It’s that time of the year again. Gyms suddenly get busy. Book sales increase. The crowd at fast food restaurants thins out. Why? New Year’s resolutions.
If you make New Year’s resolutions, you may already know what they are. Lose weight. Make more money. Learn a new skill or hobby.
But what about your marketing goals?
Where should your company’s marketing be at the end of 2019? How about the end of Q1? How are you going to get there? What makes up a good goal?
Let’s take a look.
Why you need marketing goals
If you want your business to grow and progress, you need to know what that progression is towards. If everyone on your marketing team is pulling in different directions there won’t be any progress. Goals paint a clear picture of what your team is working towards so everyone can create congruent work with that end-point in mind.
Even if you get your whole team working in the same general direction, without a goal you still won’t know when you have crossed the finish line or how close to it you are. A good goal is attached to an objective measurement so that you can not only tell when you have completed it, but so that you can measure your steps toward it. You can tell what campaigns brought you closer to that desired state, and which ones didn’t.
“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
What makes a good goal?
Not every goal is a good goal. Many “goals” are not even true goals, but nonspecific wishes or lofty notions of “better”. A goal stating that you want your business to “rank number one on Google” provides very little value. What keywords(s) do you want to rank for? When do you want to rank number one by? Is that even a realistic goal for your business?
Many of us have heard of the classic SMART acronym, but it is easy to get so dragged down by minutia that we miss the “obvious,” so it is worth a review:
Nebulous goals will only create confusion. Each goal you create needs to be clear and specific as to avoid any confusion in purpose. Think through the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) when deciding whether your goal is specific enough. Your goals should answer these, even if they are implicit.
As mentioned earlier, in order to determine progress and completion towards a goal it needs to be measurable. Those who see your goal need to know exactly at which point it is considered accomplished. Most of the time in a marketing context these will be numbers, but they can also be more boolean in nature.
It is easy to go to one of the two extremes when setting goals: either shooting unrealistically high, or pitifully low. Generally, in a business context it will be the former. Rarely would an executive set a goal for himself “not to get a salary cut this year”.
That being said, the goal needs to be challenging but achievable. Big enough to excite and energize your team to have them rally behind it, but not so big that it is overwhelming and demoralizing.
Is the goal even worth pursuing? During the goal setting process, it is easy to get excited and start creating goals around a bunch of nice-to-have’s. A good goal is one that, if not reached, has real consequences. Whether that be an opportunity missed or a challenge that still looms, an unattained goal should hurt. If it didn’t you were shooting at the wrong target.
There is one more “W” word to take a look at. When. Whether annual, quarterly, or monthly, every goal needs a deadline. Otherwise it gets pushed to “someday” – that magical day when all those important but not urgent tasks go to die.
How Do You Start?
It seems that every coach or consultant has the “magical 5-step process” to setting goals you can’t help but achieve. There are some great frameworks out there that I would highly recommend like EOS (entrepreneurial operating system) that will walk you through the process of creating goals.
Different frameworks will work better for different organizations, but when it comes to specifically digital marketing, a great first place to look is the funnel.
Grab your team and a whiteboard and start sketching out the different stages of the funnel. Answer questions like:
- What activities are you doing for each stage?
- Do you have far more activities in one stage than another?
- How effective are these activities?
- What conversion rates do you have between these stages? How are those in comparison to industry standards?
- Why are these conversion rates not higher? What is standing in the way?
- Is there a marketing channel you have not yet utilized that could prove beneficial?
Those are just the beginning, but if you start to draw out the funnel for your organization then you will start to see some weak points and your team likely already has ideas on how to improve them. Take those issues and possible solutions and start creating your goals from there. Make sure they are SMART, each has a responsible party attached to it, and gets recorded in writing.
There are many other places to look and different methods to use to figure out what goals your organization should have from a marketing standpoint and this does not encompass them all, but if you are unsure where to start this is a good place.
- Increase the top-of-funnel traffic to 10,000 users per month by the last month of Q2
- Increase the visitor to lead conversion rate to 2% for two months in a row by June.
- Decrease the Google Ads Average CPC to under $2 by March.
Goal Setting Is Continuous
Most companies have set goals at least once, but the real power in goal setting is in quarter after quarter, year after year goal setting and goal achievement. You will not meet all of your goals, and that is fine. That means you are setting audacious goals. But you should be meeting some of them, and accomplished goal upon accomplished goal is what great companies (and individuals) are built from.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates
To get there, however, you need to be intentional about your process. You need to set up a cadence of continuous goal setting and check-in’s. This can be done in 100 different ways by 100 different companies, but, as with the goal creation exercise, here is a simple methodology you could build from.
Quarterly Goal Creation
The first question that generally comes up when talking goals is what period of time the goals should be created for. This is an important question. Increasing your number of inbound calls by 50% is impressive if you do that over a quarter, but not so impressive if done over a span of 10 years.
I find the best cadence for goal setting is over a 90-day span. It is a short enough time period to stay focused on a handful of objectives without getting pulled off course (hopefully), but long enough that real objective results can be seen. Each quarter, create new goals for your organization that help you reach your organizations vision for the future.
We have a hard enough time guessing what will happen next week, let alone 3 months from now. That is why, while you should set a plan to achieve your goals each quarter, it’s important to review the plans to reach them at regular intervals. Is the current plan working? Are there opportunities to accomplish them sooner? What roadblocks are there?
A month is enough time to see results and progress without overreacting to small bumps along the way.
“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry” – Robert Burns
When setting goals, it is easy to get excited and get your mind in the clouds where you envision accomplishing these goals in just weeks. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? Then, reality hits and you are back in the office Monday with a mountain of emails and fires to put out. After this busy time, then I will have time to accomplish this goal. Then you blink, and you are a month into the quarter and have barely started. Oops.
To avoid that, have a check-in with your team once a week. This does not have to be a long, drawn out process, but checking in on goal progress weekly will keep everyone’s eye on the prize and help you to avoid getting stuck in the weeds of the day-to-day.
Ready to Start Setting Goals for 2019?
While this is just a short introduction to goal setting, hopefully it gets you set down the path towards where your organization should be in 2019. This process can be overwhelming alone, so please feel free to reach out as you start thinking through your marketing goals for the upcoming year.
Schedule a marketing review to make sure you are aimed in the right direction.
Jacob is a digital marketer who takes joy in translating complexity into clarity. He has a passion for helping tech and finance companies connect with their customers. He also has a small cat.