Setting Marketing Objectives for Your SME

You have surely heard of Descartes’ ”Cogito, ergo sum” so far. I think, therefore I am. Whilst that was his first principle, here’s ours: I am a business manager, therefore I set marketing objectives. We know planning has been increasingly difficult in the past quarter, if not in the past year(s). The market is in a difficult, rarely encountered situation right now, which makes marketing people stand on thin ice. How do we set up a budget that delivers the best value for money? How do we make sure we reach the KPIs with expected lower marketing budgets or fewer employees? What are the actions we could take so that the outcome is a positive one?

 From our experience after working with tens of small and medium businesses in tech and education industries across Europe, here is what we can advise when it comes to objective setting.

  1. Take into consideration your current taskforce and start defining your marketing objectives based on your marketing team’s capacity
  2. Give your team details about your marketing goals and motivate your employees by setting realistic goals
  3. Keep your goals concise and don’t forget to measure them
  4. Adapt. This is one of the best things you can do for your business right now. You need to be flexible as the crisis is right around the corner. 

This is the advice we have for you for the moment. Let us take you further through better understanding what objective setting is, why it’s important and how to successfully achieve your marketing goals.

1. We can’t talk about objectives setting without defining them

The general emphasis of a marketing objective is to outline a clearly defined accomplishment that your company could attain. Basically, you should ask yourself what are the things that you would like to happen next quarter/year and further detail what actions you can take to make it happen. Discuss your business objectives with your team and consider their work volume and range of expertise so that they are truly able to keep your business going and growing.  The objectives you have for next year’s time need to be attainable and sustainable. 

“Attainable” is the key word when putting your objectives on paper, as your team’s and other assets’ capacity may not be enough to achieve everything you have in plan for your company’s growth. You can either optimize your current task force’s projects or you could always bring additional resources to help you improve last year’s results. Your objectives are attainable when they:

  • are within reach
  • are approached by having a list of KPIs in mind
  • are relevant to your business needs
  • have a specific timeframe 

One of the main goals of marketing is generally to sustain sales objectives. This is why objective setting has to be done considering that marketing and sales are strongly linked in business. Your marketing objectives and needs should be discussed with your sales team or representative. This way,  you will put on the table your main objectives based on the sales funnel: awareness, lead gen, lead nurturing, advocacy.

Some of the goals that the majority of marketing professionals set for their company or clients to help you understand things more clearly are identifying new streams for lead generation and eventually increasing the number of leads, and supporting sales objectives. 

There are also some secondary marketing objectives that include boosting engagement on social media platforms, increasing traffic on owned media platforms and many more. These examples are not complete, though. Every marketing professional needs to have in mind that every objective they set has to be SMART.

We have established what objectives are and how they should be, but why are they important?

2. The importance of setting objectives

Planning and setting objectives are the elements that will keep your company running. Marketing is in constant change and it always will be, just as the world is (see what happened in the past 2 years). This is one of the reasons why setting objectives is important. Objective setting also gives you a clear scope, as you work towards something tangible. In order to set your marketing objectives, you first need to gather data on the results you’ve had last year and then adapt them. It’s all about trial and error, coming up with a fit goal for your business and for the current market needs.

Setting objectives and achieving them is important not only for your company, but they should be established for your team’s sake as well. Having goals to achieve encourages all of us as professionals and as humans. Marketing efforts and the way a marketing professional uses the given resources are details to be shared with your employees. Team members should decide on these goals together and discuss why it’s important to work towards attaining them individually and in pairs. Objectives offer motivation and everyone has something intelligible to work for.

3. How to set objectives

Planning in marketing requires your attention to be divided in two different dimensions: the past and the future. You can’t talk about the future without the past. While that might sound like a cliché, learning from the past actions brings improved results in the future. When setting new objectives for a following quarter or year, you should consider: 

  1. what has worked really well in the past so that I could use the same actions; 
  2. what hasn’t worked as well as I had hoped and I need to improve or adapt; 
  3. what did I miss in the past but I know now, after I have gained more experience; 
  4. what pilot projects do I need to put into motion to bring innovation.

As months and years pass, you need to keep track of your actions and keep them documented, as they will surely come in handy for next year’s planning. This way, you’ll be able to create analysis reports and make data based decisions.

When setting objectives, we recommend you use benchmarks so that way they can be clearly defined by using data and they can be achieved by your team.

4. Set attainable objectives by using benchmarks

By examining several benchmarks, you should develop realistic goals regardless of whether you anticipate an increase or a break-even point for this year.

These benchmarks are used by marketing professionals and aid create realistic goals:

  1. Perform a competitive benchmarking (you can use helpful tools such as SEMrush, Hootsuite, Quick Search, Mailchimp)
  2. Gather relevant data of your last year’s marketing efforts to improve performance

Benchmarking is a great learning process and it helps you decide on your business goals and also how to track them.

5. How to track and adapt the objectives I set

Tracking is just as important as planning when it comes to objectives. It’s essential to follow your objectives and the results that your team’s work brings regularly, as several changes would need to be done during this process. 

You can look for tools that help you keep an eye on the specific objectives you set. There are different platforms that provide information based on your own needs after you establish this year’s objectives. What you have to do is to make the correct link between your marketing objective and the correct tracking metrics for it. Automated analytics tools are much easier to handle than inserting the data manually in various tools.

If tracking objectives shows that you are not on the right path in attaining your objectives you can:

  • thoroughly analyze your KPIs and if it’s the case, readjust your efforts. See here what KPIs you should be tracking.
  • try A/B testing and notice if one campaign shows better results than the other
  • focus your attention on actions that bring better results and find out why that it happening
  • optimize your landing pages and your online paid campaigns if available
  • always try refining your audience
  • reach out for feedback from customers

6. Conclusion

Don’t forget: set objectives, implement, track. This is the simplified recipe for achieving some or all of the objectives for the next quarter or year. When setting objectives, remember to gather data and make data based decisions, discuss with your marketing and sales team or representatives and adapt to the market current needs.

Try taking a look at what worked well for your company in the past and put it in practice again, maybe even add a little twist to it if you want to adapt it to today’s vision. Setting objectives is a good way to keep you and your marketing team aligned, motivated and keep your business up and running.

We hope this article helped you have a clear idea on how objective setting in business and marketing should be approached. If you ever need our help with your marketing goals, we’re just an email away!

About the author

I am Maria Caraulașu, web analyst with great passion for writing. 

I love managing data and making it understandable for everyone and being creative in my free time. If you want to find out more about my work, you can find my Linkedin profile here

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