In the content marketing industry, setting objectives can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, constantly raising the bar can incentivize your team to sustain your growth rate over long periods of time. But on the other hand, it can also incentivize your team to prioritize your company’s needs over your customers’ needs.
You might be thinking that this is the nature of content marketing today -- in order to grow, you need to stay laser-focused on hitting your numbers. And, sometimes, to hit your numbers, you need to do what’s best for the business, even if it’s not the best move for your customers.
But contrary to popular belief, solely focusing on the results doesn’t actually produce results. Focusing on serving your customers is what produces results. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, is famous for sparking this customer-centric movement. In 2015, he spoke at Goldman Sach’s Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, and a reporter asked him what were some of Apple’s biggest accomplishments from the past year. He responded, “We're not focused on the numbers. We're focused on the things that produce the numbers."
In content marketing, one of the most influential things that produce the numbers is a passion for your craft. But, sometimes, we can get so obsessed with optimizing for results that we forget what actually generates the views and leads we desperately desire -- compelling content.
In this blog post, we’ll show you how to set realistic marketing objectives that will help you craft audience-centric content, prioritize your customers' needs, and hit your numbers, all at the same time. Read on to learn how to identify your marketing objectives’ purpose and process and why it's just as important as the numbers you aim to hit.
What are marketing objectives?
Marketing objectives are the goals your team wants to achieve during a certain period of time. They’re usually a hard number or metric that serve as metaphorical finish line for your team to sprint towards. However, setting marketing objectives isn’t just limited to determining what you want to achieve. You also need to specify how you’re going to reach your goals and why you want to reach them.
In his insightful blog post about setting goals, Jay Acunzo, the founder of Unthinkable Media, reveals a subtle yet potent problem that has pervaded the content marketing industry over the years -- traditional goal setting lets you measure what you do, but it doesn’t lend itself to gauging how you do it or why, which is what ultimately gives your work meaning and pushes you to hone your craft.
In marketing, you obviously need to aim for concrete targets. But, like we said earlier, only focusing on the results can sometimes incentivize you to take a course of action that prioritizes your organization’s needs over your customers’ needs.
To help you focus more on your purpose and process instead of just your results, Jay recommends considering two other things when setting a marketing objective -- your hunger and aspirational anchor.
Your hunger is your current dissatisfaction with your work today or why you want to achieve your goal. Your aspirational anchor is your vision of your work in the future or how you’ll achieve your goal. These two things drive your motivation and keep you on track to create work that better serves your customers. And when you add your goal to the equation, you’ll be able to simultaneously produce customer-centric work and hit your numbers.
To learn how to set objectives that help you focus on the “why” and “how” behind your marketing initiative, check out the following example.
Marketing Objective Example
Hunger (Why) - Our blog educates our audience well but it doesn’t resonate emotionally with them enough.
Aspirational Anchor (How) - Run a blog that consistently resonates with our audience and that people look forward to reading every time they receive our email digest.
Goal (What) - Increase blog subscribers by 25% month over month this year.
With this goal setting framework, you can see how the “why” and “how” behind a goal incentivizes behavior that better serves customers and hits numbers at the same time.
For instance, in the example above, this blog team refuses to just do whatever it takes to boost their blog subscription. They want to craft emotionally resonant stories that their audience actually values, or content that’s worth subscribing to, and this is what will lead to their growth in subscribers and create long-term value for their business.
If this blog team didn’t identify their hunger or set an aspirational anchor, however, the only thing that would guide them toward the finish line is the finish line itself. And that could incentivize short-sighted behavior that helps them achieve their goal at the expense of prioritizing their audience’s needs over their own.
How to Set Realistic Marketing Objectives
(Hint: It's by using the SMART goal framework.)
Now that we understand the “why” and the “how” behind setting marketing objectives, let’s go over how you can root the "what" in reality with the SMART goal framework.
SMART goals are realistic, quantifiable, and focused targets that you can easily aim for. If you’re wondering what SMART means, it’s an acronym that helps you clearly define your goals. Check out the framework below to learn more.
In terms of marketing, you should choose the particular metric you want to improve upon, like visitors, leads, or customers. You should also determine what each team members will work on, the resources they’ll have, and their plan of action.
If you want to gauge your team’s progress, you need to quantify your goals, like achieving an X percentage increase in visitors, leads, or customers.
Make sure that X-percentage increase is achievable in your specific situation. If your blog traffic increased by 5% last month, try to increase it by 8-10% this month, not 30%. It’s crucial to base your goals off of your own analytics, not industry benchmarks, or else you might bite off more than you can chew.
Your goal needs to relate to your company’s overall goal and account for current trends in your industry. For instance, will growing your Facebook following lead to more revenue? And is it actually possible for you to significantly boost your organic reach on Facebook after their most recent algorithm change? If you’re aware of these factors, you’ll be more likely to set goals that are realistic, achievable, and beneficial to your company.
Attaching deadlines to your goals puts pressure on your team to accomplish them. And this helps you make consistent and significant progress in the long-term. If you don’t give yourself a deadline, accomplishing your goal will take too long to achieve long-term success. For example, which would you prefer? Increasing leads by 5% every month, leading to a 30-35% increase in half a year? Or trying to increase leads by 15% with no deadline and achieving that goal in a year?
Blending Hunger, Aspirational Anchors, and SMART Goals
By analyzing two different goal setting frameworks, we’ve learned how to identify the “why”, “how”, and “what” behind your marketing objectives . Now, we can blend the two frameworks to set a realistic goal that fulfills our customers needs first and helps us hit our numbers at the same time. Check out this example for more detail.
Specific (Include your hunger and aspiration)
Our blog educates our audience well, but it doesn’t resonate emotionally with them enough. Let’s start running a blog that can consistently resonate with our audience, that people look forward to reading every time they receive our email digest, and can attract more subscribers.
Increase month-over-month blog subscribers by 25% this year.
Last year, we increased month-over-month blog subscribers by 15%.
Relevant (Include your hunger and aspiration)
If we can craft emotionally resonant stories that our audience actually values, we can build deeper relationships with them, attract more subscribers who we can also build deep relationships with, and hopefully do business with them in the future.
By crafting stories that consistently resonate with our audience and is worth subscribing to, we can increase our month-to-month subscribers by 25% this year.