So you have decided to start investing into marketing. Great! All CEOs should. But where do you start?
 
We suggest to start from setting clear digital marketing goals.
 
You might be wondering, what are the best goals to use. Here’s a suggestion: how about starting from your revenue?
 
Start with the business goals that you actually care about, and build your digital marketing goals from there.
After all, which of the following would you like to hear at a marketing meeting?
 
“Our Facebook likes went up 3 percent.”
 
Or
 
“Our marketing and sales generated 15 percent more revenue from inbound leads than last quarter.”
 
Setting goals is a huge part of the relationship between the CEO and marketing. It is a major opportunity to grow your business in a systematic way.
 
Read further to learn how you can approach setting goals for your marketing.

What are the right digital marketing goals?

The right marketing goals are strongly tied to your overall business goals.
 
Start by defining the overall goal for your business, and then think of how your marketing can help you achieve it.

The goals you set for your digital marketing depend on many things:

  • What is your business like – how do you generate your income?
 
  • What is your business stage – are you a market leader or a startup?
 
  • How does your industry work?
 
For example, it makes sense to set your goals around the sales funnel of your business. Whether you operate a B2C or a B2B business makes a drastic difference in the sales funnel, and the goals need to be set accordingly.
 
Your goals will also be driven by the stage of the business. For example, if you are a market leader, it makes more sense to focus on customer retention. If you are a startup on the lookout for your first customers, the goals will be very different.
 
The nature of the industry will affect the sales cycle, which can in turn affect reporting models. If your sales cycle is longer, you might want to focus more on the monthly or quarterly progress.
 
In short, there is no one right way to do this – but for sure, there are ways to approach the matter for best results.
Salesman on the phone

Defining SMART goals

Goals are by definition something you aim for. They set a clear expectation for the future.
 
SMART goals is a famous and effective framework for defining goals. You can construct your overall goal from the KPI you defined earlier.

SMART goals have five criterias:

  • Specific. There is no room for misinterpretation.
 
  • Measurable. It’s a number you can track.
 
  • Actionable. It needs to be something your marketing can influence.
 
  • Realistic. Make sure the goal is possible to reach.
 
  • Time-based. Set a timeline for your goals and related activities.

Here are some examples of SMART digital marketing goals for different industries:

  • B2B service business: increase monthly Sales Qualified Leads by 30 percent during this quarter.
 
  • E-commerce: Increase average visitors to sales conversion rate by 50 percent in 6 months
 
  • SaaS: Increase freemium to paid users rate by 50 percent this year.
A calendar


You can put your SMART marketing goal in the calendar, because it forces you to have deadlines.

What is a good process for setting digital marketing goals?

How do you set the goal for the marketing in practice? What do you base it on? And do you just announce it to the team?
 
You should start defining the goal from your current situation. Have a good idea where you are. How is your marketing currently performing?

Digital marketing audit

Conducting a digital marketing audit is highly recommended, especially when you’re setting the marketing goals for the first time. On the basis of the audit, you should have a good picture of what can be improved and how much.

For the audit, you can have your marketing team do the research, or you can hire an agency to help. Either way, we recommend to involve your marketing team as much as possible.
 
Once you have an understanding of the current performance, discuss your goals with the marketing team. Start by explaining the business needs. Ask for their opinions. Come to a conclusion together, and get commitment from all parties.
 
A big part of setting goals is also psychological. Everyone should truly care about reaching the goal and get excited of the mere thought of it.

Track your marketing progress with KPIs

When you’re trying to reach an important business objective, it makes sense to consistently track your progress. That is why we have Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs.
 
So what is your KPI? Think of a important factor that you want to grow, decrease or reach in your campaign. Then make it clear and easy to understand for the whole team. That’s your KPI.
 
It could be leads, conversion rates or online sales, like in the examples above.
 
Many businesses are going for a single KPI that truly matters for your marketing team, often called a “North Star Metric”.
 
There could be several different KPIs related to the goal. That happens when the matter is complex or if you want to have different metrics balance each other,
 
For example, if you set your marketing team to gather leads at volume, it can make sense to balance this strict performance marketing metric with brand perception or a customer experience metric. This can prevent chasing short-term at the expense of long-term success.
 
You can also use diversified supporting metrics for different teams or team members.
 
However, make sure you don’t drive the marketing team in the wrong direction or cause an internal conflict. The overall direction needs to be the same for the whole team, and the whole organization.

How to manage the goals?

Now that you’ve set the goals and KPIs, you should follow them consistently. There are two ways to do it.

1. Consistent tracking

Your marketing team should follow the metrics, preferably weekly or at least every two weeks. This way they can react to changes fast, and quickly detect what works and what doesn’t. This is one of the best practices of agile marketing.

2. Reporting

How often the marketing team should report to the CEO? Again, it depends on the pulse of your business. Roughly, monthly to quarterly is generally a good way to go for strategic meetings like this.

As the CEO, you need to have a clear idea of what is going on, without going too much into details and the day-to-day operations.
 
As another general rule, it is better to over-communicate than go in the dark.
 
An automatic email report or an easily available dashboard makes things easier for everyone. It enables a nimble way to report consistently without having long in-person meetings.
 
Once your target period is over, revise the goals and see if they were met. Set new goals, and following an experiment-driven growth marketing process to quickly find the best ways to reach them.
 
Regular goal-setting enables you to shift focus on things that require attention and come up with new KPIs if needed. For example, you can shift your focus from conversion rate to volume generation. Or from generating new customers to improving customer lifetime value.
 

What if the goal wasn’t met?

No need to panic. Carefully analyze what were the reasons for failure. Was the goal set properly, and in a SMART way? Were there individual mistakes, or was the reason perhaps more systematic? How can you adjust and what can you learn from it?
 
Then make the improvements and start the process again.
Someone looking at reports on a laptop


Track progress towards the goal consistently.

Conclusion

There is no one right way to set goals for your marketing.
 
However, there are good practices for goal-setting. Start from your business goal to translate it into marketing goals using the SMART framework.
 
Then track your progress consistently with KPIs that you have derived from the goals.
 
Coming up the metrics is fairly logical and straightforward. The main thing is building the process and executing it in a measurable way.
 
When setting and following the progress of the goals, it is vital to have good communication with the marketing team throughout the process.
 
Use goal-setting to utilize your marketing team effectively and to grow your business. When done right, this can also help build a tight relationship between sales and marketing.