With a new year fast approaching, you’re probably already thinking about your 2018 marketing initiatives. Regardless of what ideas you already have or goals you’ve set, the best first step for ensuring your 2018 marketing is successful is to review the results of your 2017 marketing.

I know, I know. Reviewing past campaigns is not nearly as fun as planning new ones. However, your old campaign data will help you make smarter decisions about how and where to spend your time and money in the new year. 

Today we’ll be discussing how to audit lead generating marketing tactics, which are generally best evaluated by assessing ROI. What we won’t be discussing is how to review tactics that weren’t intended to generate leads (think brand awareness campaigns). While these are important to review, they require a different evaluation system than what we’ve shared below.

Here’s what you should review now to get a head start on a successful new year of marketing.

Website Analytics

How did your website perform this year?

Whether you’re using Google Analytics or another platform, take a peek under the hood and see what your analytics tells you about your site. Information you should review includes: 

  • Traffic by source — Use this information to understand what sources (organic, paid, social media, etc.) are responsible for sending visitors to your website.
  • Conversion rate of both new and returning visitors — Learn how new and returning visitors are using your site — do people convert the first time they visit, or do they need to stop by a few times before converting?
  • Average time spent on site — Do people spend a significant amount of time reading through your pages and content, or do they only spend a few seconds on any given page?
  • Performance by device (desktop, mobile, tablet) — What devices are people accessing your website on, and how does it impact how they interact with it? Are desktop visitors more likely to convert than mobile visitors? Do tablet users spend less time on the site than mobile users?
  • Most visited pages — When people visit your website, what pages do they most frequently read?
  • Bounce and exit rates — How often do new visitors land on your website but immediately leave without really doing anything (bounce rate)? When people do visit multiple pages on your website but leave before converting, at what page do they exit the website (exit rate)?
  • Revenue by source — Which traffic sources are driving the most sales? Revenue?

How this information will help you in 2018

By knowing how people are coming to and interacting with your website, you can optimize popular pages to be more effective at moving people towards conversion and improve unpopular pages to reduce exit rates. 

Compare your 2017 results to previously set goals and assumptions about how people would engage with your site. If you’ve hit your goals and your assumptions have been proven correct, then you can start setting more aggressive goals. If you did not hit your goals or found that people did not engage the way you thought they would, take steps to determine what went wrong and how to correct it next year.

Sales Feedback

If you don’t already coordinate with your sales team, you’ll want to spend some time reviewing lead data with them. There’s sometimes a disconnect between marketing and sales over what happens to a lead once marketing hands them off to sales; if this sounds familiar, I recommend using this end-of-year audit meeting as a starting point for regular monthly meetings between the teams next year.

Questions that you and your sales staff should answer during your meeting include:

  • How do you define a qualified lead? How do you distinguish them from an unqualified lead?
  • How many qualified leads does marketing need to generate for sales to hit sales goals for 2018?
  • What does the sales process look like? How many conversations or communication touch-points were required before a lead made a purchasing decision?
  • How quickly does sales follow up with leads after they receive them from marketing?
  • What questions did qualified leads most frequently ask? What were their points of hesitation?
  • What were the most common reasons for winning a sale?
  • What were the most common reasons for losing a sale?
  • What information or resources could we provide to help leads make a decision that we don’t currently offer?

How this information will help you in 2018

By knowing what turns leads into customers, you can better emphasize the right information in marketing, and by understanding what makes leads hesitate or choose not to buy, you can address concerns before leads have an opportunity to decide not to work with you.

Email Metrics

While you’re hopefully reviewing the success of every email you send in real time, take this opportunity to perform a year-at-a-glance review of all of the email communication you’ve sent over the past 12 months.

If you use an email marketing tool like HubSpot, MailChimp or Constant Contact, you should be able to easily view or export data that helps you understand how your emails performed. The information you should be reviewing includes: 

  • Open rate — What percent of recipients opened your emails?
  • Click through rate — What percentage of people who received an email clicked on a link inside it? What percentage of people who opened an email clicked on a link side of it?
  • Deliverability — What percent of emails were successfully delivered to your contact list (and what percent were undeliverable thanks to invalid email addresses, hard bounces, or having previously marked your emails as spam)?
  • Opens by device — Were people more likely to open your emails on mobile or desktop?
  • Clicks by device — Were people more likely to click on a link in your email on mobile or desktop?
  • Send date and time — Were there any patterns in when people were more likely to open an email?
  • Message/offer — What types of subject lines resulted in the highest open rates? The lowest? What email body messages resulted in the highest click through rates? The lowest?

 How this information will help you in 2018

Write and design emails that are more likely to entice contacts to open with messages they’ve historically found appealing and a design that encourages clicks — whether they’re viewing your email on desktop or mobile devices. It will also help you clear out your database by removing contacts who no longer receive communication from you.

Paid Campaigns

If you’ve been running ads on Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other platform, it’s time to revisit your campaigns to make sure your money is being well spent. 

While different ad platforms offer varying metrics options, I recommend making sure you have at least a good grasp on the following:

  • What is your budget? Keep this in mind as you’re analyzing how your money is being spent.
  • How many clicks are each of your ads receiving? How interested are people when they see your ad?
  • What is your average cost per click per ad? How much are you paying to have one person click to learn more?
  • What is your conversation rate per ad? What percentage of people who see your ad click on it?
  • What is your cost per conversion per ad? How much are you spending to earn one conversion from your ad?
  • How many impressions are each of your ads receiving? How many people see your ad, regardless of whether they click on it?
  • What is your ROAS (return on ad spend)? What is the net profit (or loss) from each channel?

 How this information will help you in 2018

Stop wasting your money on campaigns that aren’t cost-effective. By knowing what ads on which platforms people are clicking and converting on, you can optimize high-performing ads to drive more conversions while updating your copy and design for low-performing ones

Offline Channels 

Chances are at least some of your marketing takes place offline. If you run advertising on channels including print, radio or TV, or make use of tactics like direct mail or trade shows, it’s important that you understand how successful those campaigns have been. 

When considering the outcomes of those campaigns, look for the following: 

  • What was your expense to produce and/or run each campaign? Keep channel and labor costs in mind as you’re analyzing how your money is being spent.
  • How many leads did you generate? Ideally, you’ll be able to track this through a call tracking tool or dedicated landing page used for the campaign. You may also be able to parse this information out from sales conversations recorded by your team.
  • How much revenue was generated? Your ability to answer this question accurately will be determined by the accuracy of your “leads generated” data.
  • What was the cost per new lead? How much did it cost to generate each individual lead using each channel?
  • Which channel, if more than one was tested, brought in the most leads? The highest quality leads? The most revenue? Which channel saw the best return on investment?

 How this information will help you in 2018

Figure out which offline channels are actually bringing in customers — and which aren’t — so you can better allocate your resources to optimizing your campaigns on the channels that produce the best leads. 

Client Feedback

While our review has been heavily focused on metrics that your marketing and advertising tools can provide, it’s important that you don’t forget the human element of your marketing. What are your clients (or leads) saying about your company?

Some of this information will likely have already been collected by your sales team, but there are additional places you should be looking for client feedback:

  • Client services — If you have a person or team dedicated to assisting customers, they can loop you in on the most frequent questions and issues they receive.
  • Social media — What do people have to say, both directly on your official profiles (such as Facebook reviews or comments) or to your accounts (like Twitter), and in conversation taking place on their own public profiles?
  • Review websites — Have customers left reviews for your company on sites like Yelp? What types of things are people praising or complaining about?
  • Net Promoter Score and Other Client Surveys—Do you proactively request client feedback through surveys or other methods? If so, be sure to review the responses you’ve gathered throughout 2017 and define your goals for 2018.

 How this information will help you in 2018

Emphasize what your clients like about your organization to help more leads turn into customers, and eliminate what they don’t like to improve client satisfaction.

Using your audit data to inform next year’s marketing decisions

Now that you’re armed with tons of data about how your marketing has performed in 2017, you can start making strategic decisions about how to move forward.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What was the most successful marketing initiative of 2017? Based on what was learned in my audit, what can I do to further optimize it in 2018?
  • What was the least successful marketing initiative of 2017? Is there anything that can be done to optimize it, or should it be removed from my list of tactics?
  • What tactic was the most cost effective in terms of driving new leads or customers? The least?
  • What message(s) resulted in the largest percentage of conversions? Which ones resulted in the smallest percentage of conversions?
  • What collateral or content can be created to move visitors or leads through the buyer’s journey?
  • What client feedback can be incorporated into next year’s marketing?
  • Based on this data, are there any new tactics that may make sense to test?

The marketing audit process, while time-consuming, should reveal some valuable information about your marketing and your target audiences. With this information at hand, you’ll have a better idea if a new or revamped tactic or campaign will be successful. You’ll also be able to argue against continuing other tactics that you know aren’t successful.

At the end of the day, the goal of this marketing review is to help you feel confident in your 2018 marketing strategy. Remember, when your decisions are backed up by data, you’ll be positioned for a successful year.