Are you Practicing Goals-Based Marketing?


Why do marketers need to set clear goals and stick to them?

Marketing is one of the most strategic functions of a company when executed correctly. In a perfect world, marketing defines products/services, the target audience, messaging, competitive positioning, distribution channels, communication vehicles, and how the product/service is priced and packaged. For this reason, creating a strategy and tactics without first carefully and clearly defining a set of goals that align with company initiatives is a risky proposition that could negatively impact the overall business.

Why do marketers lose sight of the goals set at the beginning of the year

If we as marketers are honest with ourselves, the marketing planning process is rarely smooth. We start with the company objectives that we use to create the marketing plan and allocate the budget amount we think will achieve them.

Too often after we finalize our marketing plan and budget, the company direction changes three months into executing the plan. As nimble marketers, we flex to execute a new set of tactical requirements (most likely lead generation) to solve the urgent problem thrust upon us.  But, do we revisit the original plan and budget we created (most likely lost in a PowerPoint deck or Google Sheets) to modify or reset the goals when changes arise so there is visibility, continuity, and consistency across the team? Unfortunately, too often the answer is “no” and the original plan quickly becomes irrelevant and the age-old tradition of aimless, busy-work marketing ensues.

There are six primary reasons marketers lose sight of their goals:

  • Missing revenue targets creates desperation marketing activities to fill the pipeline
  • The management team regularly changes priorities or is unaligned, creating confusion
  • Team turnover, especially leadership, hurts continuity across different functions
  • A tactically focused junior team that never understood the goals in the first place
  • The marketing plan was misaligned the stated goals, or worse, built without goals
  • The goals live a slide deck delivered at the beginning of the year, now collecting dust

Since most marketing teams are made up of different functions, team members may have their own unique methods for managing the plan and budget. This by nature will create inconsistencies in how the different functions on the marketing team interpret the best way to achieve the stated goals.  In addition, team members may have different processes and communication vehicles for the goals, resulting in a lack of visibility and accountability.  This limited visibility of the goals will cause marketers to create tactical, rudderless campaigns and programs, which will manifest itself into spending on the wrong activities and creating budget risk.

Further complicating things, marketing budget management is typically a finance activity with too much emphasis on how much is spent versus highlighting the value of what each monetary line item represents toward achieving the marketing goals.

Typically, the finance team provides marketing with a budget number at the beginning of the year and forces them to build a plan from it. This guesswork approach is backward – the goals and plan need to come first. It also puts pressure on the marketing team to spend the full budget, even if it is not necessary to achieve the goals.  It is wasteful, empty-calorie marketing if the budget is not aligned with achieving the stated goals.

How to define goals

Defining goals can be very easy or complicated depending on the stage of your company. Companies that are smaller may have more to accomplish, but they have fewer resources to achieve and track a broad set of goals.  For larger established companies, the goals may be clearer, but with a large team comes a variety of individual goals that must support marketing initiatives and company objectives.

In any case, the first step in the process is to get executive team alignment on the company objectives. Marketing will most likely have a significant role in achieving many of the company objectives, so it’s critical that plans and budgets are created with the goals in mind.  In order to ensure this is carried out, you must also get buy-in from the full marketing team on topline goals so everyone is marching in the same direction. Without executive alignment and marketing team buy-in on the goals, confusion on strategy and tactics will follow.

When establishing what you need to achieve for the upcoming year, remember not all goals can be accurately measured.  For this reason, marketers should feel comfortable using a mixture of both quantitative (i.e. the number of leads) and qualitative (i.e. rebrand the company) goals.  Whether you work for a large company or a small one, all goals can be consolidated into three topline marketing objectives: 

      • Sales (maintaining or expanding the business)
      • Awareness (getting the word out)
      • Perception (manage the brand, positioning, and messaging)

Don’t agree? Try to come up with a marketing goal that does not fit into one of these objectives.  You may find a goal, such a product launch, that could help achieve all three of these topline objectives but it always comes back to these three. Below is a chart containing examples of commonly used goals demonstrating how neatly they fit under these top-level objectives.

Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 11.34.28 AM

After defining your quantitative and qualitative goals, you will be ready to build your marketing strategy to achieve them.  Ensure your marketing budget is sufficient enough to achieve each goal and build a set of campaigns that are designed to optimize performance against the goal.  Ideally, your goals, plan, campaigns, programs, activities, budget and performance metrics should all be kept in the same place so they are all interconnected and visible at all times for collaboration… just in case the latest sales crisis arises.

Lastly, ask yourself this question: how much time did I put into creating the goals?  If the answer is less than 10 minutes (be honest), then you are most likely not setting optimized or achievable goals.  For the next blog post in this “Goals-Driven Marketing” series, we will be giving you the process to determine your goals, create a measurement layer, and align the strategies for achieving the goals (come back next week).

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