If you’re hoping that this post will give you some kind of blueprint or formula to follow for marketing success, you’re in the wrong blog post.

See, I believe in Leadership Marketing, which means that your road to marketing success is going to look different from mine or anyone else’s — because our businesses, clients, and industries are different, and I don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all marketing plan.


I did come across a couple of studies recently that presented a compelling argument that there’s one thing successful marketers DO have in common: A plan.

(I have, of course, known and believed this in my heart of hearts for many years now. But it is heartening to be vindicated by data.)

One of my favorite tools, CoSchedule, surveyed more than 3,500 marketers in 100 countries and discovered that marketers who make a plan and follow through are four times more likely to report success. Here are their top findings from the report:

Top marketers are organized.

“The most organized marketers are 397% more likely to report success,” according to CoSchedule. “70% of the most organized marketers achieve their goals Most of the Time, while an elite 10% of organized marketers Always achieve them.”

I think this is a really important correlation and distinction: The more organized you are, the more likely you are to succeed “most of the time.” That’s huge!

This makes a certain amount of sense, when you think about it. If you’re a “pantser” when it comes to marketing (that is, you fly by the seat of your pants instead of following a plan), you might see periodic success, or even overall success with your marketing efforts — but the problem is that you don’t know exactly what is working, which means you can’t replicate it and you can’t scale.

If you’re working without a plan, it also means that things are more likely to fall through the cracks. Clients who come to me who have been successful but never had a clear marketing plan often tell me that they forgot to post about their launch on one of their social media channels, that they didn’t start promoting until a few days before their launch, or that they only sent out a couple of emails.

And hey, if it works, who am I to knock it? But my question is always… How much more successful could you have been with a plan? Clearly your people want what you’re selling, so you might possibly be leaving money on the table.

Then, of course, there are the business owners who don’t have a plan and don’t see much success. There’s a clear correlation there that I don’t think we need to go into.

Top marketers set goals.

“Goal-setting marketers are 376% more likely to report success.”

Just recently, I was on a sales call with a potential client (a business coach) and she asked about ROI. I went on to explain that ROI in my world is different for every client, and that we make a point of setting goals and metrics specific to their business and their goals up front. And then I gave her a couple of examples of ROI we’ve gotten for clients like her (you can check them out by downloading our case studies).

She responded by telling me that I was the only marketing person she’d ever talked to who could talk knowledgeably about ROI.

That blew my mind!

I’m a big proponent of making sure you are super clear on what business goal your content marketing solves before you start creating it.

Brandbox identified the top 32 marketing goals, and they generally line up with my top 3: authority, lead gen (or sales), and SEO.

The plan we create will be determined by the goals, so it’s vital to understand before we start creating the plan.

Brandbox also found that more than 40% of content marketing teams change their goals (or create new ones) each quarter.

That’s why something like my CIA in 90 Days program is so valuable; students learn to set goals, define metrics, and create a 90-day plan — so that they can do it over and over again. Business changes rapidly! Trying to plan out more than 3-6 months of content at one go is folly.

Sean Spicer of AgileIT says in the Brandbox article, “Traffic, subscribers, leads, and deals are important, but you can be generating the wrong ones unless you tie them to revenue,” and I have to agree. If you’re in business, your ultimate goal is always going to be sales and revenue. But the intermediate steps will differ for each business.

Top marketers document their strategy.

“Marketers with a documented strategy are 313% more likely to report success.”

I rely heavily on my editorial calendar secret weapon in my business — and it actually hasn’t changed that much in the 5 years or so since I created it!

But what I did add this year are dashboards to help us track the metrics we identify. Whether a client works with me one-on-one or in a group setting in CIA in 90 Days, we set their goals and define their metrics. But a metric isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if you don’t track it.

A client with data is a dream to me, because I can dig in and help spot outliers to help them see where things are working — and where they’re not. Without data, we’re just guessing — and that’s the OPPOSITE of having a solid plan!

Check out this video to see the dashboards in action:

Top marketers proactively plan projects and campaigns.

“Marketers who proactively plan projects are 356% more likely to report success.”

Again, this is music to my little content strategist’s heart. I’ve been singing the praises of planning the next 3-6 months worth of content for ages, and this just validates that with some (pretty impressive) numbers.

Planning a few days or a few weeks in advance is one level; planning your launch (and then not really knowing what happens next) is a second level. Truly proactively planning one or two quarters at a time gives you the kind of 30,000-foot view of your business that’s vital to your marketing success.

That’s why we focus on completing a 90-day plan inside of CIA in 90 Days — so that business owners can experience how liberating and positive it is to plan ahead in that way.

But that’s also why I provide 90 days of support: because if you’re not used to proactively planning, you may struggle at first or feel some growing pains, and I want to be there to help.