Setting Effective SMART Marketing Goals
Your marketing goals define your current plan of action. Be smart about how you map out your marketing efforts by defining your goals and objectives—in advance of that action—though the SMART framework.
Every marketing effort should come from your marketing goals (opens in a new tab). And setting SMART goals in marketing is a great way to get started.
Too often when companies are looking to get started with integrated marketing, they go straight to the tools. What are the right keywords to rank for? Should we use Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? Should we be writing content four times a day or fifty seven times a month? Should we invest in this trade show or sponsor that event?
SEO, content, paid search, and social efforts are all fundamental pieces to a successful marketing approach that avoids siloing. But they are simply tools and part of the path to advancing your initiatives. Your efforts will be much more successful (and a whole lot easier to get off the ground) if you start with goals and KPIs.
Setting SMART Marketing Goals
When it comes to building communities and engaging an audience (opens in a new tab), we don't always see immediate results. As a result, it can be a struggle to prove that our efforts are actually going to provide a ROI.
But marketers know "the grind" too well. We're accustomed to these kind of occupational hazards. And we know that the secret of truly spectacular marketing is well-founded and measurable goals.
So we’ve adapted the SMART goal framework to assist us in our goal-setting efforts. We should be setting SMART goals in marketing.
But What Are SMART Marketing Goals?
SMART marketing goals is a framework for successful goal setting. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
When it comes to earning buy-in and winning over even the most skeptical executive, the SMART goal principle can move mountains. More importantly, using it provides you the opportunity to define the purpose of your efforts.
Think through each part of the framework to identify what your marketing objectives and goals are and how you'll measure them. Working through this approach will also help you determine whether your goals are possible, and when exactly it will be accomplished.
Here’s how we work through each step in the SMART goal framework to set goals for integrated marketing efforts:
STEP ONE: Specific Marketing Goals
Define goals for both revenue and for your brand
The goals you define for your company—both for your specific marketing initiatives as well as for your company as a whole—set the tone. They communicate what’s a priority, what you hope to accomplish, and ensure accountability.
It’s important that when you’re setting these goals that you’re setting them both for revenue and the success of the brand.
Marketing Objective and Goal Examples: Revenue
For a product based company, you may set a revenue marketing goal to increase software subscriptions by 10%. For a services based company, your revenue goals could be to increase lead form inquiries by 10%. In this step you're mapping out a specific revenue goal and how you hope to achieve it.
Marketing Objective and Goal Examples: Brand
Brand marketing goals are more difficult to measure but incredibly important to set. Your company may want to set a specific brand goal to be known as the go-to expert in your industry for analytics software. Or perhaps you want to set some simple brand goals like growing a higher quality email list, driving more blog traffic, or winning Google answer boxes for a specific list of targeted keywords.
Setting both revenue and brand marketing goals up front will help you convey the importance of both types of goals in your marketing approach. They will define how you approach content creation, technical SEO, demand campaigns, and more. It's how you set your strategy up for success.
Once you’ve defined your specific revenue and brand goals, now you’re ready to determine how you’re going to make those goals measurable.
STEP TWO: Measurable Marketing Goals
Determine key performance indicators (KPIs)
Defining success early on is crucial in order to measure your ongoing progress. What criteria, or key performance indicators (KPIs), will you use to illustrate you’ve achieved success?
Determining KPIs for revenue marketing goals is pretty straight forward:
However, defining KPIs for brand marketing goals tend to be a little bit more subjective. Depending on the brand goals that you’re setting, key performance indicators in integrated marketing may include things like:
- increase in conversation, amplification & applause (on your blog and on social media)
- increase in natural social shares of your content
- increase in the percentage of both branded and non-branded SEO traffic
- increase in the percentage of new visits to your website
- decrease in bounce rate
- increase in page depth
- increase in micro conversions/goal completions
- increase in form submissions
- increase (or perhaps decrease) in phone calls
- increase in revenue
- increase in visitor loyalty
- decrease in funnel abandonment rate
Matching both revenue and brand KPIs to your specific goals will make it much easier to measure your efforts, communicate success, and also determine whether there needs to be an adjustment in your integrated marketing efforts.
On a side note, be aware that effectively communicating results (opens in a new tab) is just as important as identifying them in the first place. Reporting on both revenue and brand KPIs will help to communicate the whole picture of your efforts and illustrate how your efforts are affecting the entire brand (not just immediate revenue).
Now that you’ve matched KPIs to your specific revenue and brand goals, let’s address whether they’re in the realm of possibility.
STEP THREE: Attainable Marketing Goals
Assess the ability to accomplish your goals
Setting marketing goals is the easy part. Determining whether you can actually accomplish what you’ve set before you is another story. You certainly don’t want to set goals that are so steep you’ll never accomplish them, or are so easy that they weren’t worth setting in the first place.
Use data to figure out whether your goals are attainable. One attainable marketing goal example: If you’re shooting for a 10% increase in subscribers and subscriptions have been steadily increasing by 6% over the last 3 months, getting to 10% with some additional efforts and new strategic direction is most likely attainable.
On the flip side, maybe that goal is too easily reached or the gap is too large. When you’re working through the Attainable step in the SMART goals framework, you want to evaluate the possibility of accomplishing what you set out to do and ensure you’ve set challenging, yet attainable, goals.
If you don’t yet have the data to determine trends, start with a baseline, put the proper tracking in place, and begin collecting the data as soon as possible.
Once you’ve analyzed the possibility of achieving your goals, you can have a realistic discussion with your team.
STEP FOUR: Realistic Marketing Goals.
Verify that what you’re proposing is practical
The Realistic SMART goal step provides an opportunity to chat with your team about whether the goals are realistic. Is your team up for the challenge? Do they think it can be done?
Combined with a discussion about the time-sensitive nature of these goals (discussed in the step below), present your logic to your team and ask for feedback (and ultimately buy-in). Then, once you’ve matched your goals and KPIs with actual time-sensitive expectations in the next step, you’re ready to begin developing an effective, goal-oriented marketing strategy.
STEP FIVE: Timely Marketing Goals
Designate short and long term marketing goals
How long will it take to reach the goals you’ve set forth? Match your goals to timeframes. Let's look back at the timeliness of our previous marketing goal example of increasing software subscriptions by 10%. How long will it take to achieve a 10% increase in software subscriptions? How much time is necessary to become a thought leader in your space? Discuss the reality of how long it will take to accomplish your goals early on. This will make for a much more peaceful integrated marketing adventure.
Inherently you'll achieve some of your marketing goals in the short term (3/6/9 months), and some will require more time (12/18/24 months) to accomplish. And that’s why it’s so important to address expectations of delivery as you’re setting goals.
Will you spend the first 30 to 60 days conducting research, analyzing data, optimizing assets, and setting the foundation? If that’s the case, you may not begin aggressively working toward goals until you’re two months in (which can greatly impact delivery of results). If that’s the case, now’s your chance to make this known.
When designating both short term goals, determine whether there are short-term gains that can be made right away. Prioritize these smaller victories so that you get buy-in as you work toward accomplishing longer term goals.
As far as long term goals go, what efforts need to be set up in the short term so that you don't lose ground early on? Take a look at the whole picture of both short and long term goal timeframes during this final step. Be sure to come back to this conversation as you march forward and are sensing doubt from the team.
Now that you're familiar with the SMART framework, use this infographic as a handy reminder.
Rinse & Repeat
Using the SMART goal framework to set marketing goals will help keep your company focused, effective, and efficient. More importantly it will allow for imperative conversations to happen throughout the process.
Keep in mind that goal setting is a dynamic process. You'll can always refine your goals and work toward new challenges. Keep the communication lines open on your team, and you’ll set your entire team up for success.