“An undefined goal is unreachable” – Brian Tracy
Goals are crucial for any business – how else are you giving your company any direction? Your business plan included them, and your marketing plan includes them as well (or should).
Everything you do towards marketing your company must support your marketing goals. That sounds, and is, high-level and lofty, so it’s important to break down the big goals into smaller chunks. Those smaller chunks can help you wrap your mind around what you need do, while still keeping sight of the big picture.
In online marketing, the one big, important goal – the One Goal to Rule Them All – is conversions. A conversion is when members of your marketing audience do what you want them to do. In other words, they respond to your call to action, whatever that is. This is the one that has the most direct impact on your bottom line. It could be buying a product from your online store, it could be making an appointment for your service- whatever you do to make a sale.
Defining your goals is vital, and so is defining the measurements that feed into your goals. But there’s a trick to defining your goals. You have to be SMART about them. Goals need to be:
Specific: It’s much better to say, “I want to increase the number of customers to my e-commerce store by 25%.” than it is to say, “I want to grow my online business.” One is vague, and the other is, well, specific.
Measurable: You must be able to measure your progress towards your goal. If your goal is new clients, and you’ve said you want to have 25% more, how many did you gain in the past month? Past quarter? How can you figure out your progress if you’re not keeping track?
Attainable: Is your goal something you can achieve? I don’t mean achieve with some effort – that’s called a stretch goal. I mean achieve at all. Dreaming big for the high-level stuff is great, but you’re setting yourself up for failure if your goals are too lofty. Get a reality check from your industry’s professional association to see what kind of growth is reasonable. Set your goals accordingly.
Realistic: Are your goals grounded in reality? Do they take the current business climate into account? It’s important to keep your goals relevant to market conditions.
Time-bound: Goals are best tracked with an end date, so you have a finite period of time to measure. Your goal of new customers is best described as “I want to increase the number of customers to my e-commerce store by 25% in one year.”
You might have heard the term “smart goals” before. It’s used for performance management in corporate America, and it’s recommended for small businesses. I find them helpful. For me, putting my SMART goals down on paper helps to add some accountability – if only to myself – for achieving those goals.
- Provide focus: There is so much noise in the online world, this can help drown out what’s not important for your business.
- Clarity on progress: because your goals, and the channels that support them, are measurable, you know exactly how far you have to go to accomplish them.
- Planning is part of the process: the details of how to accomplish the goal are planned in advance. Planning activities makes executing those activities much easier.
- Staying on track: when you’re monitoring and measuring progress, you’ll see quickly if you need to make adjustments to your tactics in order to achieve your goals.
Once you’ve set your goals, you need to figure out the “how’s” of achieving them. Start to break them down into activities, tactics, and tasks (each with its own measurements). It’s useful to evaluate these over the course of your goals’ timeframe, and adjust as needed. The path towards achieving your goals shouldn’t be set in stone.
If you’re not comfortable putting all your marketing goals into this framework, try just one or two to see how it works for you.
In future posts, I’ll discuss measurements for online marketing channels, and how they can feed into a company’s SMART marketing goals.