Boosting Content Marketing Effectiveness with a Year-End Retrospective
Creativity Marketing Transformation

How to Perform a Year-End Content Marketing Retrospective

6 Minute Read

At the end of the year, it’s important to take stock of your successes and celebrate the big wins. After twelve months of hard work, marketers would be remiss not to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

But during this season of reflection, it’s also critical to consider those goals you didn’t reach, and the campaigns that yielded less-than-stellar results. Taking time to identify why (and how) your team fell short will ensure you’re equipped to drive even better performance in the year ahead.

To help you improve your content marketing effectiveness in 2019, here are a few tips for performing a content retrospective.

Determine Whether You’re Measuring the Right Metrics

Marketers can measure almost everything today, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should. While having access to a lot of information is helpful, analyzing too much can be paralyzing—not to mention time-consuming.

“[Shared access to data has] put more pressure on marketing to be able to show results, and that in turn has led to an obsession with reporting numbers rather than actually measuring the right things,” says Monster CMO Andrew Warner in an article for Marketing Week. “Just because you can measure something doesn’t necessarily mean that is the right thing to be measuring.”

content marketing retrospective

Image attribution: Eepeng Cheong

If you’re not measuring the right metrics within the proper context, you could have a false sense of your performance. For example, if you receive a windfall of conversions from a piece of content, you might call it a smashing success. But upon closer inspection, you might realize your CTA was inadvertently deceptive, or the leads you generated were mostly unqualified.

So what should you be measuring? The short answer is, it depends.

When setting goals and determining how to measure your content marketing results, ask yourself two questions:

  • Is it aligned with organizational KPIs?
    What metrics does your organization use to measure success? This may be leads, sales, customer life cycle value (CLV), customer retention, or something else altogether. Once you’ve identified your organizational KPIs, you can work backward to determine which metrics make the most sense. For example, if your company is focused on growing CLV, you might track closed deals each campaign has influenced, and determine which efforts influence the largest sales.

  • Is it actionable?
    If your metrics aren’t actionable then, quite frankly, they’re a waste of time. Your analytics should inform your decision-making process. For example, if you’re trying to increase blog post engagement, you’d want to measure metrics like time-on-page. Once you’ve set a benchmark, this measurement will tell you whether you’re keeping your audience hooked, or whether you may need to re-approach your topics and delivery.

Identify the Weak Points in Your Process

When a project fails to meet its goal, it’s easy to choose one reason to take all the blame. But, more often than not, there are several missteps before a fall.

For example, you may determine you didn’t reach a quarterly revenue goal because your biggest content asset of the season launched too late in the quarter. But there’s always more to the story, and if you want to prevent the same issue from happening again, you’ll need to dig deeper.

Why did the asset launch too late? Did it spend weeks stuck in an overly-complicated review process with too many people giving input? Did a key stakeholder make last minute changes that went unchallenged? Was the initial goal unclear, and your team had to start over halfway through the project? Was the project timeline not effectively communicated to all participants?

To find all the issues holding you back from hitting your goals, you have to tap into your inner sleuth, and ask the right questions. Once you’ve uncovered the all the reasons, you can begin addressing them and tightening up your process.

2019 content marketing plan

Image attribution: Daniel McCullough

Make a List of Your Bad Habits

Bad habits don’t happen overnight—they’re typically born from stress and necessity. For example, if you’re in a time crunch with several looming deadlines, you might cut a few corners. Then, you’ll continue to cut those same corners, especially if makes things easier.

“We want the brain to learn how to do those things without energy and effort,” says Russell Poldrack, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, in an article for Time. “Habits are an adaptive feature of how the brain works.”

In other words, bad habits form because our brain wants us to become more efficient—even if it leads us to negative outcomes. Often, we don’t even realize we’re cutting corners until it becomes habitual. To address the bad habits threatening your content marketing results, you first need to identify them.

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Here are three common bad habits that can threaten your content marketing effectiveness:

The product-focused trap

Instead of leveraging content to help your audience overcome their pain points, thereby building trust and long-term relationships, you’re only talking about yourself. (Yawn.) Generally, this bad habit forms when business stakeholders who aren’t educated on content marketing best practices are calling the shots. You can overcome this habit by replacing it with audience-first content, and ensuring every asset you publish serves to address or overcome a common challenge.

The “one and done”

You write content to serve a single purpose—such as supporting a campaign—and then you publish it and repeat. Your content assets have a short shelf-life, and are largely forgotten once the campaign has ended. Usually, this bad habit forms when you don’t have a well-developed content strategy focused on creating evergreen assets. You can overcome this habit by creating a comprehensive editorial calendar with clearly defined methods for repurposing your content and moving toward becoming a content-centric organization.

The overachiever syndrome

You create an aggressive content plan even though your team is already stretched too thin. Most of the assets you want to create never see the light of day, and the content you do publish isn’t as powerful as anticipated. Usually, this bad habit forms when you try to keep everything in-house even when you lack the necessary resources. You can overcome this habit by reaching out to experts and outsourcing a significant portion of your content creation to professional creatives and freelancers.

As the year’s end draws nearer, it becomes more critical to reflect on your content marketing efforts—both successes and failures. Once you’ve determined where you’re missing the mark, you can take action to course-correct, boost your content marketing effectiveness, and hit the ground running with a winning strategy in 2019.

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Carrie is an Austin, TX-based freelance writer and B2B content strategist who combines a background in journalism and decade of marketing experience to help technology and healthcare organizations captivate their audiences. When she's not writing, you can find Carrie on her yoga mat, working her way through the ever-growing pile of books on her nightstand, planning her next travel adventure or sampling local craft brews. Learn more about her at

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