Whether you’re looking to enter new markets, expand existing business, or hold steady during economic uncertainty, Marketing must be a critical component of any strategic plan.
Clearly defined Marketing goals help keep efforts focused on what moves your organization forward and ensure outcomes justify investments.
Marketers, whether inside a company or working as an agency, must demonstrate that their efforts are paying off. Goals provide a structure to show the effectiveness of time, money, and man-hours spent marketing.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Goals
When building out marketing goals, a solid first step is differentiating your Marketing Strategy from your Goals. Strategy looks at the one to five year horizon to guide decisions, while Goals help structure your day-to-day work with 30 to 90 day “sprint” objectives.
Marketing Strategy is your overall game plan for supporting your company’s mission. It constitutes the guiding vision for how your product or service will establish itself as the best option for consumers in the market.
While there are many tools for structuring a marketing strategy, there are a few key components any strategy should have:
- Vision: Marketers aren’t just promoting a product, they’re promoting a company’s vision for how their product or service will change the world. An organization’s Core Purpose and Vision, often phrased like a BHAG, inform the strategies and messaging used in marketing.
- Brand Promise: A company’s brand promise lays out the value customers should expect to receive when interacting with the company. Marketing sets that expectation for customers and drives brand loyalty.
- Core Values: A company’s core values inform every decision a company makes– from who to hire, what services to provide, and how to measure success. Core values are critical for informing how marketers present a brand.
- Core Customer: For marketers, understanding the buyer journey and the profile of target customers is critical to designing effective strategy.
- Competitive Analysis: Frameworks like the SWOT analyses can help define market positioning and strategy. Understanding differentiating competitive advantage in the market is crucial for defining strategy.
- 1-year Targets: Your marketing goals will look very different depending on whether you’re hoping to grow to a Billion dollar valuation next year or simply stay afloat. Setting aggressive but achievable targets for profit and total customers and working back for traffic, leads, and conversion traffic will help you structure quarterly and monthly goals.
Writing Effective Marketing Goals
Just like marketing campaigns themselves, marketing goals should be written in a way that focuses on flexibility and iteration. We use two frameworks when setting measurable goals: SMART and the slightly Updated FAST.
SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Let’s break down what that means.
- Specific: Well-written goals should answer the main questions of “Who?”, “What?”, and “How?”. This means the goal explains who is responsible, what needs to be achieved, and how it will be accomplished.
- Measurable: A good goal should include some measure of success to enable you to track your progress and know when you’ve actually achieved it. Defining a quantifiable measure of success provides clarity to your goal and makes it easier to reach. We’ll discuss how to choose a target for your goal in the next section.
- Achievable: Setting a goal that other responsibilities will prevent you from accomplishing sets you up for failure. Be realistic but aggressive when determining what can be accomplished with the time, energy, and focus you have available for this goal.
- Relevant: Any goal should be relevant to achieving your targets and the bigger vision you have for your organization and yourself. A goal that isn’t important to overcoming the hurdles between today and your desired future won’t keep you motivated or move your company forward.
- Time-Bound: All well-written goals have a deadline for achieving them. Whether you’re planning on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, tracking goals against a due date provides a sense of urgency and allows you to understand whether they are sufficiently aggressive.
Complimentary to the well-worn concept of SMART goals, we also recommend creating your goals with FAST, a newer paradigm, in mind. FAST goals are Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific, and Transparent. This places more of an emphasis on shooting high and evaluating performance continuously. While some of this overlaps with SMART, we’ll break down the differences below and how they work in tandem to motivate your execution.
- Frequently discussed: Setting a specific cadence for reviewing progress, prioritizing associated work, and allocating necessary resources is critical for keeping goals on track. At Align, we give updates on quarterly goals daily and discuss them with functional teams on a bi-weekly cadence. Specific discussion rhythm depends on your time frame but should allow for maximal focus on what matters most and timely course corrections if goals go off track.
- Ambitious: In addition to being “achievable”, your goals should provide enough difficulty to boost performance and minimize the risk of teams relaxing if the goal appears easily obtainable. Setting goals that require extra effort incentivizes innovation and creative thinking as priority owners figure out how to elevate performance.
- Specific: This is a repeat of the first component of a SMART goal, but when combined with FAST creates greater emphasis on flexibility. When a marketing goal is written sufficiently specific, it is easier to identify where progress is falling short and to adjust course quickly.
- Transparent: This is the final and potentially most important component of writing a marketing goal that will push success. Providing transparency into goal creation and tracking creates motivation through accountability. It ensures that contributions to overall company strategy are recognized.
How Ambitious should Marketing Goals be?
A popular maxim attributed to Bill Gates states, “People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years.” We recommend planning Marketing goals on a quarterly cadence because this allows relatively confident predictive power. According to Verne Harnish, anything between one quarter and five years is a Wild Guess! If your company is scaling rapidly or adapting to changing market conditions, 30, 60, and 90 day planning may be more appropriate.
The most difficult part of writing a great marketing goal is balancing achievability and ambitiousness. Companies at different stages may select different levels of ambition for their goals. Google, for instance, expects employees to achieve between 60-70% of their goals. This leads to greater creativity and experimentation when attempting to achieve goals (see Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck).
By considering past performance and the potential impact of added efforts, your team can create marketing goals that are sufficiently aggressive, yet also achievable. If you converted 8% of site traffic last quarter, a goal like “Increase conversion to 12% by A/B testing 5 landing pages” is reasonably aggressive compared to shooting for 10% or 20%.
How should I track and report Marketing Goals?
While platforms like Salesforce, Hubspot, Hootsuite, and Google Analytics provide insights into campaign performance, tracking all your marketing metrics together with their associated goals helps prove the return on marketing efforts.
Iteration and adaptability are key as marketers and transparently tracking progress helps identify wins quickly and adjust to emerging threats. Despite the uncertainty facing many businesses, adaptable marketing goals tracked transparently help marketers focus on what drives success.
To learn more about how transparently tracking your Marketing Goals and strategy can power success, talk to an Align Advisor or download a copy of our Goal Planning Guide!