Are your marketing campaigns delivering the desired results? If not, then there is a probability that things are messed up at the very basics of it. Are you very clear on the goals of your marketing plan/strategy? And no, “increase my facebook page likes” and “increasing the number of app downloads” does not qualify as a ‘clear goal’.
Unless your marketing strategy has a well defined and concrete set of goals from the get go, you would not be able to execute things the right way, so I can’t underscore the importance of setting up clear goals at every stage of your marketing strategy.
“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.” — Earl Nightingale
So, now we are clear. To ensure you have a fair shot at achieving your marketing objectives, you need to establish a set of goals first. And these goals have to be clear, crisp, meaningful and concise, and not ones that are created just for the sake of creating goals. Naturally the next question comes up:
How do you create the right set of marketing goals?
It isn’t rocket science actually. Create marketing goals that are well aligned with your broader business objectives. And once you have been able to create these goals, walk backwards to create the right set of strategies to devise the execution plan to achieve them.
ANATOMY OF A WELL DEFINED MARKETING GOAL
For you to be able to create the right set of marketing goals, let us first understand the different attributes that need to be considered to come up with these goals.
IF IT IS VAGUE, IT IS NOT A GOAL
“We want to increase our app downloads”
“Something that can make our app go viral”
These are actual responses from the founders of a startup when I asked them what were the objectives of their next marketing campaign — a campaign they wanted me to help them with. After trying for the next 30 mins to help them understand why those weren’t really goals, I wished them luck, gave my opinion on some of the questions they had asked, and left.
If you don’t have clear goals, in all probability you would end up running around like headless chickens, and I am not particularly keen to be a part of that party.
GOALS ARE ALWAYS MEASURABLE
I have led marketing efforts for businesses on all fronts — press, digital, social, print, TV etc. Different marketing channels are governed by different guiding principles, but the basic underlying philosophies have always been the same. And the very first one is — “I need to be able to measure the impact of any campaign.”
Take the example of a TV and print marketing campaign aimed at driving the app downloads and transactions for an e-commerce company. Media agencies will report to you number of times your ad was aired on air, share with you newspaper clippings with your ad on different prominent locations in leading publications. But my question is : What the fuck did it manage to do?
The first time I asked this to our account manager at the agency who was handling our campaigns, their response was “Well, it is difficult to measure and quantify the impact of offline campaigns. These are more like branding exercise.”
“Bullshit”, was my response. And I still stand by that. I can’t, in good conscience, agree to spending a single dollar on advertising if it is going to be a black box. Sure, I understand that the world of digital advertising has spoiled us with tracking metrics and analytics, but I refuse to accept the premise that offline marketing campaigns are beyond the checks and balances of tracking.
And the second you refuse to accept that even a single campaign is immeasurable, you will start coming up with ways that will help you get some idea on the performance of campaigns.
For example, in this case, these are two of the many things we did:
(1) Different promo-codes for different campaigns. This enabled us in measuring not just the effect of the campaign, but draw comparisons between different places the campaign was active at.
(2) Set baselines in terms of traffic, app downloads etc. and run some models on the new traffic vs old traffic to arrive at some estimation of how much of the new traffic could be directly or indirectly attributed to our offline campaigns.
DON’T CONFUSE GOALS WITH WISHFUL THINKING.
I have seen businesses make the mistake of keeping their target numbers so high that even the team working on its execution is never really trying to achieve those numbers. They are just going with the flow, with an intent to “do their best”. And when your team itself doesn’t believe that the targets can be achieved, you can bet your sorry dollars on the fact that it absolutely won’t be achieved.
So, what do you do? You set tangible and achievable targets. Your targets can be modified with time, but they always should appear within the grasp.
Focus on 10–20% week-on-week growth, instead of targeting 500k app downloads, when your current download numbers stand at a mere 10k.
When your team achieves some quick and early wins, it will give their confidence a massive boost, and if now all of a sudden you revise the targets to 30% weekly growth, they would be charged up enough to say — “May be tough, but definitely looks achievable.”
FOR GOD’S SAKE, PUT A CLOCK ON IT
Let’s devise a campaign with the sole intent of doubling our revenue.
“Buddy, first of all, that is quite an ambitious target. You guys are already doing quite well in an extremely niche business. Having said that, it is definitely doable, but it will take time.”
“Yeah that’s fine. But let us focus on doubling our revenue.”
“Okay. By when?”
“Let it take the time takes, but let’s double the revenue. We have got to keep our eyes focused on that target.”
Ambition, and not shying away from hitting above your weight-class are qualities I greatly admire in a business, and an entrepreneur, but there are multiple things wrong here.
- Keeping quite an ambitious target (something that looks far fetched when compared to the current state of things) at the very least dissociates you from reality, and the team isn’t really aiming to achieve the targets; because they find it difficult to comprehend those targets as achievable. And bad case scenario? You start quite excited and pumped up, but when you don’t start getting the results that make you feel you are inching closer to the targets, the team starts getting demotivated.
- No timeline. There is absolutely nothing worse than having a target with no date circled on the calendar. Always have a deadline. “We want to double our revenue by the end of next fiscal year” is still something I could live with — although in all fairness, I would then advise you to revise the targets and have a deadline that’s closer.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where — ” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
LET’S TAKE AN EXAMPLE
Ours is a SaaS product with average order value of $50/mo — when billed annually, which is what ~70% of our consumers opt for. Our current MRR is $50,000, and we want to increase it by 20% in the next 2 quarters, with a special focus on the healthcare industry in the NORAM market.
That was the message I received one day. I loved it! Could that goal be better? Sure. Almost everything can, but it was a great start. And the precise and crisp statement gave me a feeling that this could be a dialogue that, if nothing else, would be meaningful.
Why that line mattered:
- It was able to tell me immediately what kind of a product it was and therefore, what could its sales and/or marketing lifecycles could look like.
- What was the average order value. Also, what is the percentage breakup of their transacting consumers in different payment options available.
- Current revenue, and therefore current consumer base.
- Targets they were looking to achieve (a bump of $10,000/mo, which was not out-of-the-world), and by when were they looking to achieve that.
- They were quite clear about their target audience. Be it in terms of the industry segment or the geography.
- It helped me get very clear on painting a holistic picture in my head. The business needs an incremental MRR of $10,000, and with $50, that translates to 200 new paying customers. (Actually, the numbers will be slightly complicated since we will need to factor in the fact that only 70% of all consumers will opt for the annual subscription, with the rest opting for monthly subscriptions, and then we will have to factor in churn rate of the consumers as well. But let’s keep things simple, for now.) This helps me get a clear idea when I walk upto the whiteboard to lay out the marketing and sales strategies for them.
Why can’t everyone have such clear questions when they reach out! Would make life so much easier.
I can’t stress it enough how critical it is for everything you do to be aligned to the broader objectives of the company. Often when you look at businesses, you would find different teams within the company to be operating in silos when it comes to their objectives/goals/targets. In my opinion, that is a mistake. You need to keep everything aligned so as to create maximum impact.
Would their individual goals be different? Of course. Each of them have completely different jobs to do in their day to day life. For example, while a sales guy would be focussed on closing accounts, a product guy would be looking at deploying the next set of releases, and a talent acquisition guy would be looking at hiring the next set of engineering/sales/marketing resources. But if they are not aligned to the same goal, it would inevitably lead to inefficiencies. We always start with the broader objectives of the company and work backwards from there — whether it is in terms of the resources that the TA team needs to hire, or in terms of deciding which are the most critical set of features that need to be included in the product.
WE HAVE THE OBJECTIVES CLEAR. NOW WHAT?
Let’s circle back to the example we took. An incremental MRR of $10,000 translated to 200 new customers. So how do we get to those? Let us look at their performance reports so far — on both marketing and sales sides. Let us assume that out of any leads they generate through their marketing campaigns, 10% become paying customers within 30 days of lead generation. So, that means to convert 200 new customers, there need to be 2,000 newly minted leads. And that sets a very clear goal for the marketing team/plan.
In 5 months, we need to generate 2,000 new, qualified leads for the business.
Since we need 200 new customers by the end of 6 months (2 quarters), and it can take up to 30 days to convert a lead, we need to generate the leads within 5 months.
Now, different people will play it differently. One way could be the target of “400 new leads every month”, though that would not be the smart play since that would mean any shortfall in any month will create additional stress in the months that follow, and immense stress can mount up in the last couple of months.
A better way would be to target “500 new leads every month” or “125/130/150 new leads every week”. You would notice a few key things here:
- If we are targeting 500 new leads every month, it would mean that we would attain our objectives in 4 months itself. If we are just hitting the 500 mark every month, any leads we generate in the 5th month would be over and above the target.
- If there are any shortfalls in any trailing months, we would have converted good number of leads in the first months to create a buffer.
It always makes sense to create a buffer and create shorter time windows. However, don’t keep the window too short — at least in the initial phases — since it could add stress to your team.
So, you have your goal finalised. Now you are in the position to formulate the strategy towards realising this goal.
COULD THERE BE A BETTER STRATEGY?
Yes. A number of them, to be honest. Let us look at two of the simplest ones:
- Reduce churn: I am yet to know of a single business that is able to retain 100% of their consumers. It is simply not possible. But you can certainly strive to retain as many customers as possible and reduce the churn. While retaining consumers isn’t ‘easy’, in the long run, it is still a much more manageable task as compared to educating new prospect consumers and getting them to transact. If you are able to figure out why customers are churning out of your system, you can theoretically fix those issues and retain a larger percentage of consumers in the coming months. More retained consumers = higher MRR.
- Increasing the average revenue from each paying customer: Someone who is already paying for your product/services is much more likely to pay you for other value added services. Are there some premium services you can offer on top of whatever is included in your vanilla subscription? Do they look like value enhancements your consumers may be willing to shell out dollars on? Higher ARPU = higher MRR.
WHAT I TYPICALLY DO
When I am setting up marketing goals, I tend to have 2–3 sub-teams, working on distinctly different, yet connected goals. For example, in the early stages of my last startup, I had a three person growth team — each person being a “team” in himself. Person A’s goals were to acquire X new consumers on a daily/weekly basis so as to achieve a 30% month-on-month growth. Person B’s goals were around retention. For example, ensuring that at least 60% of our consumers were transacting with us at least twice every month, and at least 80% of our consumers were transacting at least once every month. Person C was responsible for consumers older than 2 months. He would focus on making sure that once a consumer had been on the platform for 2 months (or had made 5 transactions, whichever came earlier), we needed to put emphasis on increasing their average basket value by 40%.
How that helped? Each of these focus areas contributed to the revenue, and having teams with laser-sharp focus on just one area, the entire marketing team was able to drive a much higher impact. The result? We achieved month-on-month operational profitability in the 4th month of our operations, and broke even in the 6th.
And it all started with some simple, well defined, measurable and attainable goals. What are the goals you have for your business?