How effective is your marketing strategy? That’s a relatively straightforward question, but one the answer to which appears to elude the lion’s share of marketers.
According to Hubspot, for example, an alarming 55% of B2B marketers in a recent survey confessed that they didn’t know what content marketing “success or effectiveness” would look like. Only 32% said they had a “documented content marketing strategy,” and just 28% hadn’t even taken the time to construct an editorial mission statement.
Those are alarming admissions, especially when you consider that those same marketers are spending about one of every three marketing dollars on content marketing. Think about that: thousands of businesses are spending massive amounts of money to do something the results of which they can’t effectively assess.
Imagine if you applied that approach to any other substantive pursuit, like your education, for example. Imagine coming home from college over Thanksgiving break, being asked by mom and dad how you’re doing, and answering, “I don’t know,” or “OK, I guess.” In answer to the predictable follow-up, “well, what are your grades so far, this semester?” you respond, “How would I know?” There’s a reasonably good chance you’d find yourself financing your own education from that moment forward, and understandably so.
You Can’t Measure Success If You Don’t Have Clearly Defined Goals
For many of these businesses, the problem is more than an inability to effectively measure progress (although that, too, continues to be an issue which vexes many of them). For many, there’s a prior challenge: they don’t know what it is they’re trying to achieve. Another survey, this one from Smart Insights, points out the extent of this problem. According to that analysis, only 34% of businesses say they have a “clearly defined digital marketing strategy.” A plurality of 49% say, somewhat unabashedly, “We are doing digital marketing, but no defined strategy.”
For “no defined strategy,” read “we don’t know what it is we’re trying to accomplish,” or (a bit more generously), “we know what we’re trying to achieve—sort of.” This is, to say the least, a sad state of affairs, one which arguably predicts both disjointed marketing efforts, and most likely not particularly impressive results.
Start by Setting SMART Marketing Goals
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: you don’t pull your marketing goals out of a hat. Their function, after all, is to help you move your company forward, to promote your brand, drive sales and grow your business. That means they need to be clear, grounded in metrics, and measurable.
In fact, your marketing goals should have five principal characteristics, one which marketers have rendered as a useful acronym, “SMART,” which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realisticand Timed. Understanding what’s intended by each element of this acronym will help you effectively integrate them into your marketing strategy:
“Specific” means more than “clear.” It also means limited. Said differently, for each intended outcome, you should have a single goal, not 2 or 3. Let’s say, for example, you want to add a new product. That means doing market research, developing your product, and creating an effective marketing plan to ensure the success of your product launch. Those are 3 different outcomes, and each should be associated with its own, discrete goal.
How will you measure progress toward meeting a goal, and its ultimate accomplishment? This is where your goal-setting strategy abandons any subjectivity and begins to introduce metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). It’s not enough to say, in other words, “we’re going to generate more leads.”
For your goal to be measurable, you need to say, “we’re going to generate an additional 500, sales-ready leads each month.” You then need to define, again leveraging metrics, precisely what you mean by “sales-ready.” If you don’t have a strategy to measure the attainment of goals, you dramatically reduce the odds that you’ll actually achieve them.
Let’s say one of your goals is to have retained 80% of your current customers over the next five years. Let’s add that in this, the first year of that plan, you’ve retained 75% of your current customer base. Do the math. The percentage of current customers you retain isn’t going to increase over the next 4 years – it is, of course, going to fall off.
That goal isn’t achievable. Similarly, if your business has a history of increasing profits 5% every year for the past five years, it doesn’t make sense to set of goal of 20% growth over the next five years – that’s almost certainly not going to happen. To achieve your goals, they need to be grounded is solid data analysis and achievable.
At first blush, this seems synonymous with “achievable,” but there’s a key difference. For goals to be realistic, your business needs to have the necessary resources to achieve them.
An ecommerce business might, for example, have a product that consumers want and the internal team to produce it, but you won’t achieve a sales goal if you don’t have an effective fulfillment and distribution plan in place. Other resources you might need to consider are an ecommerce website that works, or an advertising budget sufficient to give your new product the exposure it needs.
Every successful marketing campaign has a well-defined beginning, middle and end. Saying, “we’re going to increase sales by 10%” leaves on the table a conspicuous omission – in what timeframe is this goal going to be achieved? Will it be 6 months, 1 year or 5 years? For goals to be SMART, each should be associated with a clear timeline, one which accommodates the need to make adjustments and tweaks based on observed results.
So, What Does a SMART Marketing Goal Look Like?
What would a marketing goal that meets these five criteria look like? Let’s begin by looking at some goals which are not SMART. For example, if you’ve concluded that you’re not generating enough leads to fill your sales pipeline, a poorly-defined marketing goal would be, “We need more website traffic,” or “I want to rank higher in Google for these keywords,” or “we need more email subscribers.” Although these are laudable sentiments, they’re not SMART. They’re not specific, or measurable, or timed.
SMART marketing goals, by contrast, would look more like this:
- Within 6 months, we will rank on the first page of Google search results for the keyword, “italian restaurants fort lauderdale florida”
- We will generate 1,000 new leads from our landing page by the end of this year
- We will increase creation and publication of compounding blogs from current 4 per month to 10 per month within 6 weeks
- We will increase net revenues from $2 million per year to $2.5 million per year within one year
These SMART goals assume, of course, that effective analysis has demonstrated that they are both achievable and realistic.
To Effectively Measure Results, You Need a Data Dashboard
Setting SMART goals is the first step toward achieving them, but you also need a reliable tool to measure your progress, this is so you can make strategic changes when that progress doesn’t align with your timeline. You could ask your marketing team for reams of marketing reports and Excel spreadsheets, but interpreting that tsunami of disconnected data will likely leave you looking for a better alternative.
That better alternative is a smart analytic program and an easy-to-interpret data dashboard. Think of your data dashboard as the control panel for your business, one which permits you to see multiple KPIs simultaneously, and which to this extent helps you make more informed marketing decisions.
Your data dashboard will substantially increase the odds that you make those smart decisions, and that your marketing campaigns are successful. Specifically, a robust data dashboard will help your business in the following three ways.
- You’ll see results as a visual display: to better engage their customers and market their products and services, businesses are creating increasingly granular data, demographic, psychographic, behavioral and sales-related. Those massive amounts of seemingly disconnected data points can be difficult to interpret, with significant trends remaining elusive (one of the reasons 30% of businesses say they find it difficult to distinguish useful from irrelevant data). A dashboard will condense all your data and present it in a visual format, including charts, tables and metrics, that you can interpret easily and intuitively.
- You can customize a dashboard to meet your specific business needs: no two businesses are the same. Although they tend to share a common set goals and strategies in a general sense, they need data reporting which has been customized to fit the specific needs of their business. The best data dashboards can be configured to align with the goals of not any business, but your business, and for this reason they’ll help you make smart business decisions.
- You’ll see data in real time: batch marketing reports take time to assemble. By the time you see them, key conditions might have changed. That delay can be costly to business, especially when your company is marketing in a highly-competitive industry. Your dashboard will collect and present data in real time, greatly reducing lag time and helping you make the decisions you need to make quickly, efficiently, and based on the most recently available data. Metrics which appear on your dashboard will change as conditions change, and that increases your ability to make improvements and informed decisions.
Setting these kinds of goals will help you move your business forward beginning with a realistic analysis of where you are now. It encompasses the establishment of goals which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. It ends with the implementation of a data dashboard which provides your business with the kind of actionable reporting that allows you to make informed decisions that help you succeed.
To learn more about the ways our free and affordable data dashboards will help you monitor, measure, and optimize your marketing efforts to boost sales and grow your business, start your free data dashboard now!