Few things get in the way of productivity like excuses. That’s true whether you’re talking about your marketing strategy, training for a 5K, or finally finishing that DIY project you’ve been working on for the last 6 months.

If you’re making excuses, you’re not making progress.

Excuses can thrive in a team environment. Everyone feels a sense of responsibility and no one wants to be left with the blame if things go wrong. But the problem is you can’t make excuses and move toward solutions at the same time.

The success of your marketing strategy is a time-sensitive thing. If you hit a snag, it’s far more important to find a solution and move on than to dole out blame or make excuses.

So how do you handle accountability?

-Benjamin Franklin

Why accountability matters

By its very nature, accountability opens the door for excuses and blame. If you hold your team’s feet to the fire to ensure your marketing strategy is a success, someone will inevitably respond to that accountability with either an excuse or an attempt to shift blame.

Some leaders just drill down, forcing their team to identify the person at fault. That’s a bad, bad call. It will completely destroy the energy and passion needed for a successful marketing strategy. Other leaders avoid accountability so the issue of blame never comes up. Also a huge mistake.

Accountability matters because the only way to turn your marketing strategy into a well-oiled, lead-generating machine is to make sure everyone’s doing their part. Said another way, you don’t want team members to slack off, and you don’t want them to waste time pointing fingers, either.

Here’s how you pull that off.

Promises, promises

Promises are good, provided that everyone on your team knows exactly what they are committing to.

At each stage of planning, implementing, reviewing and revising your marketing strategy, go out of your way to make it crystal clear who’s doing what. We’re serious.

End every marketing meeting with a recap. Go over all action items, including the point person for each task, the due date, any other team members who will provide support, and the targeted outcome.

Do that with your internal team and with any external vendors or partners.

If you’re used to being a little more casual, that may sound nit-picky. It’s not. Give it 2-3 meetings, and you’ll fall in love with this kind of communication. Everyone will know what’s going on and what they’re responsible for.

If someone drops the ball, they’ll know it. They all know what’s expected of them. There’s no need to berate anyone, and there’s really no reason for them to give excuses.

Just get things back on track and keep moving.

Document KPIs

In step 2, we covered KPIs. KPIs serve as a gauge for the success of your marketing strategy. If you’re hitting your KPIs, you’re in the clear. You have goals, and your performance lines up with them.

But if you’re not hitting your KPIs—well, then it’s time to make some changes.

Of course, the only way to know if your marketing strategy is meeting your KPIs is to document and check in with your KPIs. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many marketing teams forget this critical step.

Then one of two things happens. Either marketing efforts don’t really achieve anything but everyone feels good about them, so no one notices. Or the marketing strategy achieves the stated goals, but no one realizes it and there’s absolutely no celebration.

Both will suck the life right out of your marketing team. And undermine your goals.

So track your KPIs. When you don’t meet them, huddle the team and have a productive conversation about what went wrong—so you can adjust and correct course. Steer clear of blame and bat away excuses. Make sure everyone knows you’re not looking to blast anyone.

Instead, you’re trying to help the team to adjust and get things back to where they should be.

What to listen for

When you talk to your marketing team, there are some key things to listen for to know if they get the whole marketing accountability thing. You’ll know they’re making the kind of adjustments they need to be making if you hear the following responses to common marketing activity issues.

When your email open rates are low . . .

Your email open rate refers to how many people open the marketing emails you send out. In theory, this translates to how many people actually read (or at least start reading) emails. The subject line for marketing emails is often the tipping point.

A good subject line makes it far more likely that someone will open and start to read an email.

So if your open rates are low, you want to hear your marketing team say something like, “We’re going to A/B test subject lines to improve open rates.”

When your email click-through rates are low . . .

Email click-through rates indicate how many people click a link (usually a CTA of some kind) in marketing emails. If no one clicks through, your emails are failing to set you up for conversion.

Click-through rates (CTRs) are dependent on open rates. People aren’t going to click links in emails they haven’t opened. But once the email is open, design and content determine whether a recipient is compelled to click on a link.

Low click-through rates usually mean there’s an issue with design and/or copy.

So if your click-through rates are low, you want to hear your marketing team say something like, “We’ll make adjustments to the copy/design to make the content more appealing.”

When the bounce rate on your website is high . . .

When someone goes to a website, the hope is they’ll stay on the website for a while. If they show up and immediately leave, in marketing terms, they “bounced.” A high bounce rate means folks are leaving soon after arriving.

All kinds of things can contribute to a high bounce rate. It could be the copy. Or the design. Or the layout. Maybe people just don’t like that your contact form is at the end of the page. Or the beginning of the page. It’s hard to say. But there’s an easy way to find out.

On-page analytics, especially heat maps, can help. Heat maps show where a visitor’s cursor goes while they’re on the page, as well as how far down into the copy they scroll. Using that information, you can typically tell where a visitor bailed.

So if your bounce rates are high, you want to hear your marketing team say something like, “We’ll dig into the on-page analytics and heat maps to figure out why people are leaving.”

When attendance at your events is low . . .

Events are usually easy to fill. If you have a good venue, a fun activity (like a movie), and clear communication, it’s easy to hit capacity. So when there’s poor attendance, that’s a problem.

Like high bounce rates, there’s a lot that can contribute to poor attendance at events. But unlike bounce rates, there’s no easy, automated way to analyze attendance. Instead, you have to roll up your sleeves and have actual conversations with actual people.

You should always invite at least 2-3 solid, long-term clients to every event you have, even if you’re targeting prospects. Invite people you know will show up . . . and who you know will give you candid feedback. When an event doesn’t go well, turn to these people first.

Ask what they liked and what they didn’t like. Ask how other events have been better. Ask what they would change about the poorly attended event if they could. That feedback is your best shot at isolating the problem.

So if attendance at an event is low, you want to hear your marketing team say something like, “We’re reaching out to some key clients to get their feedback.”

When closing rates are low . . .

When your marketing strategy generates leads, you should be closing deals. If you’re getting leads but no new sales, there’s an issue.

This is one place where things can easily get sticky. Often, the issue at this point is a sales issue—either a lack of follow-up or a lack of sales skills. Neither is fun to address.

We love salespeople. Successful salespeople are among the most talented, driven, innovative, creative and hard-working people in the workforce. That said, there are some common excuses to watch for when dealing with sales.

The biggest one is this: the leads suck.

Leads are leads. Some are hot and some are cold. All of them can be worked, and all of them have the potential to turn into deals. If you’re getting a steady flow of leads, hot or cold, but nothing’s closing, you need to hold your salespeople accountable.

Don’t allow for finger-pointing. Instead, talk about follow-up and follow-through. With the right kind of sales activity, you should see new deals closing.

So if your closing rates are low, you want to hear your sales team say something like, “We’ll do a better job of following up on every lead ASAP—even if we think the lead sucks.”

Keep things positive

Marketing accountability done right requires finesse. Hold people accountable with precision and care, not with a sledgehammer.

You don’t want anyone to feel like they’re not valued. Instead, you want to position yourself as someone who’s on their side, ready to support them, and committed to overall success for the sake of the team.

Focus on solutions, not problems. Focus on the root cause, not blame. Focus on improvement, not lack of performance.

Strong, empathetic marketing accountability can turn an entire marketing strategy around and pull a team closer together. That’s what you’re shooting for. To help out with that, feel free to download our free resource below. It’s a quick recap of how to handle the five common accountability situations we discussed above.

Use marketing accountability to build your team up. This is a key ingredient for ongoing success with your marketing strategy.

Free resource

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