We’ve touched on the process for assessing marketing channels a number of times on this blog – looking at how to calculate marketing ROI and how to assess social media success. These posts look at how to assess marketing on a channel-by-channel basis, but what about assessing the success of a longer term marketing plan with several moving parts?


In my experience with clients, I’ve found that the key here is to define what “success” looks like upfront – and part of this is differentiating the things that you want from your marketing from the things that you need.

About that project plan…

Assume you’ve recently signed on with a marketing agency. After the initial discovery phase, the agency comes back to you with pages and pages of research, recommendations and – finally – a project plan.

Let’s say our hypothetical plan spans 12 months with a review scheduled for the final month. The plan includes several phases of collateral development, website updates, channel testing and ongoing execution. Based on your business’ conversion rates and revenue estimates, this plan is going to give you everything you want! And if the marketing team can’t deliver what you want, you’ll just go with someone else next time, right?

There’s just one problem: even if your agency does everything right, things don’t always go according to plan – and to quote one of history’s great British philosophers – you can’t always get what you want.

Consider all of the potential things that could occur over the course of the project plan timeline that might significantly disrupt the planned course of action: personnel turnover in your company, technology and/or infrastructure changes, increased/decreased cash flow, an unforeseen sea change in your market and/or industry – and so on.

If you’re looking at a plan as long as 12 months – or even half that – you can go ahead and assume that certain elements of the plan are going to change during that time. In most cases, they should change. If it’s a good plan, it will be designed with a healthy level of flexibility in mind. So, when you get to that month 12 review, how will you know if the plan was a success if it’s probably going to change anyway?

Start by deciding what you need

While the plan may have everything you want, you also need to decide what it is that you’ll need in order for the marketing engagement to be considered a success – regardless of what happens between now and the end of the plan.

In other words, you and your marketing team should decide on a list of your must-have marketing milestones before day one of execution. (A savvy marketing team will be more likely to initiate this discussion without your prompting it.)

Think of your must-have milestones as those things that need to be researched, planned, built, executed, measured and/or iterated in order for you to have a clear sense of how to move forward at the end of the project timeline. Details of the plan will likely get shifted, modified, reallocated and possibly scrapped, but the must-have milestones are the things you need to see.

For example, what collateral needs to be updated for your sales team to do its job effectively? What work needs to be done for your website to function as it should? What are the most important channels that at the very least need to be set up and tested for viability? What tracking capabilities need to be in place for you to know whether your marketing is working or not?

By defining these milestones before your campaigns kick off, you’ll avoid a situation in which you’re at the end of your project plan timeline with no clear sense of whether the plan worked and little direction in terms of next steps. You’ll feel better moving forward with the plan having done this, and your marketing team will be appreciate knowing they understand what your priorities are.

Over to you

Have you ever put together a list of must-have marketing milestones? Was it helpful for you and your marketing team?

Simple Machines Marketing