What Have Your Customers Taught You This Year?

Test. Measure. Change. For digital marketers, that’s an endless cycle. We create variations of every ad, email, headline, and landing page, measure how our audience interacts with them, and then choose the versions that deliver the best results.

But a single A/B test isn’t enough to create trends or make big strategic decisions. Over the course of this year though, you collected a lot more information, and that should affect what your marketing looks like next year.

Even if you haven’t been rigorously A/B testing everything you create, there are other ways to learn what your audience wants—and doesn’t want—from you in the future.

Here are a few questions your team should ask as you look back on this year.

What is our audience saying in reviews, forums, and comments?

A single review or a single comment needs to be taken with a grain of salt. They’re highly subjective and based on one person’s experience. One reviewer might think you have the best customer service they’ve ever seen. Another might say it’s the worst.

Reviews and comments are harder to sort through than ratings, likes, and other metrics, but they can also offer immensely valuable in-depth feedback. Over time, you may notice larger themes that come up again and again.

What are the things people keep telling you about? Is there a particular feature or service you need to clarify better? Is there a benefit that keeps surprising people?

Consistent negative feedback helps you find concerns, misunderstandings, and problems you may need to address more upfront. Consistent positive feedback may reveal things you might be overlooking that could make your messaging more compelling.

What kinds of content got the most traction?

Part of content marketing is aspirational: you’re writing content for the audience you want to have, not just the audience you currently have. But whether you’re looking at social media, blogging, or email marketing, if you want to grow, you’ve got to stick with what’s working, too.

Maybe most of your thought leadership posts flopped, but your audience really connected with your story-driven content. Does that mean you should stop writing thought-leadership content? No. But you may want to shift what kinds of content you focus on, and you should probably be more selective about the topics you explore in-depth with your audience.

Which marketing channels are seeing the most growth?

Hopefully, your email list, blog, and social media followings all grew this year.

Whether you measure growth in revenue, conversions, likes, or audience size, it’s highly unlikely that all of your marketing channels are growing at the same rate. Channel growth should help determine what you focus on this year. Maybe at the start of the year YouTube was the channel you were having the most success with, but now you have a thriving email list with incredible engagement.

You should be assessing the viability of your marketing channels at least every quarter, but the end of the year is a great time to look at how your strengths have changed over the last four quarters and focus on where your work is really paying off.

What is your audience ignoring?

Most of the time, people won’t tell you outright that they didn’t like something. They just won’t open your email. Or they’ll scroll past your post. You won’t always have blatantly negative feedback to steer you away from bad choices. But consistently low engagement is negative feedback, and if you want to make wise marketing choices in the future, you need to treat it that way.

Finding the blog posts, social media posts, and emails that received the lowest engagement this year can help you learn what isn’t resonating with your audience.

Listen to your audience

Everyone knows the mantra “the customer is always right.” But digital marketers should say “the audience is always right,” because we care about what our potential customers think, too. If you want to grow the most you possibly can, you need to capitalize on the things that worked well this year and ditch the things that didn’t.

But in order to do that, you’ll need to step back as a team and assess the full breadth of feedback your audience has given you—and continue that process throughout the year.