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The Importance of Outlining What Marketing Success Looks Like
What’s in it for me? That’s the question many people ask when starting something new.
But too often, large marketing teams jump at new trends and start marketing programs without outlining what is in it for them.
Before starting an inbound marketing program, the most important step in the process is goal setting. Without goals, you can’t prioritize the most important aspects of transforming your online presence. You might start an inbound marketing program and then cast it aside for the next marketing buzzword because you aren’t sure if inbound was worth it.
Goals, analytics and KPIs should be foundational aspects of any marketing plan. Here’s why.
Why is goal setting important in inbound marketing?
Goal setting helps you establish why you’re doing what you’re doing. Without goals, you’ll never know whether you achieved what you set out to do. You can’t make adjustments to tactics if you don’t have a target you’re working toward. Here’s a look at three crucial reasons why setting goals should be part of your inbound marketing planning.
1. Ensures success
Without goals, you’ll just be starting something new without a strong concept of what happens next. Perhaps you set up some lead funnels on your website, design some fancy lead magnets and complete a one-time SEO audit. Now you’ve set yourself up for inbound marketing success, right?
Not necessarily. Your goals will tell you what comes next. No marketing tactic works like a Crockpot. You can’t just fix it and forget it and expect incredible results. You have to track progress, review progress to goals at least quarterly and adjust your plan to ensure it is optimized toward your end goals.
2. Helps align teams
Marketing heavily influences what happens in the sales department and customer service. The three teams should be collaborating closely. You’re warming up leads for the sales team, but if they don’t understand what a prospect has learned about your company before approaching sales, you’ll look disjointed.
When sitting down to set goals, make sure all major stakeholders are in the room. Talk about what everyone hopes to get out of the new initiatives. The goals for sales will look very different from what customer service hopes to achieve.
Write the goals down, prioritize them, set estimated timelines for when you’ll achieve each and agree on the overarching plan for your inbound marketing strategy.
3. Focuses efforts
Transitioning to an inbound marketing strategy doesn’t happen overnight or even in a month. It requires careful planning and then testing and retesting what works best based on your business and your target audience.
So where should we start with inbound marketing? Start with your most important goal in mind and work your way down the priority list.
Perhaps your first step is a customer-centric website that better reflects your target audience. A good rule of thumb is to use “you” more than “us” or “we.” That way you know you’re speaking to the customer’s pain points more than you’re touting how great you are.
It’s tough to know where to start if you don’t have goals. That can lead to some rework along the way as you discover you aren’t quite achieving what you’d hoped because you didn't document those hopes as goals.
4. Measure strategy success
While inbound marketing certainly offers a blueprint to follow, it’s a highly adaptable plan based on the company and the people it caters to. You should constantly be adapting your strategy to meet the needs of your customers.
As you learn from your customer service team new challenges your customers are facing or introduce new products, your strategy will need to adapt. But with change comes new benchmarks for success. You’ll never know if you’re meeting those benchmarks without clear goals and meticulous analytics tracking.
You might call the transition to inbound marketing a success because you see the greater collaboration between sales and marketing and the highly qualified leads you’re driving. But will your CEO see that before those leads become new business? How can you report early success before true sales numbers?
Goals should include more than just dollar signs, though, of course, the bottom line is essential. Some marketing initiatives focus on reducing the burden on your teams, such as better educating new customers to reduce customer service interactions and improve online reputation statistics.
Showing a correlation between those improvements and your marketing plan means you need to have a clear concept of how many interactions customer service has each month and the topics that those interactions cover. What does improvement look like? How would you know it was worth marketing’s effort to take burden off of customer service? All those questions can be answered with clear, written down goals.
What are SMART goals?
You’ve certainly heard of SMART goals, which stand for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. You've likely already set SMART goals with your team. Take a moment to review what each of the five aspects of SMART goals entails to renew your understanding of and commitment to this highly strategic way of setting goals.
- Measurable: if you can’t measure a goal, it likely shouldn’t be high on your priority list because you won’t be able to track progress toward your goal. When stating that you want to increase or decrease something, be sure that you have the tracking in place to review where you are now and how you’re doing in the future.
- Actionable: you can’t have a goal that you don’t have the power to work toward. Marketing should have some ability to impact that aspect of the company without having other teams do all the work for them. You should have authority and control over the task to make it actionable.
- Realistic: a goal that is too distant or sets benchmarks that are so lofty no company could ever achieve them no matter how perfect their strategy is, simply isn’t a SMART goal.
- Timely: set start and end times for your various goals so that you can keep your marketing on track. Having set timeframes will help you put pressure on your teams to accomplish your goals. Time-bound goals will also keep you honest. Plus, you want to ramp up results over time, which means setting time-bound goals you can build upon.
Steps to setting SMART goals
With a refresher on SMART goals and their importance, here’s how to ensure your goals meet these criteria.
1. Set your vision for the future
Decide what the end goal looks like. This is the reason behind starting an inbound marketing strategy.
Outline which goals are the most important or which you want to focus on first based on how your goals build upon one another.
Who is involved in making these goals a reality? What resources will you need to invest? Is there a realistic timeline for achieving these goals? Outline the products and services that the goal aligns with. Plus, detail why this goal is relevant and important to your company.
4. Ensure all goals are measurable
Once you know you want to impact a certain area of your company, you need to ensure the proper analytics and tracking programs are in place to track progress toward that goal. You need to have an idea of where you’re at now to know what success looks like once you improve that metric.
5. Make it realistic
We’d all love to grow profits by 50 percent. Most established companies can’t realistically do that in a year. But they could do it in five years with a plan to grow 10 percent year over year. So, if you have big goals, set longer timelines with smaller achievements built in to help you measure progress toward that goal. This will make it realistic and achievable.
6. Keep it relevant
You can’t change what your competitors are doing. But you can change how you react and adapt in light of their changes. Marketing can’t change profit margins, but it can influence customer lifetime value, which can in turn impact profit margins. Make sure that what you’re setting out to accomplish is within your realm of control.
7. Set timelines
Going back to the example of growing profits by 50 percent, that goal means little without a timeline. Annual progress of 1-2 percent could be seen as an achievement if there are no timelines for when you’ll reach that goal. But in reality, 1-2 percent growth just keeps your business in line with regular inflation. Timelines build accountability and further solidify when you’ve succeeded or failed.
8. Gain consensus
Annual growth of 10 percent might sound outstanding to you, but to your CEO, it isn’t enough to meet their long-term vision for the company. You have to gain consensus up and down your company’s reporting structure before moving forward with your goals. That way, everyone is happy when you meet your goals and see the value that inbound marketing brought to the company.
How to create SMART goals for inbound marketing strategy
Clear objectives result in actionable plans that marketing teams can use to build an inbound marketing strategy that works. Here’s how to develop those actionable plans using SMART goals.
1. Set long-term goals first
Good inbound marketing plans create a vision for the future and we’re not just talking about next quarter. You should know what your business looks like 5-10 years from now. Then you can work your way backward to what your company looks like by year’s end and then break that goal down into quarterly and monthly achievements. Goals that only include short-term benchmarks will come to a close too quickly to allow you time to tweak your inbound initiatives and see lasting results.
2. Toss out any goal that isn’t SMART
Be disciplined to only allow SMART goals to become part of your marketing plans. While you might think that a few goals that you aren’t quite sure how to measure just yet won’t make an impact, realize that they will pull down the success of all other goals and call into question how sound your strategy really is. If a goal doesn’t meet the SMART framework, toss it out or adjust it based on your company’s analytics capabilities.
3. Build actionable plans
Even once you’ve outlined SMART goals, you need an action plan for how to accomplish those goals. Build out the related tasks and assign them to owners to build accountability. Plus, now your team will know what they are working on and how those tasks relate to larger goals, so they know what you’re measuring their work performance on.
Why you need a growth agency partner
Goal setting is a crucial activity that will ensure your inbound marketing strategies produce the results everyone is hoping for. Another crucial aspect of inbound success is having the right team who understands the nuances of inbound strategies. Diaz & Cooper is an inbound marketing agency focused on proven strategies for success. We take your goals and build a strategy around them while turning your website into a sales engine. Request your free consultation today.