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Using SMART goals to re-evaluate marketing goals on a paper napkin

Re-evaluating Your Marketing Goals for 2021

If you’re running a company and executing marketing campaigns, having marketing goals is a necessity.

However, it can be far too easy to hyper focus on increasing or decreasing certain numbers which can lead to poor decisions with unintended or unexpected results.

Back in 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at Goldman Sach’s Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. When asked by a reporter what some of the biggest accomplishments Apple had in the past year, he responded “We’re not focused on the numbers. We’re focused on the things that produce the numbers.”

The truth is, focusing only on the numbers is never going to be a winning strategy. Your customers are your most valuable asset, so your marketing goals need to reflect that. By prioritizing your customers’ experience, you’re able to create results.

Let’s take a closer look at setting marketing goals that are both realistic and achievable.

When Marketing Goals Go Wrong

When we put too much emphasis on achieving business goals without considering the real cost, we can end up taking the focus away from what really matters — the customers we serve and what they really need.

Think about a marketing activity like lead generation. Having a primary goal to drive down your cost per lead is reasonable, but doing this without a comprehensive strategy behind it could have unintended consequences. For example, your leads may deteriorate and you’ll end up with a pool of prospects that can’t or won’t buy from you.

Content marketing is typically part of an overall marketing strategy. However, if you’re solely focused on attracting more visitors to your blog, you aren’t necessarily considering whether those people you attract are potential customers or one-time visitors.

More often than not, what takes things off track with marketing goals is a focus on vanity metrics versus actual business results. It doesn’t matter if you have a ton of traffic coming to your website if none of those visitors actually convert. While having 10,000 views in a week might look good on paper, it doesn’t mean a whole lot if your sales are still at zero.

Marketing goals need to be grounded in reality, and the best way to do this to leverage all the data you have to make informed decisions.

Why Setting Marketing Goals Matters

Goal setting is important, because without goals it’s easy to get focused on activities that don’t grow the business. According to research done by CoSchedule, marketers who set goals are 376% more successful.

Creating goals ensures you have a set, clear plan. It’s like when you’re planning a trip. In order to know where you’re going and when you successfully arrive, you need to select a destination and create a plan to get there.

However, not all goals are created equal. Goal setting with an eye toward serving your customers is a more sustainable, growth focused way to set goals. It’s easy to get so obsessed with optimizing for results that we can easily forget or take our eyes off what actually generates the results we most want: compelling content that attracts buyers, not browsers.

That’s why it’s important to set realistic marketing goals and objectives that meet your business goals as well as your ideal buyer’s goals. Everyone should understand the ‘why’ behind the goal and how it serves the broader customer and business goals of your company.

Determining Your Marketing Goals

When I meet with new clients to talk about setting their marketing goals, one of the first things I want to know is when they last had a marketing audit completed. Ideally, marketing audits should be done at least once a year, if not more often.

A marketing audit is a comprehensive and systematic analysis and interpretation of marketing activities and all related data. It helps you identify what has and hasn’t gone well with previous campaigns, and identify where your opportunities lie. It also helps you determine why and how those opportunities impact your business.

An important distinction to understand before you get too far into goal setting is understanding the difference between a marketing goal and a marketing objective.

Marketing goals are the desired broader and longer-term results you want to achieve. Your marketing goals are more focused on the vision — where you’re going versus the roadmap of how to get there. Marketing goals include things like: increasing brand awareness, driving more sales, expanding market share, increasing profits or reaching new demographics.

Marketing objectives define the specific, measurable actions each employee must take to achieve the overall goal. Objectives ensure everyone on the team is working toward achieving the same goal. For example, if your goal is to drive more sales, one objective might be to increase marketing qualified leads (MQLs) by 5% every month.

Once you’ve completed an audit, then you can move on to establishing your marketing goals and objectives for the period ahead. What do you want to achieve this month, this quarter, this year? You’ll also need to determine how you’ll measure success — what are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that should be met monthly to help you and your team reach your goals?

When working out your internal goal alignment, consider three things:

  1. WHY: Why are you setting this goal? What’s the pain or problem that your business faces and why is it important to solve it?
  2. HOW: How does the goal solve the problem? What will success look like?
  3. WHAT: What does the team need to do to reach that goal?

Working closely with your team during this process can be valuable, as they can not only ask questions but also help identify possible obstacles.

Once you’ve got your goals and objectives nailed down, it should be shared broadly across your teams to ensure everyone is working towards achieving the plan.
Creating Your Goal Setting Roadmap
When your marketing goals have been set and you’re ready to create your roadmap to get there, it’s time to start breaking down your SMART goals. SMART goals are defined as:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

Now that you have the ingredients that go into setting goals to align your team, your efforts and your focus, let’s walk through an example.

Let’s say you have a business goal to increase sales by 35% year over year.

Your marketing goal is to increase sales qualified leads (SQLs).

Now you’ll need to do the internal goal alignment:

  1. WHY: Customers consistently rate their satisfaction with their purchase at 9.3/10 vs the biggest competitor at 5.7/10, but not enough people know about the company and offer. This is a disservice to potential customers as it allows them to think the competitor is the best option simply because they’re better known.
  2. HOW: Implement a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy that highlights customer success stories and key differences to attract and resonate with the target audience.
  3. WHAT: SMART marketing goals.

Next, we set the associated SMART goal.

  • Specific: Increase web traffic from organic search.
  • Measurable: Average 42,000 monthly visitors.
  • Attainable: In order to average 42,000 monthly visitors, we need to increase our organic traffic by 1,000 visitors month/month.
  • Relevant: We need to ensure we’re creating compelling content to attract the right traffic that will be interested and intrigued enough to become leads.
  • Time-bound: We’ll average 42,000 monthly visitors by December 31.

Leverage Your Marketing Goals to Deliver a Better Customer Experience

Whether you’re still trying to nail down your marketing goals for the remaining quarters of the year or you already have a plan that may need some adjusting, the most critical thing you can do is to objectively assess each goal to see if it is, in fact, realistic.

Creating marketing goals that are attainable means you’re not only setting your company up for success, but you’re also not wasting time on trying to meet goals that don’t best serve your customers.


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About Michelle

With over 20 years of experience, Michelle Evans knows marketing. In 2012, after a successful 16-year career in global marketing strategy at Microsoft, she launched her consultancy, which eventually evolved into Accelaris.
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