This article outlines how to set proper objectives for your marketing efforts.
It’s time to redesign your website. You’ve known it for a while. The site is practically invisible on mobile devices because it’s not responsive. The CMS you’re using is no longer supported by your web development firm, it’s a nightmare to use, and it’s hard to integrate with anything. Your ability to publish anything to the site is becoming more difficult by the day; let alone your desire to do anything new or creative like producing interactive content. Your firm’s message, as you present it online, is 5 years out-of-date and only loosely resembles the firm you are today. And, you feel like the way you present your brand digitally is even 5 years older than that.
You capture all this in presentation form, and make your most passionate case to the firm’s leadership for what has to happen and why. Those few that aren’t completely distracted by their phones during the meeting initiate a brief discussion and thank you for your time. A month later you’re told your budget request is denied — the firm has higher priorities right now.
Does this sound at all familiar? Based on the conversations I have with professional services marketers and leaders, I’m guessing you’ve experienced a situation somewhere along these lines. Marketers have a desire to push their firms to embrace more digital marketing while many leaders seem resistant to respond and dismissive to funding it.
In the end, this is a case of mistaken objectives. While everything I wrote in the first paragraph of this article is entirely true for many firms (maybe even your firm), none of those reasons collectively or alone provide a compelling reason to invest in a website redesign. While these are the objectives I most frequently see from firms’ marketing teams, these are really the objectives of the teams themselves not of the business as a whole.
While your firm’s leaders may agree with everything you just said, they see no compelling case for change because what they’re really thinking to themselves is, “Sure our site looks terrible on a mobile device and our messaging is way off, but when was the last time the website actually generated a meaningful piece of business for the firm? I can’t think of one.” (Of course, we know clients find firms online all the time, but that’s a different story altogether).
What Good Objectives Look Like
So, if those are the wrong objectives, what do the right ones look like? At Rattleback, we tend to believe good objectives are:
- Meaningful to the business
- Close to the money
#1 – SMART Objectives
The best objectives tend to be SMART in nature. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. To start, most objectives you create for your firm’s digital marketing efforts should be held accountable to this standard. A SMART objective might look like this, “We hope to grow annual traffic to our website to 90k users in 2017 from 70k in 2016.” From there, you can describe how you hope to accomplish that objective and any obstacles you face to achieving it. For instance, you might say, “We will accomplish this by growing our search traffic by 25%; this will require investing in a new CMS that provides better SEO tools and improving how we search optimize content.”
#2 – Meaningful to the Business
Establishing an objective that’s meaningful to the business simply means using language that’s important to everyone in the firm not just the marketing team itself. While “making the site responsive” makes intuitive sense and is a priority to any marketer, it’s not really all that relevant to most firm leaders. For every firm leader that is skeptical that the web can be a meaningful source of leads and revenue for the firm, there are 3 more that are skeptical that a client will seek out a professional services firm on a mobile device. So, that’s an example of an objective that’s just not all that meaningful to the business.
One way to make this objective more meaningful to the business might be to flip it on its head. An example, “We hope to grow annual traffic from mobile devices to 22k (25% of total — in our experience professional services firms get about 20-25% of their traffic from mobile devices assuming their site is responsive) in 2017 from 10k (14%) in 2016. In order to do this we will make our site responsive.”
#3 – Close to the Money
The third important trait of a good objective is that it’s close to the money. This means that your goal in setting objectives is to pick ones that can show a direct connection to firm revenue. It’s much easier for a senior leader to make investments in anything if they can see a clear path to revenue from the added expense.
In my two previous examples, I chose objectives that related to increasing website traffic. I chose these on purpose because they’re objectives that senior leaders often reject. “I don’t care how many visitors we drive to our website as long as they’re the right ones.” That said, there’s an unbreakable relationship between traffic, leads, opportunities and revenue. So, your response is simply to state that. “We know that in 2016 we generated 1,400 leads from the 70k visitors to our site. We believe we can capture an incremental 400 leads if we grow site traffic to 90k. The likelihood of us capturing our right prospects goes up considerably when we grow our lead pool by an additional 30%.”
One of the biggest mistakes we see firms make when pursuing any new marketing investment is failing to make clear objectives for what they hope to accomplish. They mistakenly masquerade tactics (i.e. replacing a CMS) with objectives (i.e. improving search outcomes). Or, they use big, broad statements like “grow brand awareness” that are difficult to measure within the context of the initiative.
So, if you’re thinking about your annual marketing objectives, avoid these common mistakes. Do that little bit of extra thinking to identify objectives that are SMART, meaningful to the business, and show a direct connection to the firm’s revenue goals. Once you’ve established your objectives identify those things you plan to do differently this year in order to enable those objectives to become reality. If you do all those things, making the case for the investment you’re looking to make will become much easier — both now and in the future.