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5 Questions to Ask When Your Marketing Isn't Working

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Your business is born from the best intentions, but without proper marketing execution, your momentum can stall when growth matters most. While marketing agencies handle 20 to 30 brands at the same time, your team and your business don't have the time to glean this kind of insight before turning things around.

For that reason, it is more important than ever to reflect upon and improve your marketing practices when numbers are underwhelming. Ask the right questions about your process, execution, audience and market, and your team can turn those down times into an opportunity for long-term growth.

1. Is our execution consistent? According to the Aberdeen Group, only 32 percent of marketers said they feel that they are effectively executing enough content. That means that over two-thirds of all marketers are missing the mark on basic content execution. If your content marketing isn't working, this is probably a good place to start.

Related: The 8 Fundamentals for a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy

Check your past two or more months of posts and note the day of the week and time of publication. Also, read these pieces and answer honestly: Is each one of consistent quality? If you're publishing at an inconsistent rate, audiences may be turned off by that unreliability. If the quality is inconsistent, you may be losing audience members to subpar content.

2. Is our content relevant? Digital media is about carefully curating work that yields organic traffic as users return to it. At least, that's half the story. The other half involves creating relevant, topical hits that foster link building/discussion and raise SEO rankings in the process.

As new technologies, trends and practices emerge, people want to learn about them right away. Keep an eye out for emerging issues in your industry and capitalize on them. Doing so can garner more hits in the near term by tapping an uptick in organic search. It can also establish your content as an authoritative reference on the subject and earn inbound links that boost search rankings for future discovery.

Suffice to say that if you're late to the party, you're going to get lost in the shuffle. Note the timing on content relative to the initial buzz of the related topic and see if you're being reactive instead of proactive.

3. Are we promoting on the right channels? Interesting content is one of the top three reasons why users take the time to follow brands on social media. This is great news, if you fulfill two important criteria. The first is publishing interesting content, and the second is putting that content in front of the eyes that might find it interesting.

This second factor is easy to overlook. In fact, 36 percent of marketers say they can't accurately attribute conversion to the correct marketing channel, leading to misplaced resources and frustrated teams.

While social media has reached a level of ubiquity, communities and topics demonstrate preferences for particular social channels. Monitor social traffic across all platforms and identify which network sees the greatest sharing/interaction per post. Focusing a disproportionate amount of time and resources on the wrong channels can lead to decreased return on investment and untapped potential on other networks.

Related: 5 Easy Tweaks You Can Make to Consistently Land New Customers

4. Are we listening to our audience? At its core, media is about forming a relationship with the viewer. In this relationship, the media provider delivers value to the user in the form of information, entertainment or even simply distraction. The viewer then returns the favor with feedback in the form of traffic, comments and social activities.

Thanks to modern analytics, however, this relationship goes even deeper. Traffic, behavior metrics and demographic information all help to paint a more robust picture of audience preference and interest. By looking at raw data and connecting the dots between statistics and user behavior, it is possible to develop content that earns traffic by anticipating and meeting reader interests.

The real question is, are you listening? According to the Aberdeen Group, only 27 percent of business-to-business marketers say they are effectively tracking content-utilization metrics.

Audit your idea generation and publishing process. Are you soliciting and incorporating reader feedback in a systemic manner? If you are not, look at analytics, social-media interactions and industry trends to better understand what your audience wants. Make this data collection and implementation part of your everyday execution and you are likely to see increased traffic as a result.

5. What are our competitors doing right? When things are going well, it's easy to identify your strengths. When things are going poorly, it can be difficult and even painful to assess your weaknesses, particularly when those weaknesses cause you to fall behind your competitors.

However, your competitors can teach you more than you realize. Inbound marketing is a complex endeavor, working best when each contributing piece is performed in an optimal manner. Each team sees the process in a different way, executing some pieces better than others and offering insight into improving your own execution. When your numbers are down, check your ego at the door and learn something from those who are objectively performing well.

When your efforts aren't yielding the results you need, asking targeted questions that get to the root of your execution problems can turn things around and improve your long-term prospects. Focus on consistently delivering relevant content in a manner that reaches your audience and don't be afraid to tap your competitors for some valuable knowledge.

Your young business can't afford to waste time marketing poorly, so don't waste time looking for answers in the wrong places.

Related: 50 Favorite Online-Marketing Influencers of 2014

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