What Makes a Marketer Successful: 1,600 Pros Can't Be Wrong

October 22, 2017

Successful Marketers

This guest post was contributed by Greg Mischio, Owner and Strategic Director, Winbound.

It’s easy to get distracted in marketing — especially when you’re leading a small department.

In a smaller marketing department, you’re called on to wear a number of different hats, and fill a bunch of different roles. You’re always being pounded by tons of different vendors and consultants who are pushing you to try the latest and greatest new thing.

So what should you do? What tools should you try? What strategies can you employ?

I hate to tell you this, but this post won’t answer those questions. At least, not exactly.  

Every problem is different, and typically, everyone needs a specific solution.

However, what I can pass along are some sensational but four ways to dramatically increase your likelihood for success. They’re not flashy and they’re simple to understand. But it’s amazing how impactful they can be.

The survey that tells the story — especially for small marketing teams

The fundamentals I’m going to pass along come from a recent survey conducted by CoSchedule. Jordan Loftis led a CoSchedule team that launched a recent survey of 1,600 marketers, aptly titled “The Marketing Statistics You Need to Know To Be Successful in 2017.”  

CoSchedule reached out to 1,600 marketers. One of the survey questions asked for the size of the marketing team the respondent works on. Here is the breakout:

My company, Winbound, provides a content marketing-conversion solution for small marketing teams. When we saw these numbers, we were encouraged and eager to share them. The breakout of the respondents indicates these are representative of small marketing teams.

What surprised CoSchedule

When they created the survey, CoSchedule wanted to question some of the common phrases we hear every day as the keys to marketing success. “We hear these truisms and assumptions, and we wanted to validate them,” Jordan said. These included:

  • “You need a marketing plan to be successful.”
  • “You must document your marketing strategy and processes.”
  • “Quality content is more important to success than quantity.”

I asked Jordan if anything really surprised him about the results.

“We thought the statements would be true, but we were surprised they were by such overwhelming factors,” he said.  

For example, marketers who document strategy have a 538% greater chance to be successful than those who don’t. There was also a magnitude factor, which we’ll explore in a bit. All right — let’s dive into the findings!

1. Set a goal. Please.

The top marketers set goals (and achieve them).

Out of the marketers surveyed, 70% said they set goals. Then, out of that group, 81% reported success. In all, successful marketers are 4.3 times more likely to set goals.

Jordan said the survey also found what types of goals the marketers were setting as their Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Here’s the breakdown:

The survey revealed that there was a weak correlation between specific KPIs and success (so no single KPI jumped out more than others). The point is establishing one is a contributor to success.

In other words, find the goal that moves the dial for your company. Jordan called it “the one metric to rule them all.”

He defines that as a metric so powerful that if you hit it, your company couldn’t go out of business. If you, as a marketer, can find that number, and then hit it on a consistent basis, you will have job security and likely a bigger paycheck for a long, long time.

2. Get that strategy in writing. Right now.

Top marketers also document their marketing strategy. As we just noted, marketers who document their strategy are 5.38 times more likely to report success than those who don’t.

It’s worth repeating because so many marketers don’t document strategy. They may have created a marketing plan, and allocated dollars to spend — but is there a strategy behind that plan?  

As Jordan notes, the best thing about documenting a strategy is that it assures you have one!  

To make your strategy even more effective, make sure it’s tied to some quantitative number.

For example, you could develop the strategy: “Interview an influencer in a blog post to generate more backlinks to the blog and improve SEO.”

You can then track the number of links that a particular post generates. The increased number of links will help your SEO; your quantifiable results justify your qualitative strategy.  

Most importantly, you’ll be reverse-engineered from the “one metric to rule them all.”  As Jordan says, “A documented strategy is great. But what if you’re strategizing to hit the wrong target?”

3. Process is important, but frequency of publishing…

I found this next section fascinating, primarily because we are content marketers and I’m a bit of process fanatic.

We feel it’s critical to have set documented processes, both for quality control and training purposes. However, only 34% of marketers “somewhat agree” to documenting workflows/processes, and only 13% “strongly agree.”

Yet the CoSchedule research shows that marketers with documented processes are 4.66 times more likely to report success.

It’s interesting how they arrived at these findings. CoSchedule was testing a hypothesis that “Marketers who document workflows/processes publish more content. And marketers who publish more content often reach their goals.”

However, the survey found that there is a weak correlation between publishing frequency and marketing success. While 52% of successful marketers publish content 8+ times per month, there isn’t correlation strength to say that high publishing frequency equals better results.

We publish 1-2 times per month, for example, and have some excellent success with clients. It really comes down to what you publish -- not how much. And “quality” in this case might not necessarily be the length. It’s the stuff that really registers with your audience.

4. You must conduct research!

Marketers tend to give market research lip service, but successful marketers are 2.42 times more likely to report conducting audience research at least once a quarter.

How can a small marketing department muster up that kind of a research budget?

Jordan said the survey was pretty generous with the types of research people were conducting. It doesn’t matter specifically what type of research you are conducting; you just have to be doing something.  

This could include everything from keyword research to one-on-one interviews with customers. “You don’t have to get all nerdy,” Jordan noted.  “You just need to get who your customers are and how they talk.”

An example of this might be the “guerilla research” we’ve conducted, in which we do lengthy 1:1 interviews with a target. This is qualitative research, but it definitely gives you some great insights.

Takeaway:  Know. Your. Customer.

None of this is entirely earth-shattering. These are all things marketing pros have been saying for years. But it is interesting to see them quantified.

So what is it about these four fundamentals that makes them so special?

I think they drive success because they conform to a universal truth: You need to know your customer, inside and out.

You need to be strategic about how to approach them. You have to set goals so you can determine if that strategy is effective. You must document your processes, so you can understand what it is you did that made you effective. And finally, you must talk to your customers and find out what they really want.

If you don’t do those things, all the current bromides like “publish longer posts” and “publish more frequently” fall flat. They are pieces of a whole, and unless you combine them all together and base it specifically on your customer, they fall apart.

All this stuff isn’t rocket science. But if you truly want to be successful, this is what you need to do. Just ask 1,600 marketers.

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Photo: James Cridland