then branches off depending on the action that was taken by a lead, employee, or another stakeholder.

Let’s walk through an example workflow for turning a form submission into a deal opportunity.

  • A website visitor submits a form.
  • The action automatically enrolls the visitor in a drip campaign. It creates a new deal and sets the status to “New.”
  • The first email of the drip campaign is sent to the lead, requesting to schedule a meeting.
  • The lead clicks through to the meeting scheduler and creates an appointment.
  • A thank you email is sent to the lead, confirming the date and time.
  • The CRM creates a new task and assigns it to a sales rep.
  • The sales rep then reaches out personally, ending the automated workflow.

Here’s what a workflow can look like from start to finish.

Workflow automation example in HubSpotImage Source

Almost every department in your business can benefit from workflow automation. Whether it’s marketing, human resources, or finance, the technology can help you work smarter, not harder.

Below, we’ll cover some of the most popular workflow automation examples.

Workflow automation can be used in virtually any team and in any business scenario. While it’s mostly related to marketing and sales, it can also be used in customer service, operations, human resources, and finance.

Marketing Workflow Automation

Marketing workflow automation example in HubSpot

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Some of the most repetitive tasks in marketing, such as sending emails and posting social media updates, can be automated with workflow automation. With marketing automation software, you can schedule your entire social media calendar and set up workflows that nurture certain types of prospects with email offers.

Automated workflows in marketing include:

  • Subscribing a user to a drip campaign when they download a resource from your website
  • Welcoming a user to your company after they purchase a product
  • Reminding a user to check out after they’ve added various items to their cart
  • Scheduling social media posts across multiple platforms
  • Distributing marketing tasks across team members

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Sales Workflow Automation

Sales workflow automation example in HubSpot

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Sales workflow automation streamlines tedious lead and prospect management tasks, so that reps can focus on selling, not entering data. Aside from taking leads automatically through the pipeline based on their actions, an automated sales workflow can enroll prospects in drip campaigns and update deal stages as the deal moves forward.

Automated tasks in sales include:

  • Placing each lead at a different stage of the pipeline when they take a certain action
  • Moving a lead out of the pipeline if they’ve stopped responding to emails
  • Sending an introduction email from a sales rep to a lead after they download an ebook
  • Updating the deal stage once the lead has scheduled an appointment or meeting
  • Creating tasks for sales reps once a lead has scheduled a meeting

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Customer Service Workflow Automation

Customer service workflow automation example in HubSpot

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Workflow automation is incredibly useful in customer service. Aside from launching surveys, workflow automation can take care of tickets, cases, and common questions by sending a series of emails or creating tasks.

Automated tasks in customer service include:

  • Creating a new ticket in the system when someone reaches out through social media or email
  • Onboarding customers with a series of helpful emails
  • Sending NPS® surveys and enrolling them into different email campaigns depending on their rating
  • Assigning tickets a priority label depending on the tone of the message or email
  • Resolving and archiving tickets once a resolution has been reached

Additional Reading

Operations Workflow Automation

Operations workflow automation example in HubSpot

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Operations is the lifeblood of any organization, and it, too, can be automated to reduce instances of manual data entry.

Automated tasks in operations include:

  • Deleting duplicates once they have been detected or merging two properties if they’re the same
  • Managing team permissions for new team members
  • Establishing priorities for different businesses processes
  • Automatically compiling reports at the end of every quarter
  • Creating tasks in third-party tools such as Asana, Slack, or Zoom

Additional Reading

Human Resources Workflow Automation

Instead of having to manually enter all your new hires’ personal information — like addresses, social security numbers, and other employee information into payroll, expense, and insurance systems — HR automation software can do it for you in minutes.

Automated tasks in human resources include:

  • Removing candidates from the database if they’ve been inactive for a period of time
  • Sending emails to candidates that haven’t made it to the final round
  • Filtering candidates with certain keywords in their job history
  • Sending W2s to current employees
  • Collecting employees’ feedback after they’ve been at the company for a period of time

Finance Workflow Automation

Finance workflow automation exampleImage Source

By allowing you to build forms, design workflows, and track processes, finance process automation software can streamline all of your travel requests, reimbursements, and budget approvals.

Automated tasks in finance include:

  • Taking an expense approval process from start to finish
  • Managing vendor and contract approvals
  • Assigning priorities to ACH and wire requests
  • Managing travel expense requests depending on location and activity
  • Approving budgets based on a predetermined set of parameters

Now that you know everything about using automated workflows, let’s take a look at the top tools you can use.

Best Workflow Automation Software in 2022

1. HubSpot: Best All-in-One Workflow Automation Software

Workflow automation software: HubSpot

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HubSpot’s marketing, sales, service, and operations software operates on a single platform, making it one of the best choices for all-in-one workflow automation. Everything is linked together, allowing you to align all of your teams’ processes and reducing friction from task to task.

You can easily hand leads from marketing to sales, connect a service ticket with an existing contact record, and clean up customer data — all in one user-friendly platform.

Best for: HubSpot is highly recommended for growing businesses that have yet to try workflow automation and for enterprise businesses with established processes. You can begin with a Starter subscription, then upgrade as you require more functionalities. Especially recommended for marketing, sales, service, and operations departments.

Pricing for Marketing Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $890/month (Professional); $3,200/month (Enterprise)

Pricing for Sales Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $500/month (Professional); $1,200/month (Enterprise)

Pricing for Service Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $400/month (Professional); $1,200/month (Enterprise)

Pricing for Operations Hub: Free; $50/month (Starter); $800/month (Professional)

2. Nintex: Best Enterprise Workflow Automation Software

Workflow automation software: NintexWith over 3 million workflow applications operating on their platform right now, Nintex helps more than 8,000 enterprise customers manage, automate, and optimize their business processes, with no coding experience required.

By offering a multitude of workflow automation tools — like process mapping, advanced workflows, and process intelligence — your business is able to map out each of your processes, execute them, and monitor their performance.

Best for: Nintex is highly recommended for enterprise businesses with established processes. It’s a robust software that pairs a user-friendly workflow design tool with powerful integrations that will connect every single one of your apps. Especially recommended for IT, law, HR, and finance departments.

Pricing: $910/month (Standard); $1,400/month (Enterprise)

3. Kissflow: Best Beginner-Friendly Workflow Automation Software

Workflow automation software: Kissflow

Trusted by over 10,000 companies, including Domino’s, Michelin, and Pepsi, Kissflow offers an all-in-one workflow automation software that lets your business create workflows that automate tasks in your human resources, sales, finance, administration, marketing, and purchase departments.

With over 50 pre-installed business process management apps — such as expensing and sales orders, conditions and triggers, and reporting dashboards for your workflows — Kissflow can streamline almost all your business processes.

Best for: Kissflow is highly recommended for small companies that are just now starting to try workflow automation. The tool’s simplicity and user friendliness will make it easier to begin automating processes. Especially recommended for procurement, HR, and finance departments.

Pricing: $200/month (Basic); $495/month (Advanced); $1,900/month (Fully Loaded)

4. Integrify: Best Everyday Administration Workflow Automation Software

Workflow automation software: Integrify

Integrify is a workflow automation software that lets you build workflows in a drag-and-drop builder and run parallel or sequential flows. By being able to collaborate on tasks and requests, test your processes, and set up reminders, you can easily streamline your business processes and automate manual tasks.

Integrify also offers workflow examples and a user knowledge base, a rest-based open API that allows you to integrate with external databases, and the ability to import and export data from Excel and even PDFs.

Best for: Integrify is highly recommended for small-to-medium businesses that are looking to automate everyday tasks. Its drag-and-drop “Process Builder” makes it simple and easy to take a process from start to completion. Especially recommended for administration departments.

Pricing: Pricing available upon request

5. Zapier: Best Workflow Automation Software for Connecting Apps

Workflow automation software: Zapier

With the ability to connect to and share data with over 1,000 web apps, like Facebook, QuickBooks, and Google Drive, Zapier can automate almost any type of business process. All you have to do is build a workflow in their editor, pick the apps you want to include in your workflow, and design it.

For example, if you want to be able to save all your attachments in Dropbox, you can design a workflow that automatically copies any attachment from your Gmail inbox to Dropbox and then sends you a Slack message about the download.

Best for: Zapier is highly recommended for freelancers and small-to-medium businesses that use a wide variety of tools that aren’t talking with each other. For instance, if you’re using MailChimp to send emails and Typeform to collect leads, you could connect those two tools using Zapier. Especially recommended for marketing and service departments.

Pricing: Free; $19.99/month (Starter); $49/month (Professional)

6. Flokzu: Best Project Management Workflow Automation Software

Workflow automation software: Flokzu

Without writing any code, Flokzu allows you to create tasks, deadlines, business rules, and notifications. Their software also sends pending tasks to each of your project’s assignees’ inboxes, and as each stage of a workflow is complete, it’ll automatically assign each new task to a user or role.

Additionally, Flozku offers a reporting dashboard that displays your business processes’

performance and metrics, like the amount of currently delayed tasks there are, tasks assigned to each user and role, tasks completed, and the time each task took, which will give you the necessary data to refine and optimize your future workflows.

Best for: Flokzu is highly recommended for individual teams that want to optimize their time management and task workflow. A key feature of this tool is that users will receive pending tasks in their inbox, making it an excellent project management tool. Recommended for any team.

Pricing: Free; $19.99/month (Starter); $49/month (Professional)

Workflow Automation Will Help You Grow Better

Workflow automation is critical for businesses that want to scale and grow without letting anything fall through the cracks. By letting technology complete manual tasks, you can effectively grow your business without any growing pains.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and 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

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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.

1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

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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