When it comes to getting results—whether that’s leads, sales, or lower cost per conversion—accountability in marketing makes the difference. Without it, the relationship between you and the people you report to falls apart, and trust deteriorates.
In this guide, I’ll show you the ins and outs of improving marketing accountability by developing clear goals and communication between marketer and manager (or client) and understanding the value of transparency. Moreover, you’ll learn how to pass on information so that everyone stays aligned with goals, progress, and updates in the most useful manner.
What does it mean to be accountable for marketing goals?
Accountability isn’t just a word you throw around. It’s about taking ownership of your commitments—or, in marketing, your specific goals for the business.
When a client comes to us, they’re paying us to accomplish something. Whether it’s getting more leads, traffic, or revenue, they’re looking for results. Hence, you need to always explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
How to measure accountability in digital marketing
The process for measuring accountability depends on the marketing agency and what they’re working on. Many other agencies often use buzzwords when pitching a goal. You’ve seen (and heard) them all: It’s all about “going viral” and having customers “live your brand.”
That all sounds good and well, but at the end of the day, can we really see how many people are “living the brand?” Sure, you can look at site metrics, impressions, shares, and engagement. But these metrics are far from actual dollars. You need a tangible measure of your work.
While many agencies will focus on the buzzwords, we here at WebMechanix are driven by ROI and data, something our co-founders, Chris and Arsham, always talk about. They’re executives, and they know what executives want. Try walking into the boardroom of a client talking about the 1,000 likes you got on Facebook—chances are that the C-suites aren’t going to care.
Brand awareness is good, but often, it’s only a piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, clients want to know how much money we’re making them, and if their investment in us is paying off. Not only does thinking about the big picture make you look smarter, but it also shows them that you care about their business and results.
Start the conversation to consider ROI as a goal
You may think it’s easy to get that ROI goal, but oftentimes, the person in charge doesn’t care about turning marketing dollars into the highest possible return. If they’re not considering ROI yet, get them thinking about it! Remember, the company is going to write your checks based on whether or not you move their business forward.
Usually, the people who aren’t thinking in terms of ROI aren’t the higher-ups. They may see you as an extension of themselves to help with the tasks they don’t want to do so they can take care of other matters. While that works for them, you should aim to be more than just a helping hand.
But how? To start, try asking them what they’re held accountable for in their day-to-day work and what is expected of them. Chances are that these smaller tasks help accomplish larger business goals.
When you get a chance to talk to higher-ups, you need to ask what they’re accountable for. The higher you go in an organization, the more likely it is that someone is focused on hitting core business results. Not every company has a bottom-line goal, but you should try to establish one as close to ROI as possible—it’ll help you in the long run.
With one of my clients, there are four layers of hierarchy above our point of contact, which makes it all the more important to ask these questions. Pick up as many insights as you can along the way. It may seem repetitive, but it shows your continued commitment to helping their business.
What to do if you’re not reaching your ROI-driven goal
So what do you do if you’re not hitting your business-driven goals? How do you stay accountable? And what do you say?
Always be transparent. Never hide bad results. Your boss will eventually find out if you do. You can try to hide the numbers or make them look better than they are, but the truth is going to come out eventually, and you’ll look horrible for hiding it.
Being upfront and admitting that you’re not hitting goals goes a long way in preserving trust. Clients respect honesty. Couch the bad news with signs of any positive progress. Even if you didn’t hit goals, you’re being proactive about it and offering solutions to improve the situation.
Ask yourself whether you’re heading in the right direction. If so, you can still point to the trend. If your goal is to make $100,000 and you hit $50,000 last year and $75,000 this year, you’re at least moving in the right direction. Admit what happened, show the progress, and have a conversation on how to improve. Look at what you’ve been doing right to find ways to move in that direction at a faster pace. Bad results with proactive strategy is 1000% better than bad results and no strategy.
If you’re trending in the wrong direction, acknowledge that results aren’t there and figure out what the issue is. Have a conversation and dig in to find out what you’re doing wrong—and do something else.
How to stay accountable in multiple roles (and deliver)
It can be tough to identify and service every goal when you report to multiple people. There’s always going to be a task you need to complete that doesn’t make sense or hit your goals because someone higher up wants it done.
First, empathy helps you stay accountable. Figure out all the people you’re working with and how they work best. It’s not easy to determine what each person needs, but it’s something that pays off when done well. To illustrate, you may spend your time trying to get as many social media followers as possible for the company because that’s what you think your boss cares about… when in fact, he or she cares about getting qualified leads.
You can also get someone bought into a goal. Let’s say your boss suddenly tells you they’re throwing a party and they want to send invitations by next Thursday. Everyone knows this initiative isn’t going to lead to sales, but it’s important that you have a conversation to remind them and say, “We know we want to hit X. But if we do this launch party, we won’t hit our goals because it’s going to cost us.”
This upfront conversation helps even if it doesn’t go anywhere. It provides ammo for the point of contact to explain the issue to his or her boss. They may still have the party, but you’re at least giving yourself a chance by trying.
Other agencies will always say “yes, yes, yes” to any requests. But WebMechanix pushes back when it matters and says, “This party project will affect our pace to reach business goals because it will cut down on time to manage PPC.”
Obviously, we’ll still do something if a client wants it done, but by pushing back and being upfront, we’re able to eliminate surprises if the client finds that leads are down a month later or that the campaign launch was delayed.
People pay us for our expertise because they’re not experts. They want us to lead direction and add strategic input. Even if opposing a strategy doesn’t change what they do, it at least upholds radical transparency and accountability on our part. In these moments, they are going to consider bottom line and look for someone who can impact strategy. So when the contract ends, and they must decide whether to stay with us, all they do is say “yes.”
How to improve accountability
1. Understand the client’s business needs
To improve accountability in marketing, it’s important that you first understand the business thoroughly both inside and outside the organization’s walls, including:
- Who they are.
- What they’re selling.
- What their brand is about.
- Whom they’re trying to reach.
- What message they’re trying to get across.
This information isn’t going to impact the bottom line immediately, but it will eventually. And when proposing a strategy, make sure marketing efforts speak to the brand and customers. Know what you can and can’t say. If a company’s target demographic is people 80 years old, the messaging should be different than how you’d speak to a 20-year-old.
2. Identify the client’s long-term goals
Look beyond the present—ask questions to clarify what they are trying to accomplish in the long term. Goals sometimes vary, especially among companies without clear vision. Regardless of whether your client is a marketing manager, creative, or director, everyone has a goal for the future and metrics that they’re using to measure progress. Identify those key points, and you’ll be off to the races. Specifically, you’ll want to look for market share goals, not just metrics.
Let’s say a company tells you they’re operating in Maryland, but in five years, they want to expand to Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. There’s not a lot you can do at the moment, but you can certainly start thinking about what opportunities you could keep an eye out for over the next 6, 12, or 18 months.
When you do more to help people reach their goals, they start thinking of you as more of a partner. Get your point of contact a raise (or promotion). If you help that person hit his or her goals, the people above will hit their goals. If the goal is $100,000 in revenue, that’s what you need to go after. Otherwise, you’re just doing work without clear direction and hoping for the best.
3. Be proactive with strategy
Ultimately, to improve accountability, you want to get your point of contact tangible business results. You want to be seen as a partner that proactively finds new ways to grow the client’s business and meet (or exceed) established goals.
One way WebMechanix goes above and beyond is by taking the initiative to optimize sales and marketing alignment. Let’s say we delivered 1,500 leads when the goal was 1,000. But now, the sales team can’t handle all the leads. We don’t just raise our hands up and say, “We’ve done what you paid us for already. You figure out the rest.” We do the extra work to investigate where improvements can be made. Do we need more email automation? Lower funnel leads? Answering those questions will only raise your value in the eyes of the client.
4. Coordinate sales and marketing efforts
Sales and marketing—other agencies focus more on one side than the other, but that’s a misguided approach; there should be communication going both ways. We put more effort into tying sales and marketing with a strategy because it’s important for your business and we want the process to be as smooth as possible.
Work together to figure out what the issue is and fix it. Here are some common problems you may run into:
- The sales team gets low-quality leads.
- Marketing is not bringing in enough leads.
- Prospects targeted are relevant but aren’t converting.
- The sales team isn’t doing its job when marketing hands leads over.
- Marketing is delivering a lot of leads, but the sales team is too busy to field them.
If sales and marketing aren’t on the same page, you should work with the sales team and your point of contact to solve the issue.
What does effective communication look like?
Let’s say your point of contact (or boss) runs into the CEO in the hallway, who asks what you’ve done for the company—he’s anxious about paying you X dollars per year. What’s your point of contact going to say?
Well, that depends. If you’re accountable in your work and have demonstrated your value to the organization, your manager’s likely going to vouch for you. But to do that, at any given moment, they need to understand:
- What you’re doing.
- What goals you’re aiming for.
- What the progress is.
Keeping your point of contact in the loop holds you accountable for what you have (or haven’t) done. This makes your manager look much better when they’re pressed for answers from their superiors. In turn, knowing this information keeps them from wondering what you’re really doing that’s worth your salary.
Phone calls are pretty standard, but we send out additional weekly check-in emails to every client to report:
- What we’re working on.
- What numbers we’re hitting.
- Why we are (or aren’t) hitting those goals.
With an established weekly email check-in, our clients know exactly what to expect from us and when. Your point of contact is not wondering what you’re doing on Tuesday afternoon because they expect an email check-in every Wednesday morning. They also always have an online marketing report to share with higher-ups.
If you’re wondering how to communicate with clients effectively, it’s all about getting them bought in at the beginning and keeping them updated throughout the process.
How to ensure effective communication in an organization
Consistent communication is effective communication
With effective client communication, everyone knows what to expect; you cut down on unnecessary conversations and reduce wasted time talking in circles. This can easily turn a 10-minute conversation into a brief 2-minute discussion. With that in mind, over-communication is key. Frequently contacting your client may feel repetitive and redundant, but it helps keep everyone on the same page. You need to over-communicate until they tell you they don’t need it anymore—and chances are that they won’t.
For a larger client of ours, I send two check-in emails every Monday, one to a marketing manager and another to the second in command behind the CMO. The marketing manager juggles lots of different tasks (PPC, SEO, etc.); the report provides more detail regarding emails, ads, and goal pacing. The second email lists a couple bullet points and focuses on higher-level topics. These are the big priorities:
- How much we’re spending.
- What marketing is working on.
- How much we’re making.
I also leave room for them to chime in on any new priorities or products to focus on. The manager doesn’t need to know details about specific campaigns, since they’re focused on the big picture and can decide whether to shift focus.
Let’s say we presented a plan for a new Facebook ads campaign three months prior. On the week of launch, we send an email on Monday morning telling our client we’re launching and what we need from them. We follow this up with another email on Wednesday repeating this message. When we hop on a phone call on Thursday, everyone already knows what to expect, so we don’t have to waste time explaining ourselves.
Report on the things that matter most
A big mistake that’s far too common is overreporting. In digital marketing, there are all these cool metrics like time on page, page flow, bounce rate, etc., but while they’re nice, they’re not directly moving the needle. When Data Studio first came out, we overloaded reports with metrics because it was easy to add data. But that didn’t work too well.
It’s easy for people viewing the report to latch onto data that doesn’t matter. Make sure the goals people care about are displayed front and center in your report. If the business cares about revenue, talk about revenue first rather than clicks or bounce rate.
Imagine a manager seeing bounce rate at 65% as the first number in a report. They’ll likely react by saying we need to fix this number because it seems high. But if we’re converting prospects well and driving revenue, there’s no need to dwell on little metrics. All it does is distract them.
To stay accountable and establish clear, efficient communication in marketing, follow these essential principles:
- Know your audience.
- Understand the business.
- Stay honest when goals aren’t hit.
- Consistent, frequent communication.
- Keep reports to important metrics only.
- Find out what others are held accountable for.
- Identify trends and figure out how to improve them to hit goals.
- Proactively guide strategy and align sales and marketing, even if it means occasionally pushing back on ideas.
How would you rate your current level of communication and accountability in marketing out of ten? How can you improve that? Let me know in the comments.