As a marketer or a business owner who dabbles in marketing, you have to make a lot of decisions. How do you know if you are making the right ones? Is your strategy working, or is it off base? What tools should you use? What does success look like?

It can be hard to go at it alone, which is why over this past year my team surveyed more than 1,500 marketing professionals about what makes them successful. We wanted to understand the major traits that separated successful marketers from the bunch.  

What we learned was there are four major things separating successful marketers from those that are not, and the good news is that anyone can copy them to make their efforts more successful as well. 

1. Top marketers document their marketing strategy

In our study, we learned that marketers who document their marketing strategy are 538 percent more likely to report success than those who don't.

This makes sense, as your marketing strategy is the guide that will help you choose, prioritize and execute everything your team will be working on for the next year. It's no surprise that teams with a clear sense of where they are going and how they need to get there, have a better chance for success. 

2. Top marketers document their marketing processes

Another thing that separates successful marketers is a clearly documented marketing process. In fact, marketers who document their process are 466 percent more likely to report success than those who don't.

Documenting your process is all about providing reliable and reusable workflows for your team to follow. After some refinement, these processes can become the roadmap for creating successful outcomes on an ongoing basis. 

Setting expectations for your team regarding what success looks like will help you create consistent results at scale. Additional research from shows that the simple act of writing your goals down makes people nearly twice as likely to achieve them.

Most marketing teams tend to be ruled by missed deadlines and fire drills. Making sure your process is clear and well defined will reduce wasted time, and keep your team focused on the right outcomes. 

3. Top marketers set goals

It may come as no surprise that marketers who set goals are 429 percent more likely to report success than those who don't. 

Goals are important. They give your team a common objective to focus on. This results in a unified team, increased focus, and stronger ability to adjust course when we miss objectives. Setting those goals together as a team can also provide the extra team buy-in that you might need in order to overcome hurdles. 

When it comes to goals, I advise marketers to keep it simple. The sheer number of metrics available to digital marketers at any given time can be daunting.

My advice? Focus on your one metric that matters and track it on a daily basis. Find the metric that has the potential to make the biggest impact on your success and start discussing it with your team regularly. You might be surprised at how quickly everyone jumps on board and starts contributing ideas. 

4. Top marketers conduct customer research

Customer research is almost never a part of your job description as a marketer, but it probably should be. We found that successful marketers are 242 percent more likely to conduct customer research at least once per quarter. 

There's little doubt as to why this works. Obviously, teams that conduct research understand their customers better and are able to improve how they communicate to their audience. 

Inexperienced teams just jump in and do stuff. Experienced teams take the time to understand their customers first. 

When we think of customer research, we frequently think about customer demographics such as age, location, gender, etc., but these things don't tell you much about what influences customer behavior. Rather, you should do qualitative research by scheduling regular calls with customers. The best part about this is that anyone can do it. Here are my go-to questions to ask:

  1. What prompted you to start looking for a solution like (our product)?
  2. Why did you choose (our product)?
  3. What is the most significant difference (our product) is making in your business today?
  4. How would you (briefly) describe (our product) to someone else?
  5. What is the single greatest benefit (our product) provides?

What would happen if your team started doing 10 customers calls per month? Our results meant we were better able to carry our messaging to the way customer's expressed their needs.

It just might be enough to make you one of the marketers that are 538 percent more successful from the rest.