How effective were your online campaigns last year? It’s a great question to ask if you’re a business or a marketing agency. The key to success for most businesses is to attract and retain new customers—and lately, inbound marketing seems to be one of the most essential tools. A year end inbound marketing review is exactly what it sounds like. It is assessing how well the attempts you made to drive business your way through content and the wide variety of web platforms worked for you.

An inbound marketing review consists of a few evaluations, and remembering what you set forth to do at the beginning of the year—so hopefully you have it written down somewhere. Begin by looking at your goals and delve into your finances (including the good, the bad and the ugly numbers). Move on to discussing changes that have occurred over the past year, and then take a good, hard look at facts: What worked, what didn’t and what will. Gauge what you’ve learned and apply it in a positive way for what you can do in the future.

A year end inbound marketing review will give you the insight to adapt and improve. There will always be new platforms to conquer and customers to be had if you are willing to dissect, reorient and rebuild tactics.

Review the goals you have set

Did you set goals last year? If you didn’t, then make sure to get more specific this year. If you did, pull them out and dust them off. You can’t target weak areas in your inbound marketing if you have nothing to measure it against. Goals usually consist of some of the following information:

  • An evaluation of what you have going on at the beginning of the year—traffic, leads attracted, sales, etc. Then those numbers are taken, and the goal is to make them higher.
  • Hopefully you made a goal that targeted that little thing called profit.
  • Some businesses look at the numbers, for instance, how much they’d like to increase their traffic or the amount of time they want to dedicate to attaining their goals.

Goals are set forth to keep you on track. If they felt a little lackluster last year or maybe you aimed just a little bit too high, then the year end inbound marketing review can help you modify what to work toward in the next year. The key is to get specific, have some milestones and make your goals feasible.

Financial Overview

If your expenses were greater than your sales, you didn’t make a profit. Obviously that number is one of the most crucial aspects of your review. Of course there is more to it than that. Examining the numbers that pertain to marketing will let you to see which are cost effective and what may need to be reduced. Even if you made a decent profit—what contributed the most to those sales? What was a failure?

When you analyze the details, you can gather a lot of beneficial information. That information will become new tactics and goals, and hopefully lead to new traffic, leads and sales. To get more specific, which content and tools worked best? Think about the money spent on copy, software, analytics and design. Prepare to allocate funds to where they work best in the upcoming year.

What’s new?

Change—it really is a good thing. Some fear change, but those are the people who don’t usually make it in the business world. Take the time during a year end inbound marketing review to discuss anything new that may have popped up. This can mean new avenues or platforms to pursue, a new, surprise demographic that was attracted by your inbound marketing. What tools have entered the online world of marketing and how can you utilize them? It is about new factors that can alter your game plan, even if it’s only slightly and make a positive impact in the upcoming year.

The Brass Tacks

Inbound marketing seems to love its acronyms. The acronyms are a good place to start when you’re considering basic facts. During the year end review, get down to the foundation of your inbound marketing: KPIs (key performance indicators) and strategies.

It is important to compare the two to look at where the strategies worked and then keep the best and rework the rest. Some essential inbound marketing KPIs to delve into are customer retention, unique web visitors, SQLs and MQLs (sales and marketing qualified leads), closing rate and key customer profitability. There are others to look at and staying apprised of the latest inbound marketing techniques will allow you try new strategies in the upcoming year.

Lessons Learned

Sometimes the hardest thing to do will end up being the most positive aspect of the year end marketing review. It’s taking the lemons and making lemonade—learning from your failures (or your successes).

For example, what if you managed to attract visitors, but once they reached your site you failed to engage or retain them? You’d know that your strategies would need to focus on improving those next two steps. Maybe your content delighted, but it failed to make sales. How could you funnel the customers to close the deal? Perhaps first-time sales were abundant, but repeat customers were only a dream.

The bottom line is those lessons can become your successes in the next year. In fact, the whole process is the key to next year’s improvement. Without assessing performance, it’s hard to achieve a higher level. Each piece of information builds a map to follow—where to find your best customers, how to reach them, setting great goals, achieving them through effective strategies and increasing your profits. Look at the year end inbound marketing review as one of your strongest tools. It is worth setting the time aside to discuss your past year and collaborate on your new inbound marketing plan of action.