What separates the best managed and most successful marketing teams from the rest? How are they leaving you in the dust? What are the strongest predictors for success?
Today, my guest is Ben Sailer, content marketing lead at CoSchedule. We talk about our 2019 State of Marketing Strategy Report. CoSchedule surveyed more than 3,000 marketers to find out what they’re doing to be successful.
Eric: Check it, marketers. Have you ever wondered what separates the best managed and most successful marketing teams from the rest? How are they leaving all of us in the dust? If I had a crystal ball, I would just gaze into that baby and I would want to know what are the strongest predictors for success around goals, strategy, even process.
Right now, I know it’s not the uber sexy stuff that marketing can be like the cool tactics we use, the creative that we choose, and even some of the execution that can be a lot of fun, but it is the foundation for campaign success. We wanted to know these things and you know how we do here at CoSchedule. We went and surveyed over 3000 marketers to find out just that. We’ve got benchmarks on how to get organized, what does proactive planning look like, how you documenting strategy.
These are the things where we get our marketing nerd on to really find out how we can set ourselves up for success. That is the topic of today’s Actionable Marketing Podcast. My guest is CoSchedule’s very own Ben Sailer. He is the Content Marketing Lead here. It’s a fantastic episode. We break all of those stats down, really understanding, even how we slice and dice this data between B2B and B2C. It’s a lot of fun. My name is Eric Piela. I’m the host of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I’m also the Brand and Buzz Manager here at CoSchedule. It’s going to be a wild ride. Buckle up because it is time to get AMPed.
All right. Ladies and gentlemen, and marketing nerds out there, welcome to another episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I’m your host and head nerd, and I’ve got a really cool guest. He is a co-worker. Every once in a while, I work with such wicked smart people that I think, “Hey, why not bring them on the show and share some wicked smart marketing knowledge?”
We have a really cool topic today. It is the 2019 State of Marketing Strategy Report. Some really cool original research that we do here at CoSchedule and Ben was the mastermind behind all of that. Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben: Hey. It’s good to be here.
Eric: Awesome. Ben is a man of many words, folks.
Ben: Yeah, and by ‘great to be here,’ I mean it was great to walk about 50 feet from my desk to the studio area.
Eric: Yes. Every once in a while, we love to huddle really close in our small old studio here and do the podcast. Ben, it’s been a pleasure working with you. I’ve got to know you over the last couple of years. You’ve got a great body of work in the marketing industry. Why don’t you share with our listeners a little bit about how you came to be the Content Marketing Lead at CoSchedule?
Ben: Sure. I’ll start from the beginning. I started my career about seven years ago working in content at an ecommerce company. After a couple of years of that, I jumped into the agency world and after a couple of years of that, I landed here in the startup marketing software space, if you want to call it that at CoSchedule.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve climbed the ladder from this [...] content writer to managing our blog, to becoming the content marketing lead, and overseeing our content efforts holistically.
Eric: And doing a great job at it as well. Ben, even though you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, we’ve somehow remarkably found a great way to work with each other.
Ben: It’s a miracle.
Eric: It is a miracle being a Vikings fan here. At least you’re wrapping the twins out today, which I love to see. It’s baseball season.
Let’s talk about this really cool report. Every once in a while, we get a wild hairier at CoSchedule and we’re like, “Let’s do something really cool that no one else is doing.” As a marketing software platform, as a family of agile marketing tools to help marketers at being more organized, we are always trying to figure out what are marketers doing that are helping them make themselves more successful. Are they leveraging certain tools? Are they planning certain strategies? Then we thought, “Hey, dang it. Let’s get to the bottom of it,” and from there was the inception of the State of Marketing Strategy Report.
If you could just talk to us about what was the thought process around taking the time and energy to do original research, because it does take time. It’s cumbersome and it takes a lot of effort to do so. And really why do this report? Why focus on this marketing strategy topic?
Ben: You summed it up pretty well, but I’ll start the first point there. Why do original research in the first place? For us, we want to have our own data as much as possible. It’s great to be able to just link out or borrow statistics from someone else. But if you actually have your own original insight, that’s a lot more powerful. Not only just for your own purposes and understanding your own audience, your own customer base but in terms of what you can do when you share that with your industry, with other people.
That really gets to why we decide to put the time and effort into doing our own research. I’ll say upfront, this is more math than I’ve done in years to produce this. I hope that people enjoy the fruits of my suffering in crunching the numbers.
Eric: Yeah. We go into marketing because we were told there would be no math and here you are crunching some heavy-duty numbers.
Ben: Yeah. I’m a Word person by trade but they let me get close enough to a calculator to do some of this work and crunching the numbers. It was a fantastic learning experience. The insights we were able to extract from our data, in a lot of ways, were really corroborated. Some assumptions we had and some things were a little bit more surprising, but it was great.
Eric: Let’s talk about that. What were we hoping to find? Or did we have any hypothesis or assumptions that we were looking for or hoping to prove or disprove?
Ben: There’s a lot of advice that gets thrown around in the marketing industry, particularly around the value of being organized, the value of setting goals, documenting your strategy, and things of that nature. But we weren’t aware of there being a ton of research or data, quantifying that value in a way that you can really hang your hat on and take to your team or to your boss and be like, “Here are some actual statistics that show why taking X action is actually important.”
When you’re thinking about things like strategy or just generally getting organized, there’s things that have a very direct impact on people’s day-to-day, particularly if you are in anything like a middle management wall or above, those are things that are very top of mind for you.
We wanted to really drill into what are marketers doing to get organized. What are they actually doing to plan their strategies, execute on them, and manage their work? What are successful marketers doing? Where are unsuccessful marketers struggling?
Eric: Exactly and just as important to know.
Ben: Right, if they are willing to be honest. What we found in the bulk of our findings is that most people seemed to have the sense that they’re doing okay but they have room for improvement, which is probably honest. It easy to compare yourself to people that you think are just absolutely crushing it and being like, “Where am I coming short?”
But hopefully, the data and the insights that we were able to generate and share will help people answer some of those questions for themselves. Just see how you stack up, probably see that you’re not doing as badly.
Eric: Before we get to some of that real juicy stuff—I know we’re teasing here; we’ll get to that in just a moment—we’ve been lucky enough in over the last 5–6 years, of course, it was growth, too. The big question is, who did you ask? Where did you find all these people? We have been lucky enough to grow a really strong, powerful list of marketers.
Let’s just start really quickly summarizing, who responded? What did they look like? Where are they from? So we can get a gauge of some of the logistical or a cross-section of the data we’re looking at here.
Ben: Our methodology was pretty simple. We sent a survey of about two dozen questions to our email list, to our social media followers, and in total we’ve got just under 3600 responses.
Eric: That’s awesome. We’ve got a solid sample size.
Ben: It is a solid sample size. My first concern is nobody’s going to want to do this and take the time, but it turns out that we got a fantastic amount of help from our audience and we appreciate that.
Of that total, 3217 respondents identify as marketers, 382 describe themselves as bloggers. That could be hobbyists or even people who are blogging professionally but probably working on their own for the most part.
Of the people who identify as marketers out of that respondent pool, around 2000 described themselves as being someone who works on a team. Whether that’s on a small business or a small- to medium-sized business, an agency, enterprise, the majority of them are working in some sort of marketing role, not as a solopreneur or a consultant.
Although we did have 36%, they were solopreneurs. If you are a solopreneur, solo consultant, you’ll probably find some things in here that are of value. But really, the focus is on what are teams doing, probably managing their work and playing their strategy.
Eric: That makes sense. Just so you guys know, we’ll have this link. You can actually get access to this report at coschedule.com/marketing-statistics. You can see a really good write-up overview of the report. Of course, you can download the entire report and you can see it via B2B, via B2C, some really good, juicy details if you love the weeds.
What I want to spend the time on the podcast is really point out just the best stuff that you’ve got, Ben. I know you’ve showcased five top marketing insights, really focusing on those marketing teams. Let’s look at teams of what are they doing, if they can, to make themselves more successful. I want to walk through those big five highlights with the rest of the time we have on the podcast. I’ll tease these along.
The funny thing is that, none of these things are what I would say shocking. They’re not jaw-dropping but what they are is reaffirming. What we’ll find out is it’s one thing to say you do this, but if you really peel back and start to understand what it takes to do it right, that’s where we’re seeing some of the separation of those who are giving a lip service and those who are actually doing a good job.
The first of those is that top marketers are organized. Again, it’s not even a bold statement, but Ben, what does that mean? What is top marketers are organized? What does that actually translate to?
Ben: What we’ve found was there’s a moderate correlation with marketers being organized and being more likely to say that they’re successful. What is surprising about this very common sense finding is that marketers who say that they’re very organized or they are in the top tier, they’re confident in their organizational skills. They were 397% more likely to report being successful.
Eric: Wow, boom. That’s a huge number, right?
Ben: Yeah. It’s important to note, it doesn’t mean that they were definitively 397% more successful by some sort of defined metric. It’s just that, they were that much more likely to say that they were successful or to at least feel that they were successful. It seems obvious enough, but for marketers, getting organized is really hard, for one thing, especially when you have multiple people on the team trying to keep all moving parts moving in sync. But also for a lot of creative professionals, whether you’re a copywriter or designer, you’re in that side of the business, you might not be an inherently organized person.
Just as an individual, the traits of your personality and the way that you work, the type of work that you do may not lend themselves to someone who feels that organization is your forte. It isn’t to say that you can’t get organized but you’re probably someone who would benefit from having some structure or framework in place to help keep you on track.
I can say for myself that, especially when I was working at an agency, just having really clear project management processes and things like that in place were really invaluable because a lot of us in the creative side of the business are just...
Eric: I always joke at, you have marketing artists and you have marketing scientists. It always seems like those that are on the creative side—this is super stereotypical and I’m okay seeing it because I fall in this category—are just a little less process-driven. We see all the time, especially at CoSchedule because we were all the time just this makeshift marketing story of I’ve got to use a gazillion different tools to try and stay organized, there’s going to be disparate information, broken processes. It’s maybe shocking that it was that that percentage more likely to report success but I definitely see a correlation just based on a hypothesis, but that one makes sense, right?
Ben: Absolutely. What we want to find there is if you get organized, you’re more likely to be successful. Easy enough to believe. What we wanted to find out is how important is that actually. It turns out it’s pretty important. I’m no mathematician but 397% is a large number. That’s the part of that that’s striking,
Eric: Absolutely. Moving on from getting organized, the next big insight that really was drawn out from the research is really around goal setting. As marketers, we can get sucked into different tactics. We can get sucked into vanity metrics. Sometimes, we forget to think about what are we really trying to accomplish here. What did the report find?
Ben: What we found was, again, there’s a moderate correlation between top marketers setting goals and reporting being successful. Again, this is another thing that sounds obvious, but if you’ve ever tried to sit down and set a meaningful goal for a project, for a campaign you know that it’s easier said than done, that it’s very easy to set goals that are way too ambitious that you’re just not likely to hit. It’s also really easy to set goals that are just setting such a low bar that you’ll clear it no problem.
Eric: Yup, and now I can pat myself on the back.
Ben: Right but it actually doesn’t help you make a meaningful impact on your business. It’s also challenging to know which goals, which KPIs specifically are going to be the things that don’t just make you look good or feel good, but actually drive success for your company or actually move the needle on the numbers that you CEO cares about and not just you or your team or whatever the case may be.
Eric: I can’t tell you how much I have meetings with our head of marketing and with Garrett, our CEO. It’s always about, “What are you working on? What goals are you tracking? What are you doing? What’s the why behind all of this?” It’s so easy to get sucked into the action of doing things and the sense of accomplishment of executing things, but not really making sure you know what star is that, what are your goals that you are setting.
I’m looking at this number here. Is this right? Another whopping 376% are more likely to report success. Those goal-setting marketers who were doing that are again, finding or reporting that they’re seeing success when they are truly setting goals.
Ben: Yes, you’re correct. Marketers who said that they set goals at least some of the time. If they answer that they set some of the time or all the time, they’re 376% more likely consider to be successful. That ties into the previous point about being organized as well. Amongst the marketers who are the most organized, they were more likely to say they set goals as well, which make sense since they tie into one another.
If you are a marketer who is cognizant of goals, you’re thoughtful about setting them, and if you work in that sort of mode, it makes sense that you’re also organized. Those two thing really tie together but first you have to have the process in place. You have to know how you’re going to work.
Next, why goal-setting is really important is you need to have an end-point. You need a destination or something that you’re working toward, or else everything else that comes after that is largely meaningless. It’s activity that’s not anchored to anything.
Eric: Yeah. I believe that you’ve got to have your measuring stick that you can go back to and say, “Hey, again, what do we achieve the goal here? If not, what can we learn from this thing?” The beauty of all this is that they work up each other and that the third big insight that we point out is really around the strategy. You might have your goals, but how do you get from point A to point B can vary based on what the strategy is.
Again, likewise, with anything is you might have a strategy in your head about how am I going to get there, but it can go off different directions. This insight really comes around with documentation, correct?
Ben: Yes. If a goal is your destination, your documented strategy in whatever shape or form that takes is your roadmap to get there. You need goals in order to have something to measure yourself against to determine whether you’re successful or not in the first place. If you don’t have that, then what success do we need really? It’s like, “I did a lot of stuff that makes the numbers go up. It looked really great, felt good.” It’s got to be more meaningful than that. Those two things really tie into each other very logically.
Eric: When you say documented strategy, are you talking like, “Hey, do I need to jot this down in a napkin?” Is it the process of documenting? Meaning that like, “I am writing this down. Now, I’m held accountable to myself, potentially to others.”
Here at CoSchedule, we have our project briefs where we talk about what our goals are. We talk about what tactics we’re going to employ to get there, which is our strategy in a way, and who are the team shareholders? Is that what you mean around documenting the strategy?
Ben: Yeah. That about sums it up. Scribbling it down on a napkin is better than nothing. If that’s all you’ve got, maybe you just came back from lunch, you’ve got a Sharpie, you’ve got a napkin, you’ve got a strategy.
Where people get hung up on this is the feeling that a documented strategy needs to be super detailed, it needs to be super long, and I feel if you go too deep with this, it just stops being actionable. It becomes this unwieldy document that at one time would have been a binder that we’ve shoved in a filing cabinet, now it probably just sits in the neglected Dropbox folder.
The trick to it is to keep your strategy in a sense that it exists as a document, detailed enough so that you’re going to remember what it is you’re even doing three months from now. This isn’t all just living in one person’s head. But also, it just needs to be complete enough that you have a clear framework for what you’re going to do, like, “These are the tactics that we’re going to employ. This is the reason we’re going to do them.” You can even get more basic than this, like, “We’re company A. We create product B for customer base C, and these are tactics D, E, and F that we’re going to employ to sell,” whatever it is that you’re selling to, whoever you’re selling it to.
Eric: And then you build out your sprint plan, you create timelines around these things, and again, it feel like we’re eating a lot of our own dog food with this process because these are things that we do at CoSchedule. Of course, our products helps us X-ing a lot of these things but you talk about that binder and I’m flashing to that age-old marketing plan, like, “This is the marketing plan that we’re going to go through the rest of the year, no matter what.”
This idea of [...] documented strategy because the strategy also needs to be nimble. It needs to be able to evolve and change with time. That was one of the big things. Again, I want to hit you with a big number here. Marketers who documented their strategy are 313% more likely to report success. Again, we see another huge number about that process. I don’t want to beat this like a dead horse but there’s a really lot of things to be found in terms of just going through the physical activity of documenting the strategy and thinking through those things.
Ben: For sure.
Eric: I’m looking forward. We look at our next piece, number four out of five is going to be how you actually plan projects and campaigns, which can be slightly different than documenting the strategy. What goes into that planning process? Could you elaborate a little bit more on that piece?
Ben: Sure. You have your goals, that’s your destination. You have your strategy, that’s your roadmap. Proactively planning out your projects and campaigns ties into how you actually execute on your strategy. Planning the individual pieces that you’ll create, the campaigns that you’ll execute, and having these clear work flows for how all those various types of projects work, having clear campaign planning processes in place just so that you’re not just like, “Okay, we’ve got the strategy, now let’s just go do a bunch of stuff.”
Eric: Yeah. Marketers have to be a lot more type A than you think. There’s really huge value in what this report says, is that, “Hey, look. You have to be methodical about how you’re going to execute these things.” Who’s going to stay on track? How is it all going to get done? That was the big thing. Again, not like, “Woah. I never thought of that,” but yeah, that’s a lot harder to do than it is to say. When you think putting the time and energy [...], those that do that are finding more success or reporting that they find success than those that don’t really do that methodical planning, right?
Ben: Right. The big part of it is just making sure that everybody is really clear on what they need to do, especially if you’re an individual contributor on a team. Knowing what your goals are and having this strategy is very helpful because those things answer ultimately what you need to achieve, why anything you’re doing matters.
But a question a lot of people start asking themselves is like, “Okay, but what do I do and how do I do it?” That’s really what having clear processes in place as far as [...], planning projects, and managing your workflows and things like that. All of that is very broad. You can drill into lots of different subpoints beneath that.
Eric: I’m laughing, Ben, because obviously this is all the stuff—this makes sense—that isn’t exciting. The excitement for marketers typically—again, this is stereotyping—comes through the excitement of creating, developing the campaign with your designers, creating the graphic, if you’re a writer it’s crafting the words.
What isn’t exciting is planning them all out. But what we find here is that there needs to be that side, the important piece of marketing that we like to ignore, because it’s not necessarily “fun,” really can be the stuff that makes us successful.
Ben: They don’t have any award shows or a plan, like “The best documented strategy, go to CoSchedule.” The crowd goes wild. That’s never going to happen because it is boring, to be honest.
But what you find is those things that are more enjoyable, that for a lot of marketers, the things that they really take satisfaction and with their work, those things aren’t going to be as successful if you don’t take the time to do the leg work on these things.
Eric: These are the things that we’re going to be held accountable to. Whether it’s your leadership or whoever you’re reporting to, these are going to be the things, like, “How is this getting done? Where are we at the timeline? Who’s executing on what?” and that’s why it’s important.
Ben: Your CEO, your CMO, or whoever it is who you’ll ultimately have to answer to. They’re not going to needle you on these things because they’re stuffy people. These are things that matter.
Eric: Right. There’s only so much time for things for them to focus on. And then the last, the number five, as we wrap up here, Ben, is really interesting. It’s really around how marketers go about managing projects and the processes they use.
We’ve actually done a previous podcast on this term and that is agile project management, the concept of agile, and we wanted to learn more about it. We know from our previous report that 50% of marketing teams intend on implementing the agile marketing process in the next year. It was really interesting, like, “Let’s ask some questions.” People who are leveraging on agile more successful? What did the report tell us?
Ben: The report told us that marketers that are using agile are 252% more likely to say that they’re successful. The correlation there is it’s moderate, it’s enough to be meaningful but it’s not super strong. I think part of that is—I don’t have the number right in front of me—roughly a third of respondents said they weren’t sure if they are implementing agile, even though it’s increasingly becoming more of a trend, like a trending topic or a buzzword that you hear.
There’s some division between marketers who are in very tech-centric environments where you’re probably well aware of what agile is because your marketing team probably borrowed it from your development team.
For anybody who’s listening, if you’re not familiar with agile, it’s basically like a project management. I’ve heard it described as both a methodology or a framework and there are people who get really hung up on where it’s one or the other.
Eric: Agile purists?
Ben: Yeah, which is another topic for someone else. It’s basically a project management methodology that’s just meant to be very efficient and yet very effective. It keeps teams focused on the things that are important, helps you break down silos and communication. It’s extremely valuable. Having spent as much time as I have at CoSchedule and as much time I spent at a very tech-focused agency prior to that, I just can’t really envision myself working another way, to be honest.
What we’ve learned was marketers who implement agile, it could mean it’s capital A Agile, where they actually understand what agile marketing is, implementing it by the book, or it could be lowercase A agile, where maybe they’re borrowing some elements of it, they’re not really purists about it, but they have generally lean, efficient processes.
An interesting anecdote on that, too, is that our own customer success team. We’ve heard from them that if they can get a customer to just set up a morning status meeting everyday, that, by itself, is transformative for them.
Something to maybe take away from this discussion about agile—which is just super broad, we could go on for hours just about that by itself—is that you don’t necessarily have to implement every single part of it right away in order to get a meaningful benefit from it. Really, the idea is it’s meant to help you work better. It’s to show you a better way of working and managing your team and your work. CoSchedule is really a case study in itself.
Eric: Yeah. We use it here all the time, it’s been great, and the numbers are in. The numbers don’t lie. It’s definitely [...] and it’s powerful. For any of those who are listening, who want more information on agile marketing or agile project management process, there’s a previous podcast with Andrea Fryrear, where we talked about the state of agile marketing report. We did tons of research and then you actually were the author of a really good in-depth agile marketing guide, that we’ll make sure we will link to in our transcript notes here as well, if you want to dive into what agile marketing means.
We’re out of time but I love to just point out those top five marketing insights. If listeners want to get their hands on this information again, I know that they can go to coschedule.com/marketing-statistics. They can see the cool overdo you put together, there’s tons of beautiful graphs, it’s shiny things to make that really heavy data come to life.
Ben: It looks awesome.
Eric: It does look awesome, which is great, and then of course, they can actually go and download the reports. There’s a variety of different reports we’ve sliced and diced the data, is that correct?
Ben: Yes. There’s three different versions of the report right now. There’s the main State of Marketing Strategy Report that’s a look at marketing teams across the board. Then there’s also B2B and B2C variance of that report where basically, we took the same questions, we just filter it down to just B2B and just B2C marketers because in a lot of ways, they are different worlds.
There were a lot of marketers who responded that they fit into both camps but those reports look just with B2B and just with B2C. If that describes you, you can get that insight, maybe a little bit more directly applicable to your own.
Eric: I love that you did that. There’s probably some similarities but be able to know like, “Hey, B2B always is a little different than B2C,” and I love that you were able to separate that data so that if you feel it’s relevant for your particular industry or your market, then you can really dive into that data. Again, those are all free. You can download them for free.
Ben, we’re out of time but this if fun. Thank you for chatting around this report. Thank you for all the energy and effort you put into creating and research, and of course, for everyone who filled out the report, maybe even some of the listeners on podcast today were one of the respondents. Thank you for doing that. It really makes our work and our research some to life through your insights and it provides us some really tangible things. It takes the assumptions out of what we think not only what marketers are suffering or struggling with, it also helps us understand how the CoSchedule product can be and help alleviate some of those things.
Awesome. High-five, Ben. Give me an actual live high-five. I hope you heard that. I appreciate it. Thanks for tuning in for another episode. Ben, I hope the Packers do horrible next season.
Ben: We’ll see.
Eric: All right. Take care.
Ben: Yeah. Thanks anyway.