3 reasons why you didn’t achieve your marketing goals in 2014

marketing missing targetAs 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at what you wanted to accomplish this year with your marketing and how well you succeeded. Disappointed in the results? Well, here are 3 common reasons why.

1. How well did you target your audience?

Most businesses have multiple potential audiences for their marketing. The problem is understanding and prioritizing the markets you want to go after and making sure your marketing is tailored for and promoted to that group.

How well did you select your target audience? Did you analyze what market segments were the strongest candidates for your business? Which ones seemed likely to grow or contract? Where you had the strongest relationships and expertise?

Maybe you knew clearly who you wanted to pursue, but how much did you know about them? It’s important to research and gather information about your audience’s needs, interests, challenges, etc. Explore the best ways to reach them. Be as specific as possible. For example, if typically you have to go through several gatekeepers before being hired by a company, identify the decision makers within these companies at each stage in the process. Then understand the pain points they are experiencing. How can you help them with their problems and build trust?

The better you understand your market, the better you can adapt your marketing materials and distribution so you can deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.

2. Did you set specific goals?

Sure everyone’s ultimate goal is to grow their business, but how did you break that down? Were you specific about how much new business you wanted to bring in? How about client retention? What about profit margins and return on your marketing investment? Did you plan for which business areas had the most potential for growth? Which ones were stagnant or declining?

Along the way to growing your business, there are also other goals you might have set. Some examples include building brand awareness and trust, generating more or better quality leads, showcasing your thought leadership, educating clients and prospects, driving traffic to your website, engaging audiences through social media and many others.

Each of these goals has corresponding metrics to help measure your progress. Some of them are fairly straightforward, but others need to be well-thought out. Do you want to increase your website page views by 10% or do you want visitors to spend more time on your website and view more pages? How do you define whether you’re getting better quality leads from your marketing? Your metrics aren’t about whether you succeeded or failed. They are about helping you continually test, compare, revise and hone your tactics so you can improve results.

My point is that you should have had very particular (and prioritized) objectives in mind that you wanted your marketing to help you obtain. This helps you to understand where to focus your marketing efforts and create benchmarks to monitor how you’re doing. Without that, your marketing was probably less effective and directed than it could have been otherwise.

3. Did you have a strategic marketing plan?

In a strategic marketing plan you set out your goals and target audience as well as look at your business and financial situation. Then you identify and outline appropriate strategies and tactics. A marketing plan lets you think about your priorities and where and how you should focus your resources for the most impact.

Without a plan, you run the risk of spending time and money on an assortment of different tactics without a clearly defined purpose. Maybe some of those efforts will work. But what about the things that don’t work, or more likely, you’re not really sure what worked or what could have worked better. When you act without a marketing plan, you’re more likely to make ad hoc decisions. For example, let’s say you want to start a blog because everyone is doing it. If you start by thinking of your audience, goals and business situation, you can now more easily strategize what topics you want to cover, how you should promote and distribute it, and other ways to leverage the content. Or you may decide to go in another direction completely that fits your plan better. The plan helps you look at all the pieces in a logical way to maximize your investment.

What should you change in 2015?

Before you dive into the New Year, take some time to think about where to focus your efforts. Creating a marketing plan doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking especially if your business is small to mid-size. Start simple. Decide on a limited number of priorities with a well-defined market segment and develop your strategies around that. Determine a few tactics you want to test and establish metrics to gauge your results.

If you already have several marketing efforts in progress, think about how they fit together into an overall marketing plan. For example, let’s say you already have a monthly newsletter. What are your goals for it? Who is the audience? How does it fit into your overall strategic plan? What can you do to get better results? By thinking about it in this way you may see ways to tailor and exploit the newsletter in new ways.

Start 2015 right. Plan upfront for marketing success.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Get inspired. Invest for success in content marketing.

Get inspired. Content marketing success stories.

With 86% of B2B marketers using content marketing, you would think making a business case for investing in it would be easy. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Content marketing is a long-term strategy and successful professional services firms realize that returns are measured in more than just dollars. What are some of the benefits these firms are realizing? Here are 5 success stories to inspire your own investment in content marketing.

1.  InsideOut – 388% more leads

The global provider of leadership, management and corporate training began focusing on content marketing last year. The company developed visually appealing “bite-sized” chunks of information, including slide decks, articles and videos. It put special emphasis on featuring material from the company’s thought leaders to give its content a unique perspective. Content was pushed out via email, social media, website and third party publications and press releases.


Email distribution of the content showed the most significant results. Compared to its sales-based emails, content-based emails had a 20% higher click-through rate, 87% lower opt-out rate and generated 388% more leads.


  • Your content has to be compelling and unique to stand-out from the crush of information your readers receive.
  • Make the information clear and simple to digest. Focus on giving the reader the most critical points.
  • Even if you’re getting solid results with your current approach, content marketing can bring better results.

2.  Fisher & Phillips – 51K page views

The law firm was part of a 2 month pilot project with LinkedIn’s publishing platform. Before being selected for the pilot, the firm was already actively creating and pushing out content and had embraced online content as a core part of its marketing strategies. The firm promoted the posts via its social media channels and encouraged attorneys to do the same through their individual accounts.


During the pilot, its 25 posts generated 51K page views, 5.5K interactions (likes, shares, etc.) and 380 followers. LinkedIn pulse channels picked up nearly half the posts. It was well received by potential clients. Within the firm, more attorneys are now publishing and sharing content.


  • Use LinkedIn as a platform for thought leadership and to build your network and credibility. It provides a great way to share knowledge and reach others who are interested in or need your expertise.
  • Be consistent to build readership. You’re more likely to be noticed if you’re regularly putting out informative content.
  • Introduce new hires to the publishing platform and encourage them to write and share content.

3.  Medix Dental – 37% open rates

The IT company, which provides technology solutions for dental offices, wanted to maintain a close relationship with clients as the company grew. It decided to commit to creating a monthly newsletter that would improve client retention and brand awareness. The goal was to make the newsletter friendly, personable and interesting and get clients reading it.  An important element of the newsletter was sharing relevant industry news and knowledge. Distribution was to clients and subscribers who signed up for it.


The company doubled its recipient list by promoting sign-ups via social media. The open rate for emails was 36.9%, which is 10% higher than the professional services industry average and got click-through rates of 10% compared to the industry average of 3.21%. Client feedback was also positive.


  • Clients appreciate a more personable conversational tone. Don’t sound like you’re announcing or selling them something.
  • Focus on getting subscribers to read the content and on staying top of mind. You don’t want to get too focused on high click-through rates.
  • Offering your industry knowledge for free shows you’re knowledgeable and helpful and when clients need someone, they will think of you.

4.  Crowe Horwath – $250K in revenue

The public accounting and consulting firm won the 2013 Killer Content Marketing Lead Nurturing Award for its content program targeting C-suite leaders at financial institutions over $1 billion in assets. The company developed 48 pieces of content in four different topic areas, including executive briefs, case studies, infographics, checklists, Q&As, and a video. The focus was on helping marketers to identify key prospects and track and nurture them until they were ready to make a purchase.


The campaign engaged almost 800 contacts with a 70% open rate and 2 engagements worth $250,000 in revenue.


  • Understand why your clients need your services, who makes the buying decisions and when, and what your competition is offering. You want to target the right audience with the right content at the right time.
  • Start by looking at all the data you already have on what people are interested in reading and when, where and how they read.
  • Use a variety of content formats. Different formats appeal to different readers.

5.  Heron Financial Group – 40% growth rate

Over the last few years, the RIA firm has been expanding its social media presence and making it an integral part of its marketing strategy. Social media drives traffic to its website and amplifies its content marketing efforts. Each piece of content is leveraged to reach a broader audience. For example, a 15 minute appearance on Bloomberg was shared via social media to thousands of followers resulting in 50 customer leads.


Heron has doubled its assets under management and has been growing in the 40% range since adding social media to its marketing strategy. Prior to its efforts, the firm’s growth was in single digits. The firm attributes its growth to multiple factors, but credits social media with being “a force multiplier” for a good marketing plan.


  • Dedicate at least 30-60 minutes a week posting content on social media platforms and use the top 4 social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
  • Ask yourself if you would want to see your content on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. If not, don’t post it.
  • Social media makes a good marketing plan better, but it won’t fix a bad marketing plan.

Hopefully these case studies will inspire you to look at the short and long-term benefits of content marketing to support your own investment. For more examples of metrics to help measure the success of your own initiatives, see Understanding ROI. Want more case studies? Here’s a good compilation from B2B Marketing Experiences blog.

Want your content marketing to succeed? Think like a publisher.

media signpost imageThanks to social media and technology developments, professional services firms can publish their own content and attract and build their own audiences to grow their business. But to really be successful, they need to think of content the way publishers do. What does that mean?

Understand your target audience.

Publishers understand their readers. They develop profiles and gather information about who they are, what they read, how they read, their interests, concerns, etc. They also survey their audience periodically. The better you understand your own audience, the easier it is to attract and retain them.

Deliver relevant content for your audience.

Both content marketing and publishing are about providing useful and practical information targeted to a particular audience. Make sure your content is not about you. It’s about what will help readers and keep their attention.

Be reliable and consistent.

Publishers publish on a schedule. They also maintain certain standards for everything they produce. Readers develop expectations and if you want to be a trusted resource, then you need to consistently meet those expectations. Establish an editorial calendar to make sure responsibilities are assigned to specific individuals and publication deadlines are met. Create an editorial style guide to ensure there is a consistent writing style and voice.

Allocate sufficient resources.

Make sure you understand what is required to get the work done and set aside appropriate resources. You don’t want to start a content marketing campaign and find you have to abandon it because you don’t have the staff, money or other resources to continue. Even if you aren’t making money directly from your content the way a publisher might, you are looking to build your business and that means you need to make a real investment in content marketing.

Don’t skimp on editorial and design work.

You want to produce high-quality material. That means making sure your content is well-written and edited and is visually attractive. Bring in professionals to help if you don’t have internal resources.

Promote and leverage it.

Have a plan for how you will get your content in front of your audience. Publishers use multiple marketing channels including direct mail, email, web and social media to drive registrations, subscriptions and readership. They also repurpose content and look for opportunities to get more value out of it. When I worked in publishing, I would identify ways to use existing content to cross-promote, repackage or up-sell related content. Showing related content is valued by the reader and good for the publisher’s business. The same is true of your content. Linking to other relevant material keeps readers engaged and can encourage other actions – like getting them to give you their contact information. Remember to think about different formats for your content. Interesting content can be developed into a wide-range of formats including articles, blog posts, newsletters, whitepapers, webinars, video, live events and books. Different formats will appeal to different audiences.

Test and track results.

In both your marketing and your publishing, you want to know what is working. Publishers develop metrics to measure their marketing efforts against specific goals. They test constantly. On the content side, they also track what stories resonate better than others so they can deliver what the audience wants.

Develop your own distribution channels.

Publishers have a lot of control over how their content is distributed. Some license their content to third parties or use distribution partners, but they also make sure they have their own significant channels where they can build relationships directly with their readers. So make sure your content is always available on your site and that you drive traffic there. If you use content syndicators to increase your exposure, also invest in developing your own channels and compare results. What methods get you the most eyeballs on your content, the most visits to your website, or the higher quantity and quality of leads? Understand the pros and cons of each distribution channel in achieving your goals.

Have a strategy (really multiple strategies).

Creating, publishing and promoting content regularly is a significant effort and should be planned out. What kind of content should you produce? For what purpose? For what audience? How will it be promoted and distributed? What resources do you need? You’ll want an editorial strategy as well as a marketing strategy for each audience you want to target.

Thinking like a publisher in your content marketing will help you stay focused on delivering content that brings results.