Setting Better Marketing Goals: A How-to Guide

Jason Andrade
November 16, 2022

Every good marketing plan begins with clearly defined goals. You have to know what you want to accomplish before you can work out how to get there.

Goal-setting requires skill. To be useful, marketing goals have to be realistic and actionable. They have to find the balance between dreams of what you’d like to accomplish, and what’s reasonable based on the resources you have available and the results you’re getting now.

It can be a tricky balance to get right, but if you don’t strike a balance, your goals could end up leading you astray or distracting your team from the results that really matter.

To set the kind of marketing goals that you can build a truly effective marketing plan around, here are a few useful tips to keep in mind,

Look to Your Data

Your data gives you the information you need to accurately understand your present baseline. Before you set your sights on the future, perform an analysis of your current and past results. By looking at where you’ve been, you can ensure the goals you set are realistically within range while still providing room to challenge yourself.

Make Your Goals Specific

Vague goals don’t translate well to specific actions. “Bring in more leads” won’t spur your team to action the way that putting a clear number and deadline in front of them will. 

Your data analysis should enable you to bring specific numbers and timelines into the process. Every marketing team wants to perform better, but the ones most likely to achieve improved results do the work of breaking down their vague sense of wanting to improve into specific goals they can work toward.

Have a Hierarchy of Goals

While everyone in your marketing department should be working toward department goals like bringing in more customers and revenue, to get there, each team and individual should have smaller goals that drive them each to do their part in ensuring your organization finds success.

Having too many marketing goals has the potential to become a distraction, but as long as the high-priority goals are labeled as such, having smaller goals for different departments to focus on gives each person on your marketing staff something more specific and tangible to work toward.

Make Sure You Can Measure Your Goals

Many of the goals marketers talk about wanting to achieve are difficult to clearly translate into KPIs we can measure. How do you track brand awareness or engagement?

When you’re setting the goals you’ll be basing your marketing plan on, you should focus on factors you can clearly measure. For instance, instead of saying you want to “raise brand awareness,” say you want to “increase website traffic by 10% each month.”

Tie your goals back to marketing metrics you can track so you have a clear way to measure your progress as you go.

Keep the Long and Short View

Your goals should be tied to a clear timeline, but take care not to simply think in terms of quarter to quarter. Too much focus on short-term goals can sometimes detract from working toward your long-term efforts. You may find instances where being OK with hitting lower numbers in the coming months could mean making bigger sales in the years to come.

Tie Your Goals Back to Revenue

No matter what your roll-up goals are, they all need to relate back to helping the company make money. Your budget (and your job) depends on the company remaining up and to the right and the work you do is a key part of that.

A lot of marketing organizations struggle with connecting their goals and results back to the bottom line, but those that make revenue attribution a priority will be able to more accurately ensure the goals they set are those most likely to earn the company more.

When analyzing your marketing data, consider how your results relate to the bottom line. The marketing activities and results that have the biggest payout should be the ones you focus on most when setting your goals moving forward.

Evolve as You Go

While establishing long-term goals now is important, they don’t have to be set in stone. Your goals and your marketing plan can and should change as you gather new information.

Real-time marketing analytics allow you to course correct as you go whenever something you’re doing isn’t materializing as planned. You may determine that some of your short-term goals won’t contribute to your larger revenue goals as you’d expected and should be traded in for another approach.

And don’t be too concerned when you don’t meet initial projections. It may be that your goals were overly ambitious, or that something unexpected took your marketing plan off course. Whatever the cause, failure can be valuable. Each marketing move you make that doesn’t work provides you the opportunity to understand your audience better and make the changes to your marketing plan that will yield better results the next time around.

Your goals should help create a strong marketing plan and incentivize your team to aim for ever-improving results. As you collect more data on what’s working, learn from your marketing analytics to create better marketing goals that keep you on target.

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