Why set marketing goals? Well, let’s start by making this personal.
What’s the last goal you set in your life? Maybe it was to lose five pounds before summer so you could fit into last year’s bathing suit. Or maybe it was to start calling your mom every Sunday so she stops cranking about how you never call.
In either case, a goal was set. But then what? If you committed to losing five pounds before summer, you would need to assess the situation and create a plan to accomplish said goal. Is summer in two weeks or two months? Based on whatever timeframe you’re dealing with, caloric intake and exercise schedule would have to be adjusted accordingly. And if you decide to call your mom every Sunday, you might program a few reminders in your phone so you don’t forget.
The same is true for setting marketing goals — whether you’re managing a department or working with a marketing agency. And it’s not enough to declare goals like, “I want to get 10 new leads this month!” Goals, if they are to be achieved, need to be as specific as possible and supported by plans that account for all the variables that could affect reaching that goal.
Before we outline how to set good, achievable marketing goals, though, let’s spend a little more time discussing what makes a bad goal.
Fundamentally, a bad goal is a goal that is too vague. It’s not enough to state you want to lose five pounds. In order to meet that goal you would, at the very least, need to set a deadline and then determine how many calories you can have each day and how many you need to burn.
In contrast, a good goal is a goal that gets specific and concretely defines success. To continue our weight loss example, a good goal would be “losing five pounds by Jan 1, 2017 by eating 1,000 calories a day and exercising three times a week until then).
Some Examples of Good and Bad Marketing Goals
The best way to illustrate effective ways of setting marketing goals is to look at a few examples of bad goals vs. good goals in the context of marketing activities.
Example #1: Lead Generation
Bad Goal: We want to increase our number of leads.
Good Goal: We want to increase the number of leads brought in through our website forms by 10% over the next 12 months.
The latter is a good goal because it not only names the goal (“increase the number of leads brought in through the website”), it also defines success — 10% more leads via forms over the next 12 months. In the “good goal,” we have the what, where, and when. Presumably you’d be able to speak to the why (e.g., more leads are needed in order for a sufficient number of sales qualified leads to reach the sales department on a monthly basis). All that remains is the how, which is where you marketing team or agency will come in.
Having a specific goal also helps tremendously when it comes to reporting on success. Not only can you look at raw numbers, you can also evaluate those numbers to see how much progress you’ve made toward your goal.
Start with monthly reporting because weekly reporting doesn’t pull very representative samples. On the other hand, if you assess and report on the data more infrequently, you may miss valuable opportunities that would help you reach your goal in the time required. Finding the right balance between being proactive and nimble — without being reactionary — is key.
Example #2: Search Marketing
Bad Goal: We want to increase our website’s organic search volume.
Good Goal: We want to increase organic search volume in our products section by 5% over the next 12 months.
Again, the second option here is a good goal because it is specific. It doesn’t just state the desire to increase organic search; it includes a specific section to focus on (products), notes the desired increase (5%), and establishes when this goal should be met (within 12 months).
When writing marketing goals, it is extremely important to be as specific as possible so that your marketing team can focus their marketing efforts. Casting too wide of a net will dilute efforts and won’t allow for good reporting.
It’s not enough to say “increase our website’s organic search volume” because to you that may mean 5% in the products section of the site, but to your marketing agency that may mean 2% across the entire site. The more clearly you define your goals up front, the less time you and your marketing agency will waste and the more focused your marketing efforts will be.
Example #3: Repeat Sales
Bad Goal: We want to up repeat sales with existing customers.
Good Goal: We want to up repeat sales with existing customers by 10% over the next 18 months.
If you tried to set this “bad goal” with a marketing agency worth their salt, they will undoubtedly ask you: By how much? By when? Once the amount and timeline are determined, then an actual marketing plan can be defined.
If your agency goes forth with the bad goal, and they are able to up repeat sales by some fraction — but not by 10% over 18 months — there will be some confusion on their part when you express your disappointment.
This gets at the inherent problem with not being specific with goals: assumptions. When each party makes a different assumption, you’ve essentially created a fork in the road and defined success differently. Properly setting up expectations from the beginning mitigates headaches in the future.
Achieving the Results You Want with Marketing
Marketing goals make for better marketing because they not only force you think about what you specifically need, they also align everyone involved in your marketing program and focus their efforts toward achieving the same end.
Perhaps more importantly, they give you a way to tie your marketing efforts into your company’s larger business goals, which often help dictate — or at the very least give direction to — your marketing goals.
So the next time your marketing team or agency asks for a marketing goal, give it to them! You’ll get better marketing — and and a better chance of getting the results you want.