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Disclaimer: this is not your average end-of-year tips and tools blog post.

We get that annual planning is a beast, and marketers everywhere are wrought with expectation and reporting woes.

If numbers are down, how can you prove that next year’s performance will improve? And if your numbers are up, what can you do to keep climbing?

You need an actionable, original marketing plan—driven by purposeful planning and backed by data—to truly gain executive buy-in.

Thus, below we’ve outlined seven tips (including PR 20/20 tools, concepts and templates) that can lead to actionable change. The following tactics featured (of which are nearly all free) will add value to your planning framework, year-over-year analysis and assessment, performance reporting, team brainstorming, integration with artificial intelligence, and more.

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Below is an excerpt from the new book, Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses Are Turning Marketing Cost Into Profit, written by Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) and Robert Rose (@Robert_Rose). The following introduction was written by Pulizzi. 

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – mostly credited to Mark Twain

Robert Rose and I just launched our combined sixth book, Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses Are Turning Marketing Cost into Profit, at Content Marketing World this September. The book’s key idea makes a case that the majority of businesses approach marketing entirely the wrong way … and that we need to kill the marketing we know and replace it with a new approach: marketing as a profit center.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction of the book. Robert and I truly believe that tomorrow’s businesses are in the process of transforming marketing into something completely new and different, and that building audiences and monetizing those audiences are the future of our practice. Enjoy!

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Goal-oriented marketers aim to produce top-notch results that prove their efforts are worth it. Take content creation: We want to produce the most effective assets, reach the right audiences, and in turn, gain more website visitors, obtain leads and boost our site’s rank. 

But, while a good content asset is useful, what if you aren’t reaching the right audiences? Or, what if you aren’t reaching any audience at all, and your time is wasted on stale or unusable content?

As a simple example, take into account the amount of time it takes to produce a blog post. According to HubSpot, about 30% of marketers spend two to three hours writing blog posts. Now, multiply that by the two, three or four posts you’re producing in a week, and suddenly, you’ve devoted almost an entire workday to blog production, just to have no one read your efforts.

This is where maximum content distribution comes into play. Read below to learn several different promotion strategies, along with ideas to maximize your content’s ROI across three different types of audiences.

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We’re in the thick of a new year, and like many professionals, marketers are searching for the next top trends to drive results in 2017. 

This and every year, we search for ways to break through the clutter to ensure our content reaches the right audience at the right time. But with the number of bloggers projected to hit more than 31 million by 2020 in the U.S., it’s our duty to seek out and test the hottest trends to make our content stand apart from the rest. 

According to a 2016 study by Content Marketing Institute, B2C marketers ranked the following as top content priorities:

  • 73% indicate that they want to create more engaging content.
  • 55% want to create more visual content.
  • 44% say that better repurposing content is a must.

Luckily, there’s a surefire strategy that satisfies the needs listed above: visual content marketing. Let’s face the facts that our audience craves visuals: The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and we read only 28% of written content. 

Are you still contemplating how you’ll incorporate visual content marketing into your 2017 strategy? Check out the list below for three ways to rely on visuals this year to drive results.

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The proliferation of marketing channels, apps, mobile devices, social networks and content has given consumers more choices and greater control, while increasing complexity for marketers.

We want to help simplify and optimize the marketing planning process for your business.

Use the following marketing game plan model, as featured in Chapter 10 of The Marketing Performance Blueprint, to build core strength, spur growth through existing assets, connect actions to outcomes and allocate resources based on performance. There are three phases—evaluate, establish and execute (e3)—made up of 15 steps.

Most organizations and enterprises should complete these steps at least annually to guide long-term planning. For small businesses, start-ups and short-term goals, we'd recommend following our hackathon model to identify quick wins and accelerate success. 

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“The marketing industry is moving too fast to internalize everything.” — Paul Roetzer, The Marketing Performance Blueprint 

In spite of having more channels, more technology and more data than ever before, marketers are still struggling to make, and measure, an impact on the bottom line. Obsessive planning is all too often mistaken for strategy, leaving teams dutifully following checklists that are leading them nowhere.

Instead, a rapidly shifting landscape requires an equally agile response. The solution? The Marketing Growth HackathonTM.

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In the age of Amazon-style buying, customers expect instant answers and hassle-free purchasing. 

Plus, competition is virtually everywhere you look. In one click, customers can abandon your site and move on to a competitor who offers faster, easier service.

Our one saving grace to retain recurring sales is through customer loyalty. It’s no secret that many businesses rely on the loyalty of returning customers, as it costs nearly 10 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

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“Strategy is a system of expedients; it is more than a mere scholarly discipline. It is the translation of knowledge to practical life, the improvement of the original leading thought in accordance with continually changing situations.”

— Helmuth von Moltke

Brands have a major problem using the S-word. The term strategy is so overused by marketing departments and agencies that it is, in many cases, meaningless. They build marketing or content strategies. They think or act strategically.

Too often, marketers are irresponsibly using strategy and its variants as synonyms for planning.

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Marketers face more pressure than ever to deliver real ROI on their marketing efforts. The good news: it’s the best time to be a performance-driven marketer. The tools, technology and talent available to build, execute and measure high-impact campaigns have never been more widely available.

But with the opportunities come obstacles from the sheer number of available courses of action. In a sea of available metrics, which ones are actually important? And once you determine that, what do you do with them?

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You know the drill. As marketers, we are forever pressed for creative, performance-driven ideas. In the era of fast-paced, connected consumers, we must constantly evolve to prove our marketing success. And, we must do it quickly. 

In a recent blog post, Paul Roetzer articulates the challenge: 

“There have never been more choices for marketers. There has never been more noise. There has never been more demand for performance.” 

To solve for business growth challenges, PR 20/20 organized an interactive Cleveland HubSpot User Group (HUG) event on Wednesday, March 23 featuring the Marketing Growth HackathonTM. In as little as one hour, attendees collaborated to come up with campaign ideas that could be activated in as little as 30 to 90 days. (Sending a special thanks to Advance Ohio for hosting the event!)

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