There are two widely held meanings of the word "goal" in marketing.
One is a measurable task to be completed within a given timeframe, which will contribute to a business’ overall success.
According to Ascend2’s 2018 research, 93% of digital marketing budgets are increasing at least marginally each year, and 41% increase significantly. Setting, tracking and achieving goals is a way of ensuring these budgets are utilised effectively and the business progresses as desired.
One of the most used frameworks for designing effective goals is the SMART acronym, which often stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Major projects or long-term plans may seem daunting, so this can help structure your thinking as to exactly what you want to accomplish as a business.
Specific – Goals should answer the ‘W’ questions, e.g. who is accountable for its delivery? Why do we need to do it? What business functions will be involved? It is important to clarify these things, especially if a goal represents a dramatic divergence from traditional business methods.
Measurable – This is arguably the most important aspect of goals because without it you cannot objectively say whether the goal has been achieved. Appropriate metrics should be selected, and you should consider implementing intermediate milestones. This is particularly helpful for client-focussed work so that expectations can be managed.
Achievable – Goals can be a great source of motivation for employees as they have a benchmark to work towards. But, unrealistic goals may have the opposite effect and actually demotivate people. Consider whether current business resources, knowledge and time constraints are sufficient for this target to be met.
Relevant – Do your goals fit with the overall business strategy? Reflect on this aspect periodically between deciding upon a goal and the date of its expected achievement. If the environment changes and a new direction would be better suited, be objective and do so.
Time-bound – Be realistic but not too conservative. Set a timeframe that reflects the priorities and resources of your business. Well-considered deadlines can create a healthy pressure and sense of urgency, which will help achieve goals.
Which goals are right for your business?
Goals should be designed to reflect the internal capabilities of your business and the external environment. For example, the competitive nature of the industry in which you operate. The ‘right’ goals are those that create a competitive advantage once completed. Examples include:
- Increase sales revenue by ___% within the next 6 months
- Increase year on year website visits by ___% over the next 12 months
- Improve click-through rate from email marketing by ___%
- Double social media following within the next __ years by producing more original content
If you’re a business leader or manager, avoid designing goals independently on behalf of your team – speak to the people that will be tasked with fulfilling the goal. Also, consider how a goal may impact upon those of other business departments. Do they complement each other, or might they put too much pressure on the same resource?
Goals should ultimately support the ‘bottom line’, i.e. select those that will improve efficiency, which then streamlines expenditure and increases profit.
Within the specific context of digital marketing, a goal can be understood as a specific, measurable action taken on a website.
Goals in Google Analytics
Measuring and tracking goals has been made easier through technology such as Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. In order to track the right goals, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the metrics that matter most to your business and their financial impact.
A goal can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- View of a key page.
- Completion of an enquiry form.
- Completion of an order.
- Click on a particular link or resource.
- Average session duration.
- A newsletter signup.
You can also identify the marketing channels that are driving the most goals, and which channels are most cost-effective at achieving them.
This data can then inform broader marketing and business decisions, including where time, budgets and efforts should be invested to grow your business online.