When you want to meet a friend at a new restaurant, how do you get there? Well, if you’re like most people, you pull out your phone, type the address into Google maps and follow the directions.
Pretty simple, right?
That’s the exact same approach you should take when it comes to defining and achieving your marketing objectives. You start by deciding on your destination (your objectives), then plan out your roadmap to get there.
In this guide I’ll walk you through how to come up with marketing objectives that make sense for your business. We’ll then look at how to determine your #1 objective, where most businesses go wrong, how to map your marketing objectives back to your funnel, how to measure everything and then how to create and execute on your marketing roadmap.
So strap yourself in – it’s going to be a fun ride!
Why Marketing Objectives Matter
Without clear objectives driving your marketing efforts, how can you tell if you’re moving in the right direction and implementing the right strategies along the way?
Beyond being the compass that guides you (our last travel reference, I promise!), creating marketing objectives also:
- Gives your team a sense of direction and a common goal to work towards
- Provides real metrics you can track to see how you’re progressing every week
- Shows you where to allocate your time and resources for the best results, making your team more efficient with the resources they have
- Takes the guesswork out of how you can reach your goals
- Help you motivate and reward your team when they meet their objectives
- Most importantly, helps grow your revenue or profit in a measurable way
To get a better idea of how important it is to have your marketing objectives defined, let’s look at two very different examples and outcomes.
Let’s start with Boo.com, which was a British Internet company launched in the late 1990s. Created to be the premiere online clothing site, Boo.com raised millions of dollars from their investors to pay for a large staff, print materials like magazines and marketing to (supposedly) make the company an overnight success. It was even named one of Europe’s coolest companies by Fortune magazine before they even sold anything. But when the site actually launched, it not only fell flat, it sank faster than the Titanic.
The company burned through $135 million of investor’s money in just 18 months. That’s $7.5 million every month that went down the drain – just in case you were wondering 🙂
So where did they go wrong?
Well, Boo.com didn’t have a well-defined growth plan in place before they started. They focused on the end result (having a highly valuable company) instead of what it would take to get there (an actual plan that involved hiring, lead generation and customer acquisition strategies).
Boo.com’s management team wasn’t able to answer these questions when they were asked by a potential investor:
- How many website visitors are you aiming for?
- What kind of conversion rate are you aiming for?
- How much does each customer have to spend to generate a profit?
- What’s your customer acquisition cost?
- What’s your payback time on that customer acquisition cost?
They had no grasp on what their marketing objectives should’ve been – and of course, the results were devastating. How could they expect to grow if they didn’t know their numbers?
OK, now let’s shift gears and look at an example we’re all familiar with – Amazon. Funnily enough, you can actually purchase a book about the Boo.com demise on Amazon. Oh, the irony!
Amazon also got starts in the 90s, but took a completely different approach with its marketing objectives.
For starters, Jeff Bezos (the founder & CEO) actually took the time to determine Amazon’s marketing objectives up front.
Instead of putting profits ahead of the customer experience, Amazon created its mission statement first, which was:
“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
Amazon’s objective even today, is to meet customers’ needs, which results in repeat sales from happy customers. I guarantee you that Amazon could answer all of the questions Boo.com received from that potential investor.
That’s because Jeff Bezos understood his metrics and had a roadmap in place that helped him determine the specific actions required to make them a reality.
“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
This simply means that if you want to improve a specific objective in your business, you need to start by measuring it first.
But, what should you be measuring and how do you create marketing objectives that will result in the growth you’re after?
Those are two important questions you need to answer, so you can become more like Amazon and less like Boo.com.
Let’s jump in and start there.
How To Define Your Marketing Objectives
First and foremost, you need to know the specific marketing objectives you’re working towards before you can start executing against any sort of plan.
One tried-and-true framework is the S.M.A.R.T. approach, which means all of your objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound.
Let’s quickly look at how we can use S.M.A.R.T. objectives in our marketing plan.
First up, your objectives need to be specific. There shouldn’t be any room for interpretation or ambiguity. Specific goals form the foundation of every great marketing plan.
For example, “improve the conversion rate of our website to 15%” is better than “grow revenue”.
Your marketing objectives should also be measurable, so make sure they are quantifiable in some way. Also, make sure you have the appropriate tools in place to measure them on a regular basis.
For example, if you want to increase your website’s conversion rate to 15%, how will you measure that? Do you have a tool like Google Analytics in place?
The simple key here is to make sure each of your objectives includes a number that can be measured regularly without too much heavy lifting or spreadsheet trickery.
Once you’ve determined your marketing objectives and set a deadline, you’ll want to make sure they’re attainable.
So what does that mean? Well, you’ll want to make sure you have the skills, tools and team to achieve each objective. If your marketing team is just 2 people and you plan to start selling your products in other countries, for example, that’s a bit of a stretch. You might need to first go out and hire a few more people to make that an attainable objective.
You can have the biggest, most ambitious objectives in the world, but if they’re not realistically attainable then you’re setting your business up for failure from day one.
So what’s a good example of an attainable marketing objective? “Increase the conversion rate of our website to 15% by hiring a marketing agency that focuses on Conversion Rate Optimization” is better than “increase the conversion rate of our website by 800%”.
See how the first objective is not only specific and measurable, but also attainable with a specific strategy to make it a reality (hiring a marketing agency)?
Beyond being achievable, your marketing objectives should also be realistic. You can say you want to triple the number of visitors to your website in the next month, but if that’s not at least some-what realistic, you’ll eventually get frustrated and give up.
Instead of setting a target by pulling it out of thin air, start by looking at your current metrics. For example, if your website is seeing 5% growth in terms of visitors every month, then maybe aim for 7% next month, 10% the month after that, etc.
Now keep in mind that realistic objectives can still be ambitious. No one is telling you to aim low. Definitely aim high, but make sure you have a realistic chance of achieving each of the objectives you come up with.
Your objective also needs to be time bound. In simple terms, that means assigning a due date to each of your objectives.
The due date will provide your team with motivation and a sense of urgency to make progress each and every day. The due date will also help you accurately forecast if you’re on track to achieve each of your objectives too.
Going back to our earlier example, “by July 1st, increase the conversion rate of our website to 15% by hiring a marketing agency that focuses on Conversion Rate Optimization” is better than “increase the conversion rate of our website to 15% by hiring a marketing agency that focuses on Conversion Rate Optimization”.
Here are some S.M.A.R.T. examples to help you out:
- Increase the conversion rate of organic visitors from 10% to 15% by December 1st
- Grow sales from existing customers by 25% between now and June 1st
- Get 20 new sales-qualified leads by March 15th
- Reduce the bounce rate of our web site to 35% by August 1st
- Increase our profit margin to 45% by the end of Q2
I’m sure you get the idea. By constantly remembering the S.M.A.R.T. framework, you’ll not only have marketing objectives that make sense, but you’ll also be much more likely to achieve them.
One final point – make sure you have a way to track each of your marketing objectives and document what they were when you started, so you can see progress along the way. There’s no point having an end goal in mind when you don’t know your starting point.
Revenue Or Profit? Choose One.
Part of creating your marketing objectives is to determine where you want to take your business over the next 12 months. To help clarify that, you really need to set your #1 marketing objective.
The good news? It’s either revenue growth or profit growth. That’s it. So just ask yourself “Is my objective to grow our revenue or profit this year?”.
Then, of course, you want to set your #1 marketing objective using the S.M.A.R.T. framework:
- Grow our revenue to $2M by December 31st
- Grow our revenue by 50% by December 31st
- Increase our profit to $1M by December 31st
- Increase our profit margin to 45% by December 31st
If you’re just getting started then revenue growth is much more important than generating a profit. After all, you can’t have a good-sized profit on a low revenue number.
So what kind of marketing objectives will help increase your revenue?
- More website visitors
- Increasing your conversion rate
- Increasing your prices
- Selling to a higher-quality customer base
- Upselling to your existing customer base
If you’re a more established business with revenue in the millions or tens of millions of dollars already, then optimizing for an increased profit can make more sense.
What kind of marketing objectives can help increase your profit?
- Reducing your cost to acquire a new customer
- Increasing your prices
- Upselling to your existing customer base
- Improving the quality of your leads
It really is up to you to determine your #1 marketing objective based on the size of your business.
All of your other marketing objectives should assist in helping you achieve your #1 marketing objective, so it becomes a symbiotic relationship. If your #1 objective is revenue growth, then optimizing your costs to improve your profit margins wouldn’t be one of your marketing objectives, for example.
You can now work backwards from your #1 objective to set your other marketing objectives. As a general rule, you shouldn’t have more than 3 or 4 total objectives – otherwise you end up spreading your resources too thinly.
Really focus on coming up with objectives that help you grow your revenue or profit – don’t focus on “vanity metrics” like number of Facebook followers, number of likes, number of PR mentions, etc. Leave those for your competitors to obsess over.
Focus everything back to revenue or profit.
Where Most Companies Go Wrong
OK, so you’ve got your #1 marketing objective and a few others in place. Great. Now you need to ask yourself a few clarifying questions to massively improve your odds of success:
- Can I easily access and capture the data I’m measuring?
- Is there any ambiguity in interpreting the results?
- Is the objective actionable?
- Does the objective measure what we are aiming to measure?
- Will the results be the same no matter who retrieves them?
- Is the objective worth the cost to measure the results?
- Does the objective only measure what the company wants to measure?
If you can’t answer each of these questions with a “YES”, then you might need to reassess your marketing objectives.
— Mark Fidelman (@markfidelman) January 2, 2017
How To Map Your Objectives To Your Marketing Funnel
So, you’ve got solid marketing objectives in place and you’re ready to get to work. Not so fast…
Here’s what happens at each level of the funnel:
- ToFu: Attract new website visitors or leads
- MoFu: Convert them into qualified leads that are receptive to your products
- BoFu: Close the sale (making them a customer) and continue to delight them so they remain happy customers
The goal with your marketing funnel is simple – attract website visitors, convert them into interested leads and then eventually to happy customers.
The key with marketing is to realize that the funnel is a linear, sequential process. You can’t skip ToFu and MoFu and turn strangers into customers. Everyone has to proceed through your funnel in order. Top, middle, then bottom. No exceptions.
So how does this relate back to your marketing objectives? Great question!
You need to make sure you’ve got clearly defined objectives that map back to each part of your marketing funnel:
- ToFu: You need an objective related to getting more website visitors
- MoFu: You need an objective related to converting those visitors into leads
- BoFu: You need an objective related to converting those leads into customers
You might end up with something like this:
- #1 marketing objective: grow revenue to $4M by Dec 31st
- ToFu objective: grow website visitors to 10,000 per month by Dec 31st
- MoFu objective: increase visitor-to-lead conversion rate to 15% by Dec 31st
- BoFu objective: increase lead-to-customer conversion rate to 20% by Dec 31st
These are S.M.A.R.T. objectives and each objective can easily be broken down into an action plan so you can start making immediate (but most importantly, measurable) progress.
You’d be surprised at how many businesses focus 100% of their marketing objectives on the bottom of the funnel only. Then they wonder why their conversion rate is so high, but no one visits their web site.
Aligning your marketing objectives back to your funnel is one of the smartest things you can do when it comes to growing your business in a way that’s consistent.
Measure Every Marketing Objective
Remember our Peter Drucker quote from earlier? “What gets measured gets managed”? Well yeah, that’s what this section is all about 🙂
It really comes down to this – how will you know if you’re on track to achieve your marketing objectives if you can’t measure your progress along the way?
Short answer – you won’t.
That’s why it’s so important to measure everything.
Gone are the days of hiring developers to create custom marketing dashboards from scratch. Today there are lots of great analytics and Business Intelligence (BI) platforms available that make it easy to track everything that’s important to your business.
While reviewing each of these platforms is beyond the scope of this guide, you’ll obviously want to consider your budget, timeframe and skills within your team when it comes to choosing a platform that’s right for your business, but here are some of our favorites:
- Google Analytics: Google Analytics is free, relatively easy to use and can track everything you need in one place. There’s also a great chance your existing website is already set up to track visitors, leads and other marketing objectives using Google Analytics – just check with your marketing team.
- HubSpot: Great for medium and large businesses who want not only reporting and tracking, but an entire marketing platform, including SEO, SEM, landing pages, blogging and more. Because it can do so much, Hubspot can be a bit overwhelming at first and is best suited for companies with existing, in-house marketing teams.
- Looker: The new kid on the block getting all of the hype and buzz lately. Looker is great for aggregating your data from different sources and helping you make sense of it with simple charts, reports and other visualization tools.
While Google Analytics is free, the old adage “you get what you pay for” comes to mind here. Google Analytics is great for getting started and has some good basic reports, but when you’re ready to “level up”, it’s definitely worth checking out the free trials offered by Hubspot and Looker.
A Call To Action
So let’s do a quick recap of everything we’ve covered so far. We started by getting a good understanding of what marketing objectives are and why they’re important to the continued and sustained growth of your business.
We then looked at the S.M.A.R.T. framework and created your marketing objectives by mapping them back to your funnel. Finally, we wrapped up by looking at a few analytics platforms that will help you measure your progress along the way.
So what’s left to do? Well, as Guy Kawasaki says, “the art is in the start”. Like everything else in business, the key is not to overthink it.
Set your #1 marketing objective (revenue or profit growth), create your ToFu/MoFu/BoFu objectives, think about how you can measure them regularly and get to work creating a roadmap to achieve your objectives.