Got any goals for your business?
It’s not a trick question, but it’s a surprisingly difficult one for business owners to answer in earnest.
If you’re like most, you’ll pull from a mental list of big-picture priorities -- acquire new clients, grow revenue, increase deal size, and so on.
Don’t get me wrong -- that’s a start. But when it comes to specific, defined goals and the action steps required to make them happen… well, that’s where things tend to get a bit fuzzy.
If this scenario sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place! In this blog, we’ll teach you how to set goals, why it’s so important to set goals, and how marketing plays a critical role in helping you reach those goals.
To start, let’s address why goal-setting is so important in the first place. Studies suggest a correlation between goal-setting and business success, particularly when goals are written down or documented.
Setting goals (and sharing them with stakeholders) ups the ante for business leaders in terms of accountability, helping teams remain more committed and motivated to seeing them through.
Yet surprisingly, goal-setting is a step that’s often overlooked. In fact, in one study of 300 small business owners, more than 80% of respondents indicated that they don’t keep track of their business goals. Additionally, when it comes to basic behavioral factors, consider the following:
With so few people tending to their goals, it’s fair to say that those who do so for their businesses have a decided advantage. Not only that, but companies who take the time to formalize their goals will facilitate more focused and effective marketing decisions. This brings us to our next point.
Think of each business goal as your desired destination. Now the trick is to work backwards, mapping out the marketing initiatives that will help you arrive there. (With no such roadmap, you’ll not only fall short of your goals -- but wind up on an aimless marketing journey!)
Here’s an example. Let’s say one of your business goals is to grow revenue by 10% in Q1. To reach that, you’ll need a certain number of new customers. To acquire those new customers, you’ll need a certain number of new leads. To acquire that desired number of new leads, you’ll need a strong lead-generation strategy that includes, say, keyword research, blogs, and a monthly content offer. And so on and so forth.
The point is, business goal-setting should be viewed as a necessary precursor to your inbound marketing plans. This process not only surfaces the best marketing tactics to employ, but helps your organization better understand where to allocate those marketing dollars for the best return on your investment. (Don’t miss our related blog, How to Track Marketing Contributions to Revenue Growth). Now let’s dig in a little more with some specific strategies to help you chart your course.
As mentioned earlier, this is arguably the single most important step. Documenting your goals turns that mental list of abstract ideas into achievable targets. Key thought leaders in goal-setting agree: goals are more valuable once written down -- in fact, people with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve them than people without goals.2. Turn your goals into SMART goals
SMART goals are often regarded as the gold standard in business goal-setting. SMART refers to goals that are:
While some businesses may view the SMART goal approach to be too rigid (in other words, it may not be effective in every business context), we generally find the SMART method to be a great starting point for aligning business and marketing. At minimum, SMART goals are a great way to help you set priorities for your business. To get started, consider using this SMART Goal worksheet from HubSpot.3. Dig into your sales data and customer journey
With SMART goals in order, now it’s time for an action plan to identify the precise marketing tactics to help you accomplish those goals.
Keep in mind, those tactics will look pretty different from one business to the next. Consider a B2B company that sells an agile SaaS solution compared to an organization that manufactures highly customized machinery for niche manufacturing companies. The buyer’s journey for each will follow very different paths, with very different timeframes.
So how do you plan for these variances? Look to your historical data for guidance. Let’s revisit our example from above. If your goal is to increase revenue by acquiring X new customers, you’ll want to consider key influencing factors such as:
Those are just a few considerations -- but the idea is, from there you can continue to work backwards in order to create marketing tactics that are realistic and achievable based on your business’s specific sales cycle and unique customers.4. Let marketing analytics be your guide
A deep dive of your marketing analytics data will help you further refine the tactics needed to reach your business goals.
Here again, you’ll want to start with your business goal and reverse-engineer the numbers to help you arrive at your desired target. To do this, there are a wide variety of marketing metrics to assess which fall into four broad categories:
As you work through your goals, it’s extremely important to refine them according to your marketing analytics -- and that makes analytics tools and solutions a critical component in your business planning.5. Consider marketing best practices and industry standards
In the same way customer data and marketing analytics can help you chart your course in goal achievement, industry benchmarks also provide useful insights as you map out your marketing plans.
Further continuing with our example, let’s say you’ve determined that to reach your desired revenue, you set a target to acquire 20 leads per month through inbound marketing.
But did you know that in order for your inbound marketing to be effective, you need a minimum of about 2,000 visits per month to your website?
Are you generating this volume? If not, this may highlight the need to tackle some foundational website work to increase the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.
That’s just one example, of course. There are hundreds of marketing benchmarks -- and industry-specific marketing benchmarks at that -- to help steer your marketing strategies across key areas like your website, content marketing, email marketing, lead-generation efforts, and so on.6. Employ marketing expertise
There’s no question that business goal-setting is an important step -- not only to grow your business, but to understand where exactly to focus your marketing. But the struggle is real for busy business leaders who lack full-service, in-house marketing teams to help analyze, track and interpret the data needed to make it all happen.
As an inbound marketing agency, we field a number of calls from B2B companies in this exact position. Naturally, we want to recommend marketing services that best support your business goals -- and if those goals are not quite defined, then we can help with that too!
To learn more, read 8 Signs You’re Ready to Outsource Your Marketing. Or if you’re interested in a free assessment, don’t hesitate to contact us for a complimentary consultation. We’d be happy to discuss your business goals – and what we can do to help you achieve them!
Jillian Sullivan is a seasoned marketing professional who forges meaningful relationships with each and every one of her clients. While known to clients and colleagues as an Account Manager, Jillian also holds the unofficial title of PMG’s Chief Go-Getter. When she’s not running around at home with her three active sons, we are convinced she's spending her time analyzing customer data and poring over marketing metrics!