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Marketing | Jun 4
Jessica Malnik on January 21, 2020 (last modified on January 26, 2020) • 21 minute read
Goals are the foundation of any solid marketing strategy.
However, goal-setting can be difficult and anxiety-producing.
It can feel like every agency, startup, and enterprise company has its own unique system for goal-setting.
So, we set out to demystify this process by asking 35 marketers how they set goals for the year ahead.
In this post, we share 13 tips to help you set, plan, and achieve your marketing goals, including:
When it comes to setting marketing goals, there are multiple approaches.
We found that 71% of the marketers we surveyed preferred a hybrid approach to goal-setting.
For example, Brian Cairns of ProStrategix Consulting says, “We operate using a hybrid of top-down and bottom-up goal setting. One example is website visits. By using analytics, we have averages for how many sessions it takes to get a lead. From the leads, we know what percent convert to projects. So, we look at it in two ways. First, from our sales projections, we calculate how many projects we need to hit our goals and then back-calculate the # of visits required to achieve our sales goal. We cross-check that number vs. our marketing budget. We have enough historical data to know that spending $x gives us y visits. By cross-checking these goals, we can see if we are being realistic, aggressive, or underestimating.”
While it might sound obvious, it is important that your marketing goals are aligned with the bigger company initiatives. When you are in the weeds, this can be easy to overlook.
One of the most popular goal-setting frameworks is OKRs. (i.e. OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results.) This goal-setting system was popularized by tech giants like Intel and Google to drive explosive growth and better align departments/teams. In the New York Times best-selling book, Measure What Matters: OKRs The Simple Idea That Drives 10x Growth, John Doerr shares how to use this framework.
This strategy has since been adopted by thousands of companies of all sizes, including Alexander Maasik’s company, Weekdone.
“We use the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology to set both our team and company goals,” says Maasik. “So, for marketing, it is always important to align with where the company is heading.
Being a SaaS business that was growth-oriented, for years, our marketing’s main goal was to increase signups to our product. The logic being that more signups equal more paying customers from conversion in the funnel. But then, when reviewing the numbers, we switched our focus a little. And, decided to switch focus from signup numbers to signup quality. We focused our marketing activities on reaching new people on educating people who made it to our site. And while we lost in overall numbers a little bit, the increase in conversion to paying customers went up a lot more.
The moral of the story: when setting goals, you need to understand what are the overall needs of your company.”
Have you ever noticed when you shoot for the moon with a big hairy goal (BHAG), even if you don’t hit it, you still wind up miles ahead of where you were before?
Thinking big and setting goals that are a little scary or daunting is the best way to help you and your team reach their full potential.
For example, Jacob Landis-Eigsti of Jacob LE says, “Our team set a goal of a 10x increase in website traffic this year. Having this traffic now lets us optimize our website for email signups and conversions. Our #1 source of leads has been our website, so this was a top priority. We had 10x our traffic the previous year, so we decided to stick with this number. The higher the traffic, the harder it is to increase it. It’s much easier to go from 100 visitors to 1,000 vs 1,000,000 to 10,000,000. To achieve this ambitious goal, we said, “what would we need to do in order to hit this target?” The outcome we want is traffic, but our goal targets are blogging weekly and gaining 3 high-quality backlinks per week. Each team member stated what their contribution would be to this plan each week. We’ve currently hit 25x our web traffic vs. last year.”
“The importance of setting a goal is that it becomes measurable,” says Andrés Ossa of Mudango. “In Mudango, we measure conversions every month and analyze every iteration or improvement of the product based on how it impacts our conversion rates. In particular, we measure the conversion of users that get into our site and register (conversion #1). Those users input their contact information, so then we can call or email them to try to close the sale (conversion #2).
The way we defined those goals was from the end to the beginning. Given the current prices we charge for our services, and considering the current cost per click on Google Ads or Facebook, we can determine what the conversion rate that we need to earn a profit is.”
“An important marketing goal is growth,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers. “What I mean by growth is to improve your results week after week, month after month, quarter after quarter, year after year. You always want to have your main KPI in mind when setting up goals.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say your marketing goal is to generate more leads. You want to show that thanks to your marketing efforts, you generate more qualified leads at a lower cost.”
David Peterson of HealthMarkets adds, “We set attributable marketing and sales goals for our busy season a few months back and communicated it team-wide. We chose this goal because it drives bottom-line results, unlike some other marketing metrics like impressions.”
Joey Daoud of New Territory Media adds, “We set a goal of 1000 new YouTube subscribers for Q1 of 2020. YouTube is our main marketing platform (2nd largest search engine and showcases our strong suit), so growth on our own channel is vital.”
Almost 40% of the people we surveyed prefer to use historical data to decide on the actual numbers. And, another 30% use the previous month’s performance.
For example, Corey Haines of Baremetrics says, “We set a year-end revenue goal for MRR. We settled on this goal because we felt it was attainable given our resources, time, and what was achievable given historical forecasts.”
“Since we align our marketing goals with the company’s goals and vice versa, the number of leads generated plays an important role for us,” says Romy Fuchs of BEE Inbound AG. “As a full-service inbound agency, the inbound method has a high value in our everyday life. We want to win our customers through this method. In order to achieve the set revenue targets, we can calculate the MQLs via the necessary SQLs, and from these, in turn, the necessary leads. To the marketing goal “generate leads,” we define a certain numerical value, which we try to achieve through various campaigns and activities.”
Jeremy Cross of Team Building Los Angeles adds, “We set a goal of being on the first page of Google within six months. Our site already had some history and was ranking on page 10 – which, of course, resulted in zero visitors. We do organic lead generation and so making it to page 1 is essential to our business model. We’ve been working on our rankings for about three months, and now are appearing on page 1 and 2 for our most important keywords.”
Andrea Loubier of Mailbird says, “Marketing can sometimes be a numbers game. That’s why we often set goals with this in mind, and by doing as much outreach as possible, the chances of success will rise. Of course, a good strategy must be in place, but persistence can often be your best friend when trying to reach a goal.
My team and I always work on the premise that we want to top what we’ve done before, or at least stay on the same line. So, we look at our historical numbers and make a game plan – together.”
This isn’t the only way to decide on a numerical value for a goal. Another strategy is to work backward from a target number or revenue amount.
“One of the important marketing goals we’ve set for the team recently was fine-tuning how much to spend on paid advertisements on Black Friday and Cyber Monday week,” says Emod Vafa of Fit Rated. “We took into consideration Year-Over-Year Revenue for this period, studied the trends for each category of products, and considered the competition for each category. We then worked backward in order for us to hit the target of $X in revenue this year. We needed to spend heavily on certain categories that show less competition and higher ROIs and to stay away from other categories due to market trends and shifts in purchaser intent. Then we calculated our historical ROI on paid traffic and came up with how much money we need to spend on paid ads in order to achieve our desired outcome.”
Editor’s Note: For a quick way to monitor your progress on your paid ad campaigns, check out our Facebook and Google Ad dashboard template.
Jonathan Chan of Insane Growth adds, “Growing monthly organic traffic to 500,000 by the end of 2020. This is our BHG (Big Hairy Goal) for next year, and we came to this figure by working backward from our revenue targets.
We started with figuring out our monthly revenue goal was, how many customers and clients we needed per month, and then how many organic visitors we needed to reach that. To understand this figure, it’s incredibly important that we have a solid understanding of what our conversion rates are at every stage of the funnel so we can, as accurately as possible, come up with the right numerical figure for our organic traffic.
Of course, this is a BHG, so it’s something that is only achievable if everyone works towards that goal and has a clear understanding of WHY this is such an important goal for the business. By tying this with our revenue goals, everyone on the team is able to have a strong grasp of how achieving this goal will impact the business’s overall progress and, in turn, how it impacts them.”
“We’re currently working on a new revenue channel, and we initially didn’t know what would be a monthly or quarterly target that made sense because we didn’t have any sort of historical data to use as a benchmark,” says Raul Galera of CandyBar. “What we ended up doing was running a short experiment for a couple of months, seeing how this new revenue channel would perform, and what our results would be. Once we got a good sense of what a starting point would look like, we set monthly and quarterly improvements based on it.”
“As Head of Copy at Search It Local, my team is a small (but ferocious) group of content writers,” says Alexander Porter of Search It Local. “While we still contributed to the wider marketing goals set out by management (revenue, rankings, and other results), we make sure we stay focused as a team by goal setting on a micro-level. We set challenges to see how we could become the most effective communicator. Of course, this can be subjective, so we used tools like Hemingway App, Grammarly, and Yoast to define our targets and track them.
Who was able to write to the lowest Flesch readability score without losing the core of their message?
Who was able to optimize their content for both readability AND SEO?
Who was able to remove the use of passive voice most effectively?
For content writers, it’s easy to get lost in broad marketing goals like rankings and revenue. But these can mask what is really the core requirement of the role – to write.
It was important to me throughout my role in 2019 to hit the targets set out by management. And that meant a certain number of guest blogs, rankings, and even revenue through email marketing optimization.
But I was acutely aware of maintaining a level of writing beneath those macro goals. For my team to slip into a rut and lose track of the core skills that brought them into our industry would have been a tragedy.
So, by setting internal marketing goals centered around tracking the effectiveness of their writing, we were able to meet macro targets without losing focus on our craft.
We settled on this micro goal as it was a). measurable and b) reinforcing a core skill set that would benefit our company’s macro goal.
And seeing as no writer wants to be outclassed on the keyboard, it was a highly successful way to keep standards high, promote healthy competition, and promote team unity too.
I will certainly be expanding this marketing goal in 2020 and bringing in new KPIs and grading scales for the team. Maybe this year I’ll even enter the competition myself!”
“The most common goals that all clients have are awareness, engagement, and action/activation,” says Michelle Mastrobattista of Solomon McCown.“Most goals fit into one of these categories, and you can’t have action without having awareness and engagement first. Clients can get caught up on metrics such as “likes” without even knowing how those metrics correlate to their business objectives. We always start by asking the client what a successful marketing program looks like for them. If the answer is having more people know about them (awareness), the metrics that we focus on are things like impressions, reach, website traffic, and video views. Understanding how your metrics tie back to your marketing goals is crucial before beginning any campaign.”
In fact, brand awareness was one of the most popular types of goals of the marketers we surveyed for this post.
Cady Cohen of Tandem Interactive says, “An important marketing goal for our digital marketing team is brand awareness through link acquisition. Through proven SEO research, our team decided to use this tactic to expand brand awareness.”
Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe + Co. adds, “Our main goal is to build brand awareness. We want our current customers and potential clients to think of us whenever they need specific marketing work related to the Hubspot platform. To achieve this, our business strategy is focused on having an amazing guest blog content, providing free online material for our clients, and also on having up to date social media channels.”
“If people haven’t ever heard of you, they’re not likely to commit to you,” says Melanie Musson of 360quoteLLC. “Once you become a household name, you’re no longer scary. You’re comforting and someone that can be trusted.”
To achieve that, we’re splitting our budget 60/40 in favor of long-term brand building marketing work, with the smaller part being short term sales activation around existing demand for a product in the category.
We’re tracking that through a mix of market surveying, social media and industry news monitoring, and on-site analytics. Our aim is to conduct initial data collection in January, repeating it in March. That will set our gauge on the numbers we need to hit by the end of the year.”
Watson-Wailes wasn’t the only person we surveyed who was focusing on both brand awareness and conversion goals (i.e. MQLs, SQLs, new customers, conversion rate, etc)
Zarar Ameen of CANZ Marketing says, “The most important marketing goal we have set for CANZ Marketing this year has been a 30% increase in the conversion rate (compared to last year).
In the last few years of our existence, we have been busy creating brand awareness. Last year had been a crazy leads driver. Therefore, this year, we decided to do better in terms of financial returns by closing more deals than in the past years.”
Daniel Ramsey of MyOutDesk.com and Henry McIntosh of Twenty One Twelve Marketing both have similar conversion-related goals.
“Generate a good volume of high quality, qualified leads,” says Ramsey. “MyOutDesk’s marketing primarily focuses on bringing the virtual assistant services to entrepreneurs, business owners, and corporate leaders in various industries. We’ve set this goal to bring in opportunities and engagement to our sales team.”
“Generate ten telephone conversations with relevant prospects each month,” adds McIntosh. “The prospect had to have agreed to the call, but it was simply an introductory chat – nothing more. We settled on this knowing our conversion rate from cold leads tends to sit at around 1 in 5. To hit our revenue goals, we needed to acquire 5 new clients per month, and without cold outreach, we were only acquiring 3 – that’s why we set the goal.”
“Increasing traffic to the website is always a goal as it’s essential to the growth of the business,” says Steve Foley of Bulk Memory Cards. “It’s also related to monitoring important metrics such as conversions and qualified traffic.”
“Because VYPER is a SaaS service, our focus is on marketing our website with the goal of increasing traffic,” adds Jack Paxton of VYPER. “We use our blog to accomplish this and other goals such as SEO, brand building, and inbound marketing. We post articles weekly on the VYPER blog and also accept guest posts from other blogs.
Our participation in link exchange partnerships with multiple blogs has also helped us grow our blog traffic substantially this year. Our short term goal is to focus on these partnerships so that we can boost our blog traffic.”
Heather Quitos of SmartBug Media says, “Setting a growth goal for organic traffic is always an important goal when implementing an inbound strategy (for example, aiming to reach a certain number of organic sessions or increasing organic traffic by a specific percentage by the end of the year). It’s a good indicator of whether your website and its content are aligned with your personas and their visiting intent. When you’re regularly blogging, developing a backlinking strategy, and creating premium long-form content, it affects your organic growth, and ultimately can help qualify your prospective customers.”
“We want our SEO campaigns to align with not just driving traffic to the website, but focus on keywords that resulted in actionable leads,” adds Bill Cutrer of Seapoint Digital.
“After redesigning our website and looking to increase on-site sales, our marketing team decided to push to reach over 5,000 organic website visitors daily,” says Nate Masterson of Maple Holistics. “We knew this was well within the realm of possibility for our organization, but it would require a smart and effective SEO strategy. In an effort to boost our brand awareness, we knew that we had to get potential customers to our site even if just to read an article or become familiar with our brand. While selling on third-party websites like Amazon and Walmart can offer plenty of sales, it doesn’t emphasize brand awareness, unlike a company website.”
Jimmy Newson of Jimmy Newson Consulting adds, “One goal was to increase the amount of website traffic to our client’s websites. We were able to take their traffic from 6,000 visitors a month to over 40,000 visitors a month in the last 12 months.”
Editor’s Note: If you are looking for a way to monitor your site’s traffic, check out this Google Analytics website traffic dashboard.
Setting your goals is the first step. The most important part comes next. That’s creating a plan.
For example, Brent Barnhart has a goal to increase leads that he gets from social media.
“There’s the growing expectation for businesses to be active on social and rightfully so,” says Barnhart. “But it’s especially important for freelancers looking to “put themselves out there.”
To make the most of my time on social, I keep a close eye on the data tied to my goal of more leads. For example, which channels result in most contacts? What’s driving those leads to reach out in the first place? I know that I receive the most direct inquiries from LinkedIn without even looking at my data. That said, I notice via Google Analytics the people who spend the most time on my site and use my Contact form comes from Twitter.”
Anna Rubkiewicz of Contentki adds, “If your goal is resemblant of a to-do list (for example, publishing 10 landing pages that rank for specific SEO phrases), try using a time tracking system like Toggl to see how much it actually takes to get a single page published. This way, you’ll know how much time you must really put aside to deliver. I’ve found that when you’re not tracking your time meticulously, it’s easy to omit the small, operational tasks that take up time when you work on achieving a bigger goal.”
Brittany Hovsepian of The Expert Home Buyers says, “Our marketing goal was to generate 20 high-quality seller leads our first month. We then doubled our marketing budget based on sales and generated 2.5 times the original leads.”
Monitoring goals helped James Dyble of Global Sound Group hit his traffic goal in 2019.
“I set a goal at the start of 2019 for our website to hit a certain number of visitors,” says Dyble. “Now that it is coming to the end of the year, I am pleased to say that the marketing goals have been met. This is mainly down to clear strategies and constant monitoring. Also, a hard-working and diligent team force.”
“I use a marketing automation tool to track different goals, and I create different user journey maps to see how my campaign is performing,” adds Hardik Gohil of Simform.
“While most companies have monthly goals, it’s important not to try to reach them in a rush on Day 30,” says Angela Ash of Flow SEO. That’s why it’s a great idea to consider moving more toward weekly goals so that your motivation (and your success) stay consistent. Look at your numbers from last week, and try to top them, even if it’s by one number. We should know by now that it ALL adds up!”
Irina Papuc of Galactic Fed agrees, “Linkbuilding is one of our core services (too), so we have weekly goals for each of our clients. Since the clients need a particular amount of links, depending on their strategy, we create a plan as a team that would allow us to fulfill that service for them on time and with the quality required.”
In addition, there are so many tools available today to help you keep track of your goals. Some of the top choices from the marketers we surveyed were Google Analytics, Google Sheets, Databox, and Hubspot.
In sum, goal-setting is both an art and a science. You may want to set aggressive goals that are going to propel forward, but they also need to be grounded in reality. In fact, poorly-structured or impossible goals can actually be demotivating as well as incentivize the wrong activities. Whereas, a well-thought-out goal and plan can propel your team and business to new heights.
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