6 tips for setting realistic marketing goals

Posted by Alison Leishman

“A goal is a dream with a deadline”, said Napoleon Hill, one of the world’s first recognised motivational speakers. Although he was born way back in 1883 there’s no denying the validity of this statement, more than 100 years later.

It may be a bit grandiose to think of your marketing goals as ‘dreams with deadlines’, but at Spitfire Inbound we like to think that helping our clients achieve their goals does more than just put a tick in a box – it actually helps people. That’s why we’ve taken a long, hard look at the ins and outs of setting realistic marketing goals, and shared our thoughts here with you.

1. Know where you’re coming from

“Climb high. Climb far. Your goal the sky. Your aim the star.” – Anon

The first step for setting realistic marketing goals is to know what you’re aiming to achieve. Are you measuring leads, customers, business goals, or revenue? If you don’t have a direction, it’s very hard to get there. But there’s also wisdom in setting goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

2. Work with relevant and realistic benchmarks

“You can't compare an apple to an orange. It will cause a lot of self-esteem issues.” – Craig Sheffer

Joking aside, it’s important to understand what the industry benchmarks are that you’re comparing yourself with. B2B and B2C markets are not the same, nor are their customers’ behaviour.

Similarly, it’s great to have ambitious goals, but they have to be practical. When our clients say stuff like “we want to quadruple the size of our business in four months” we reply, “That’s great! But if we brought you those leads and you converted all those customers, could you service their needs?”. If the answer is no, we work together to find goals that they can deliver against, and make sure these are aligned with realistic industry benchmarks.

3. Understand what you’re setting relevant goals for

“If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” ― Anita Roddick

Every single element of a campaign can influence the outcome – no matter how large or small. A lot of factors go into whether a content offer is creating conversions. It is impacted by landing pages, distribution emails, social media, other promotional activities, etc. So it’s important to understand

  • whether you’re trying to increase social shares or email click-through rates or any other campaign elements
  • what are you trying to do with these metrics?

If you just look at the parts of the whole, you’ll miss the bigger picture. The same applies to leads. Identify the core goals that you need to report on, as well as the factors that influence that.


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4. Re-set goals regularly

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” – John Dewey

The great thing about inbound marketing is that when it’s done right, things get incrementally better over time. We’ve learned that our ideal customers are in a growth phase and are looking to keep growing their business. That means that we owe it to them, and ourselves, to make sure that we keep re-visiting their marketing goals, and setting them higher each quarter. We make sure that campaign goals align with the timing of each campaign, but we also make sure that achieving a goal doesn’t make us complacent. Goals should be increasingly more challenging every time they are set.

5. Knowing what you’re measuring against

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” - Dag Hammarskjold

There’s no point in creating a goal that maps against your worst-performing quarter ever. Sure, the results look great, but it’s simply not realistic. We make sure that our marketing goals are set against past performance. If you set a goal for March based on our clients’ December/January numbers, when everyone is on holiday, then the results will look great – but they won’t be realistic. Instead, goals should be set month on month, year on year, or quarter on quarter, based on the strategic inbound campaigns being run during those time, and compared against what happened in previous, relevant, time periods.

6. Align your goals, business-wide

“Building a visionary company requires 1% vision and 99% alignment.” – James C. Collins

Finally, it’s absolutely critical to create goals that are meaningful across the whole company. Make sure you have strategic alignment and a shared revenue goal. Set goals across departments – ensure marketing goals are aligned with sales, which are aligned with operational and delivery goals… etc.  If you set a goal, but don’t have the operational or sales capacity to respond to those leads coming in, in those time frames, or can’t deliver against those deals won, you’re stuck. However, if people understand what the goals are and know that they’re heading in the same direction, life is much easier.

In conclusion, goal-setting is one of the eight essentials for an inbound marketing strategy, but it is arguably the most important. Get it right and you’re well on your way because as Zig Ziglard put it, “A goal properly set is halfway reached” – or, at least, halfway realised.

Want some help reporting on your marketing goals? Check out our handy reporting template, How to consolidate your inbound marketing reporting into 12 slides, and start building reports that will help you achieve your goals.

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