Building Your Marketing Foundation: Determine Marketing Goals

Any marketing foundation starts with an understanding of your overarching business goals. Once those are well understood, they will help you shape your company’s marketing goals.

Just what are marketing goals, and how do they differ from business goals? Marketing goals are specific aims that a company wants to achieve when it comes to its overall marketing strategy and tactics. For example, those aims might revolve around activities like generating more qualified leads, re-branding the company, increasing web traffic and conversion, cross-selling current customers, or preparing a go-to-market strategy for a new product line.

True, these marketing goals can often sound like business goals because they are frequently couched in terms of market definition, lead generation, and growth. So how does one distinguish marketing goals vs. business goals?

Marketing Goals vs. Business Goals

Business goals are broad and strategic. They set the direction for an organization as a whole. Marketing goals are more narrow, focusing on what marketing efforts can contribute to the business goal. To take an example, your overall business goal might be to increase profits by 20% by midyear. Marketing can contribute to that goal by growing the customer base through more lead-generation activities. The company might also decide to increase profits by cutting costs—but that would be outside of what the marketing department does. 

Going through the exercise of defining your marketing goals isn’t just another activity to keep executives busy. It is what sets the marketing plan in motion. Strategic business goals give you the “what” while marketing goals give you the “how.”

That is why defining your marketing goals is so important. In fact, research by CoSchedule found that marketing goals were the key to success:

“Marketers who set goals are 376% more likely to report success than those who don’t. And 70% of those successful, goal-setting marketers achieve them.”

Achieving your marketing goals will help you achieve those strategic business goals you set earlier on, which is what you ultimately want for yourself and your business.

Before You Begin: 5 Considerations for Your Marketing Goals

Not just any aspiration will fly as a good, actionable marketing goal. Before setting your goals, there are several things you will want to consider to ensure your goals are relevant and attainable. Think of these considerations as guardrails that keep your goal-making in check and prevent it from becoming a wishlist, detached from reality: 

#1 What stage is your company in?

When setting marketing goals, where you are in the lifecycle of your business matters. It informs the resources you have available for marketing and the bandwidth your team has to execute your plan. Remember, your goals should stretch you but still be attainable…and what is considered attainable will be different, depending on whether you are (for example) a small startup, an established local firm, a regional chain, or a nationwide enterprise.

Setting goals that are unattainable for your business will discourage you and your team from taking them seriously in the future.

#2 What is your “marketing capacity”?

Be honest with yourself. How much time do you have available to work toward these marketing goals? If you do not have much time, what about your team? Are you trying to add marketing to a team member’s plate without removing other responsibilities? Unless you have the time and the talent to make real progress toward your goals, they will be perpetually out of reach.

In thinking through this question, you might realize that your organization is not devoting enough time and effort to achieving marketing goals. This is a common problem. It can be solved by delegating some of your other work, freeing up other team members’ time, or outsourcing some or all of your marketing to a trusted partner. (Our suggestion? Go where the talent is. If you have a marketing specialist on your team, clear their plate of non-marketing activities so they can focus on marketing goals. If you don’t have a specialist, then outsource to a partner that does.) 

#3 Consider the short AND long term

One of my favorite tips from this article by Neil Patel is to consider the long-term results of the techniques you are implementing to reach your short-term goals. Too often, marketing becomes obsessed with one thing—growth, or social media likes, or ****—but do so at the cost of their long-term prospects. Meteoric growth does little good if, for example, it means serious brand damage down the line.

So don’t just reach for short, attainable goals that sound flashy. Think: Will reaching these goals have an impact a year from now?

#4 Remember: Goals are not the same as objectives or tactics

If you do any of your own research on setting marketing goals, you will see the words “goal” and “objective” used interchangeably. They are not the same thing. A goal is an achievable outcome that is generally broad and long-term, while an objective defines measurable actions to achieve the overall goal. When outlining your marketing goals, you will also want to consider the tactics and objectives you will use to reach each goal—but those should not be confused with the goal itself. For example, you may set a marketing goal to increase leads by 25%. An objective to support that may be developing and running a campaign targeting a specific audience that includes a number of different tactics.

#5 How will you measure or track progress toward each marketing goal?

Think: How will you actually measure progress toward each goal? Do you have the tools you need to do that? Will you have access to the data needed to really measure what you are trying to accomplish? All too often, marketing plans begin to flounder because they do not set up appropriate tracking or measurement. Without tracking or measurement, you’re flying blind.

Building your list of marketing goals

It’s time to build your marketing goals for the year.

Similar to your business goals, marketing goals need to be well defined. Avoid creating vague marketing goals like “obtain more leads” and instead be specific in regard to what you want to achieve, and by when. I like the SMARTER framework, an adapted version of SMART goals by Michael Hyatt. With this framework, your goals should be:

  • Specific: say what, exactly, you are trying to achieve
  • Measurable: you want to know if you hit your goal, so make it measurable
  • Actionable: use action verbs
  • Risky: stretch yourself and your team a little bit
  • Time-keyed: have a deadline
  • Exciting: it is more motivating to have a goal you and your team are excited about achieving
  • Relevant: does the goal align with your culture and stage of your business?

Using this SMARTER framework, how might we form an alternative to “obtain more leads”? It would be something more specific, measurable, and time-keyed, for sure. So something like “Generate 10% more leads in each quarter by December 31, 2023.”

A Working Example

In our last article about strategic business goals, we used a hypothetical company called ABC Accounting as an example. ABC Accounting is a small CPA firm committed to providing high-quality business planning and tax services to its customers. With over 25 years in business, ABC has found it works best with business owners who have more complicated tax needs and require more regular accounting support for their businesses. The client feedback is excellent, giving ABC high marks on their service and attentiveness to their clients’ needs. Their clients feel very well taken care of and trust in ABC’s expertise.

They are struggling, however, to gain enough new clients to really drive the kind of growth that John, the owner, is looking for. They do receive referrals from current clients, but John’s strategic plan includes faster growth than referrals alone can generate. One of John’s business goals for the year is to increase the number of new customers by 9%. 

The first step to creating a marketing goal for ABC Accounting would be to do some backward calculations based on the business goal of increasing new clients by 9%. Here is an example:

  1. What is a 9% increase in new clients, in terms of business value? $100,000
  2. How many new clients would be needed to reach that dollar amount? ~10
  3. What is ABC’s current lead-conversion rate? 50%
  4. So, how many leads will ABC need to win 10 new clients? 20 [50% of 20 = 10]

The goal could then be stated in terms of that last number, or even go one step further to set a percentage-increase goal based on the number of leads obtained last year.

So, for example, if ABC gathered 15 leads last year, then it would need to gather that plus another 5 more leads this year. Those additional 5 leads are equal to one-third of the total leads from last year, meaning that ABC needs to increase leads by 33%. Our two goal options would look like this:

Obtain 20 new leads by September 30, 2023
Increase leads by 33% by September 30, 2023

Wait, Why September?

Notice I chose a date earlier than the end of the year. That was intentional because, based on our calculations above, we would have to talk to, have deals started, and close 50% of our leads to reach our business goal. Pushing the date up a quarter gives time for you and your sales team to qualify the leads and convert them into clients.

This example is just one of the marketing goals I would create for ABC. I would look at the other strategic business goals and consider how marketing could contribute to their achievement as well. The number of goals I create will really be dictated by the number of strategic goals we need to contribute to. I would also take into account the considerations discussed above and make sure the number of goals are aligned with our team size and budget. It is also best to assign ownership of each goal to a team member, so that one person can take ownership of pushing that goal forward.

Other Examples: A Quick List of Marketing Goals

To give you some other ideas, here are some other marketing goals constructed using the SMARTER framework:

  • Increased web traffic by 100% by Q3 of this year.
  • Appear in the top 3 positions of search for the three keywords most related to our services by June 1 of this year.
  • Increase press exposure/impressions by 80% before our trade show in August.
  • Have 7 of our top 10 accounts increase their spend with us by at least 10% by November.
  • Grow our email list to 5,000 names by June 1.
  • Deliver 20 new marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to the sales team by the end of each quarter this year.

Do you need help creating your marketing goals for 2023? Schedule a call now to learn more about The Marketing Physical by Pace Marketing. It will help you turn those business goals into a step-by-step marketing plan so you can grow your business. For more resources to help you build and measure your marketing plan, visit our toolbox and stay tuned for the next article on how to review and improve your marketing foundation.

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