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Your Audience Isn’t Really Interested in ‘Just the Facts’ Anymore [Rose-Colored Glasses]

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Your Audience Isn't Really Interested in 'Just the Facts' Anymore [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Last week, I spoke to a client in the health care industry whose team wanted to develop a new digital content customer experience. But they felt frustrated.

Five years ago, with help from a couple of ad agency consultants, they’d come up with the idea to launch a digital platform to provide easy access to facts. All they needed, they thought, was to set up a digital library that could answer every question existing clients might have.

They would “let the facts speak for themselves” and win the customer retention battle.

<Narrator>: “It didn’t work.”

You see, facts almost never speak for themselves (they’re bashful that way). And they almost never win an argument.

Think about the last time you presented a set of facts you thought would clinch your argument. Boom. You dropped the mic and the knowledge bombs. You won, right?

Nope. Presenting facts does nothing to correct a false belief, and it usually causes your opponents to double down on their beliefs.

A group of researchers actually have studied this so-called “backfire effect” and found that correcting someone “actually increases [emphasis mine] misperceptions among the group in question.”

The backfire effect indicates correcting someone actually increases misperceptions among the group in question, according to #research from @UMich and @GeorgiaStateU via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In a big data, deep fake world, we have more “facts” than ever before. The question is: Does anyone care what we have to say?

A few years ago, researchers at Wharton showed people various algorithms. Most people in the study found them interesting and valuable – until an algorithm made a mistake. Once people saw the mistake occur, they were “very, very unlikely to use it and didn’t like it anymore.” Study participants seemed to judge algorithms more harshly than they would people, one researcher noted.

But, if these people had input into the algorithm or were allowed to adjust the forecasts, they not only liked the algorithms more, they didn’t lose nearly as much confidence when an error occurred.

These findings bode well for preserving the role of human involvement in an increasingly automated world. But it also speaks volumes in terms of how delicate belief and trust are.

So, the content question in 2022 isn’t about how to present “just the facts.” The question is how to make people care about any of the facts. And this isn’t just a marketing question. It’s a fundamental communication question.

Increasingly, facts are a commodity. They’re easy to attain, so we don’t value them. And because we don’t value them, they can be assailed with … well … “alternative facts.”

Facts are easy to attain, so readers don’t value them, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

As I told my health care client, companies have to give people something to believe in (to quote the classic Poison song). You have to give audiences something more than facts to care about.

If you don’t, you risk creating some version of this scene from the TV show The Simpsons: Lisa feels sad because one of her favorite teachers left. Her father, Homer, doesn’t get why. “I knew you wouldn’t understand,” she says. “Hey,” says Homer, “just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

Ultimately, with every piece of content, ask this: “Do we want people to care?”

If not, there’s no problem going with the cold corporate template and “let the facts speak for themselves.” If you do want people to care, you better give people more than content they can believe. You better give them content they can believe in – even if it means putting in more effort.

Creating belief is about understanding intent

So, how do you start creating content that goes beyond simple fact-based research, data, and information?

Go back to that argument you had on social media or with the colleague or boss who never seems to “get it.” Think about those customers you’re trying to convince to purchase from you or advocate for you.

You’re never going to win those battles with facts – you must understand why they are arguing, searching, or deciding. You must understand their intent.

To understand intent, you must first create mechanisms – content-driven experiences – that enable your brand to listen more effectively to the signals generated across their interactions.

Create #content-driven experiences to understand audience intent and listen to signals generated by the interactions, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

As one might expect, this requires more effective use of data than is likely available for most businesses. A thorough content strategy is needed to provide data to help the business understand each piece of content’s type and purpose and how they apply contextually to each step of the customer’s journey.

What does that content strategy look like?

In my research and consulting practice, I’ve seen marketing organizations create a self-enablement process to create this level of capability. It typically involves a three-step process:

1. Arrange the data house

Create a dictionary or interpretation for understanding intent. Put simply, you need to discern the most appropriate response to the customer’s interaction with your content.

This is where a metadata structure and content tagging system to track behavioral context (or intent) come in. For example, a white paper called Discover How Digital Marketing Is a Good Thing for Your Business might be tagged with a “beginner” or “learning” intent. Someone who consumes this white paper would NOT be considered a lead but will be nurtured as an engaged audience.

2. Develop best next capability

Once you have an intent signal, you need to understand what’s the “best next” thing to make that customer understand and care about the answer.

Businesses need to create content-driven experiences to deliver a “best next” experience to content consumers. For example, that targeted messaging to the beginner or learning audience member should prompt them to want to read a how-to-change piece.

That’s overly simplistic, of course, but you can see how levels of nuance may need to be captured with more than just answers to a question. Through additional content consumption, a poll, or a survey, you can glean if this beginner is feeling confident or fearful about change. As you learn more about the nuanced aspects of the customer’s journey, you can automatically deliver the best next experience for that customer.

Similarly, it’s not all about technology and dynamic content. There’s a human element to this, too. You can share this information with others who can deliver additional experiences that fall outside the digital content realm. For example, you could share insights about the beginner prospect’s behavior with sales. Once sales understands what the prospect needs, their role can evolve from a persuader to a consultant helping the prospect understand the best way to move to the next step.

3. Connect the experiences

This step enables the most insight. Once you map your content to understand what you need to deliver based on intent, you must develop the capability to aggregate this data and serve up the content (and the intent) contextually across the different experiences. You need to find a way to connect the experiences into a singular view of the audience’s progression through their journey.

For example, if the beginner persona ultimately purchases your services, you might want to connect their profile to the onboarding or training module of a 101-level set of training classes. The insight gleaned from a more statistically relevant data set improves these activities or even makes them possible in the first place.

This third step may be the most difficult part of the process because it often means integrating multiple technologies to create a single view of the customer.

But you can start small. Even if you can just connect the intent upper/beginning part of the journey (awareness) to the mid part of the journey (sales), you are starting to get much better.

It’s the content, not the data, that makes people care

Data gives you the opportunity to make people care about what you have to say. To get beyond just “answers,” you must create compelling content that integrates those answers (facts, figures, data, information) into compelling experiences that appeal to the audience’s feelings.

One widespread marketing fallacy is that buyers want factual answers about the products and services they’re considering.

It’s not true. More often than not, the brand that supplies the least information, facts, data, etc., about a product and provides the most inspiration, belief, and emotional connection will be the chosen one.

You need to convince customers they are buying into a brand they can believe in. To do that, you need to give them an experience they believe in, too.

Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit this March in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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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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