Editorial note: this is a guest post from Sage.
All businesses must set goals. If you don’t, you’re setting off on a journey with no clear destination in mind. On top of this, you won’t be able to measure your progress along the way.
Marketing is no exception. In the pre-digital era, it was often tricky to evaluate success. But today, marketers no longer face that barrier. A wealth of data is available, and there are plenty of tools to collect and analyze it.
That said, you need to guarantee that you’re setting the right goals in marketing. In this post, we’ll show you how to do just that.
Marketing goals are specific objectives relating to your marketing efforts, but must also align with overall business objectives. You can outline these goals in your marketing plan—a roadmap that shows where you’re headed and clear directions for getting there.
These goals might include boosting revenue, improving subscription rates, or any other KPI you use to measure success. Whatever you want to achieve, having well-defined goals will help you stay on budget and show you what to do before you can expect any results.
If you don’t do this, it’ll be hard to understand why a marketing campaign isn’t working as well as you’d hoped. You could miss out on opportunities but also fail to spot potential risks. And without goals, you won’t be able to monitor your progress.
But, setting goals and using them as the foundations of your marketing plan will provide you with the bigger picture. Your roadmap will lay out priorities to focus your efforts, and measuring progress means that everyone stays motivated. If you’re not on track, you can find out why and do something about it.
So, we know why it’s essential to set the right goals in marketing. But how exactly do you do that? Whether your objective is improving engagement rates or reducing acquisition costs, here are some top tips for successful goal-setting.
The first step is to sit down and decide what you want to achieve. Your goals will differ depending on your industry, the current stage of the business, and even which country you provide services in. For instance, are you a new startup, an established business, or something in between? Will your goals differ for projects in the US, UK, or Australia?
If you’ve been trading for a while, you may already have plans in place, but they may no longer be relevant if the company has expanded or changed direction. You have to make sure that your marketing objectives address both your current needs and future plans.
The nature of your goals will also depend on how much you rely on digital or traditional marketing and the products you promote.
For example, Software as a Service (SaaS) has a very different sales cycle and requires a different marketing strategy compared to physical products. On top of this, SaaS providers will have specific goals such as increasing free trials and subscriptions.
Whatever stage you’re at, it’s best to set SMART goals—that is, ones that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
It’s vital that you pay attention to both long-term and short-term goals. If you narrow your focus on the near future, you’ll miss out on opportunities that could pay off in the long run. But if you set your sights too far ahead, it’ll be more challenging to stay motivated over a long period of time.
For example, your long-term business objective might be to increase revenue and grow the company. But you can divide this high-level goal into smaller targets along the way, such as improving the number of qualified leads or boosting your SERP ranking.
If you work iteratively, it will feel rewarding when you reach the smaller goals, whereas it can feel like an uphill struggle if everything’s about the end result. But you’ll know that you’re always working toward the overall objective.
Feasibility is a key part of goal-setting. If they’re unrealistic, you’ll become disappointed and frustrated when you don’t reach them—and morale is sure to suffer as a result. You also need to be realistic with deadlines. On the flip side, goals that are too easy can lead to a false sense of progress.
On top of this, your objectives must be measurable. Otherwise, you won’t be able to see how things are progressing over time. You can benchmark against your own standards or those of your competitors or wider industry.
Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Results will take time. For example, you shouldn’t expect to see significant progress in the first couple of months, so there’s no point setting unrealistic standards at that point. But, you can raise the benchmarks for the second half of the year when expectations are naturally higher.
Marketing is full of KPIs. But, you don’t have to measure every one of them. Instead, pick the ones that are most relevant to your objectives; otherwise, you’ll get overwhelmed with data. To help you do this, make sure your goals are specific, including concrete figures.
For example, instead of just saying you “want to improve conversions”, narrow it down by saying you “intend to boost conversions by 20% in six months”. Then you can choose the KPIs and metrics that will help you measure progress.
To keep track of this particular goal, you’d want to look at metrics such as conversion rate, sign-up rate, number of site visitors, brand awareness, number of sales-qualified leads (SQLs), and customer feedback surveys.
It’s always worth knowing what your rivals are up to so you can find ways to match or beat them. It’s equally important to follow market conditions and consider how they might affect your goals.
For example, if there’s a recession looming, people won’t be spending as much. You’ll have to be more focused on the value of your products, and perhaps your revenue goals need to be more modest. Think about global supply chain issues, too—this may mean delays in the launch of a new product.
Aside from external issues, consider any relevant internal factors. A shortfall in your budget could affect your ability to deliver on goals.
If you don’t already, consider using tax and accounting software to keep a close eye on cash flow and manage your resources accordingly. This is particularly useful if you provide marketing services for businesses in the UK and need to submit VAT returns for your work, as it will make sure you remain tax-compliant.
Another way to maintain focus on your goals is to prioritize them in order of urgency or value. Take time to work out what your key goal is, and concentrate on that one first. You’ll feel particularly rewarded when it’s achieved.
If you’ve put the right steps in place for smashing that main goal—clear directions and relevant KPIs, for example—this will also make it easier to achieve the smaller goals. Your plan should have a natural flow so that each objective moves seamlessly on to the next.
Goal-setting— and the creation of your marketing plan—is not a one-and-done activity. It’s fine to make some tweaks. In fact, it’s necessary as there are bound to be unforeseen developments as you go along.
We already mentioned potential economic effects, but there may also be changes in the behaviors and preferences of your target audience and the emergence of new industry trends. For example, if a certain type of online content becomes more popular than you expected, you’ll need to switch your strategy in order to keep attracting visitors.
Of course, if your business operates in different regions, it’s worth understanding different trends in each country. American audiences may respond differently to certain trends than a British audiences, so your objectives and goals must take this into consideration.
It’s essential that you build this flexibility into your plans from the start, otherwise, it will be more difficult to make changes. It’s worth doing some scenario planning so that you’re fully prepared.
If you’re going to achieve your goals, everyone must pull together as a cohesive team. On top of this, you need cross-departmental collaboration involving sales, accounts, product development, IT, and customer support. It’s also important to keep stakeholders in the loop.
Silos are not conducive to success, so make sure everyone knows the importance of collaboration and has the resources to make it happen. This might include communication and file-sharing tools, regular meetings, and the inclusion of remote colleagues.
As part of these efforts, centralize your goal-related marketing data so that everyone can see where their contributions fit in.
You can use tools like a cloud ERP small business platform combined with CRM software to gain insights from across your business. By enabling access to data from all areas of the company, you can check that you’re on the right track and get a holistic view of how your marketing goals are performing.
Whether your goals in marketing include improving brand visibility or boosting software sign-ups, clear objectives are the key to success. When these are built into your marketing roadmap, everyone knows where the company is headed and has directions for getting there.
Clear, realistic goals help you establish priorities, maintain focus, and manage resources better. Goals must be measurable, enabling you to monitor progress. Plus, you should always stay flexible so that you can make adjustments when necessary.
Follow our pointers to make sure you set the right goals in marketing for the present and future.