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Set your business goals before your marketing goals

I am consistently asked by business owners, “Should I make a Facebook page?” or “What keywords should I use for my SEO?” or “If I want to increase sales, what ads should I spend money on?”

My most consistent answer: I don’t know.

With a follow-up question: What are your business goals?

If your marketing tactics aren’t flowing up to your marketing strategy and if your marketing strategy isn’t flowing up to your business goals and strategy, that Facebook page is going to be a complete waste of time.

You have to walk before you run

Goal-setting is hard. Tracking goals is even harder. But without this pivotal step, how can you determine where you effectively spend your time and money?

Inc does a great job with this goal-setting overview. Googling “how to set business goals” is also super effective if you’re just now getting into it. Tons of thought leaders and brands have smarter ways to elaborate on these topics, whereas I want to keep this short and sweet.

The main thing you need when you’re setting business goals is that you want:

  • Long-term initiatives (bigger, higher level goals – what do you want to achieve with this company?)
    • Base these more on years and longer lengths of time
    • They can be a bit more intangible, like Google’s goal of “don’t be evil”
  • Short-term goals (smaller ones that serve as the roadmap – how will we get to those bigger goals?)
    • Make these S.M.A.R.T.
      • Specific (concrete and detailed)
      • Measurable (put a number to it and a way to determine that number)
      • Action-oriented (what needs to be done and who will own which part)
      • Time specific (quarterly is a good benchmark – there must always be an end date)
  • Metrics
    • Prioritize your goals (you can’t do everything at once)
    • Figure out a method for tracking them that works for you

The metrics piece is the biggest area where this falls apart. Teams can get very excited about goals and what they’re going to accomplish and then…the motivation wanes. Maintenance is hard. In the US, we are a culture that prizes innovation over maintenance, even though maintenance is arguably more important.

It’s also a lot more challenging. It’s hard to prioritize maintaining things you’ve already started and tracking metrics when it takes time from actually doing the things you’re tracking.

But then once these are set, you can actually figure out your approach to marketing.

Strategy vs. Tactics

The easiest way to approach your marketing is thinking of it in terms of strategy versus tactics. In light of how we differentiated long-term goals and shorter-term ones, it’s a similar approach here.

Strategy is how you conceptualize getting to your goal. It’s your intangible element here. A tactic is what you will actually do to execute your strategy and theoretically, meet your goal. You want your marketing strategy to tie back into your business goals, and then you want your marketing tactics to make sense for your strategy.

The simplest way to think on goals, strategies and tactics is to think on their roots – war. Your long-term goal might be to win a war. Your short-term goal would be then to win a specific battle or number of battles. How will you win those battles? You’ll win them with strategy, like focusing on air superiority or on flanking maneuvers. But then actually charging at specific points, withdrawing from battles where you might be overwhelmed, defending key choke-points – these are the tactics that make a strategy a reality.

Same thing goes in business and marketing.

I already have a business so this is stupid

But wait, you might be thinking, this is pointless for me. I’m already running my business and selling my things, why should I be considering setting business goals now?

The answer is mainly because you’re running in no set direction if you don’t have goals. Business plans aren’t that important for starting a business but the act of planning, the act of goal-setting is critical.

You need business goals and metrics to tie your marketing back to, otherwise you’re just throwing money at projects with no ability to interpret the results. How else will you know what’s working versus what’s not? How will you be able to improve?

(And maybe you have goals but you aren’t measuring them – would you invest money and then not pay attention to it?)

So how do I set my marketing goals?

As you can see, setting your marketing goals depends on your business goals. Without context, different marketing channels might be useless.

If your long term goal is to be the very best in your market but your short term goal is to increase your revenue by adding 5 new clients and retaining 5 existing ones, you will want marketing strategies for retention and for acquisition.

A retention strategy might include using tactics like email marketing to send updates to your existing clients on a regular basis, whereas acquisition might mean spending money on paid Facebook or Google Adwords campaigns and a very different email marketing approach.

In terms of next steps…

  • If you’re getting confused about strategies vs. tactics vs. goals, check out this long-standing article by John Furgurson, an ad veteran who suggests that if you’re trying to determine if something’s a strategy, goal or tactic, just ask “what if?” 
  • If you’d like to do more reading about this on your own, IMPACT has a great overview of the 10 steps they take to set marketing goals based on business goals 
  • If you’re in one of the self-reliance markets we specialize in (survivalism, sustainability or self-reliance) and want more help, contact us! If you’re not, you’re still welcome to contact us and we may have recommendations for other agencies we know and like who can help you out instead

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