The Marketing Goals You Should Really Be Focusing On (Hint: It’s Not All About Volume)

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Conversion Rate Based Goals

Are you in charge of setting marketing goals for your organization? That’s no small task, and the pressure is certainly on. If done wrong, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If done right, you can provide productive direction and alignment for your entire team.

This post examines how to think about big-picture goal setting as a marketing team, and highlights the importance of using conversion rates — not just volume targets — to guide your team to success.

The Goals You Set Will Determine Your Marketing Team’s Success or Failure

Team’s rarely achieve their full potential without working together. Just envision a soccer team with 11 players each trying to score a goal on their own. The results would be 11 tired and frustrated individuals who have likely been unable to put together any solid opportunities, let alone score any goals.

Sure, there is the rare moment where a miraculous individual effort enables a team to succeed without teamwork, but that is incredibly uncommon. Think Diego Maradona taking a ball from behind midfield and beating six guys to score a goal for Argentina against England in ’86.

The rationale for this is expressed through Hackman’s Paradox:

“Groups have natural advantages: they have more resources than individuals, greater diversity of resources, more flexibility in deploying the resources, many opportunities for collective learning, and the potential for synergy. Yet studies show that their actual performance is often subpar relative to ‘nominal’ groups (i.e. individuals given the same task but with pooled results). The two most common reasons: groups are assigned work that is better done by individuals, or are structured in ways that cap their full potential.”

— Richard Hackman

For this reason, it is imperative that management teams use an integrated goal structure to align their teams towards a common goal. Doing so effectively will enable the team to reach unimaginable successes. The key then comes down to identifying the right goals to target, and then executing them.

4 Keys to Setting High-Level Marketing Goals

  1. Construct goals from the top-down based on overall corporate objectives and strategy.
  2. Figure out what is going to be required to achieve the high-level goals and the different tactics that can be utilized to achieve them.
  3. Work backwards to get the target metrics for each stage in the process that will enable you to hit your overall targets.
  4. Long-term vision is key in setting the team up for long-term success. Decisions you make today can affect your team’s ability to achieve long-term goals. It is important to keep that in mind as you plan out goals.

Role of the Marketing Function

In order to set appropriate goals, you first need to think about the big picture responsibilities of the marketing function. The marketing team is typically responsible for:

  • Filling the top end of the sales funnel with qualified leads and helping the sales team convert those leads into opportunities (and eventually into revenue-generating customers).
  • Supporting the sales function with target customer knowledge, buyer knowledge, and targeted content to more efficiently and effectively move prospects through sales process.
  • Developing relationships with potential and current partners to support targeted business strategy.
  • Managing the brand image externally.

Sales Funnel with Conversion Rates

How You Should Really Be Setting Marketing Goals

The head of marketing will first want to evaluate the corporate strategy and objectives laid out by executive management to better understand marketing’s role and to identify any organizational dependencies on the marketing team. This will establish the foundation and high-level targets to build goals around. Typically, this will be a total revenue target and sometimes a market share target, as well.

3 Things You Need to Know First

Before developing goals to help achieve these targets, the head of marketing will need to know the following:

  • What does the current lead flow look like, and where are the key conversion points in the pre-sales qualification process?
  • What are the historical conversion rates at each of the key conversion points?
  • How large is/are potential target segment(s)?

This information will help you uncover the different approaches that the marketing organization can take to be a central part of the big picture and the organization’s overall goals.

A Crucial Decision to Make

Early on, a key determination that any head of marketing and his or her team will need to make is choosing between one of the following priorities:

  • Optimization: making the company’s current marketing process more effective and efficient
  • Acquisition: Bringing more potential opportunities into the funnel

This decision will impact how your team should structure its top-line goals and determine what metrics are most important to be targeting.

Why Having Goals Around Conversion Rates — Not Just Volume — Is Key

(For more on conversion rates, please read my series on the science of conversion. This series walks you through what the most common types of conversion metrics, how they are calculated, and when it makes sense to use each type of metric.)

Conversion rates and conversion volume provide the context necessary to understand the state of lead generation in the company, and to identify the inefficiencies that exist in the operation.

  • Conversion volumes can help you identify the key conversion points in the sales process, which you can then evaluate as potential areas for efficiency improvement.
  • Conversion rates establish yield expectations, which allow you to forecast lead volume necessary to achieve a specific revenue target. Conversion rates can also help you identify the problematic conversion points in a sales process and estimate the potential gain from efficiency corrections.

By looking at these factors together, the head of marketing can develop a high-level strategy for achieving a top-line goal.

Once you know the best ways that you can address the big picture corporate goals, you are ready to develop your own primary goals and get the marketing team ready to go after the top line targets.

Formulating Your Big Picture Marketing Goals

The big picture goals of a marketing organization are to:

  • Produce leads that convert into a quantifiable amount of revenue during a specific time period
  • Generate predictable qualified opportunity flow at the front-end of the sales funnel

First, you will want to establish SMART goals around each of these points. From there, you can develop supporting points that define the strategy of how you will achieve each goal. Both of the goals above will require a conversion volume metric (i.e. number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs), as well as supporting conversion rate targets to ensure that the lead flow will enable the team to meet the overall revenue goals. You can arrive at all of these numbers by starting at overall revenue targets and working backwards to determine what is needed to achieve them at each particular stage of the funnel (ex: To get one MQL you know your team needs to secure x number of engagements; to get that number of engagements you know you need to send x number of emails or receive x number of pageviews; etc.).

These metrics will also make it possible to track your team’s progress towards these goals since all outcomes can be scored by likelihood of conversion.

Bottom Line

Strong goals will commit to key conversion rate targets and conversion volume targets, as well as specify the relevant target segment(s). Specificity allows the team around you to be more targeted in what they do and help you truly leverage the collective knowledge of the team in achieving its goals.

As your team’s leader, much of the burden in goal planning lays in your hands and your ability to get individuals to develop goals that line up with the overall team goals. Individual goals are best set by team members, themselves, and not by management. This allows them to apply their own creativity and perspective into how each goal can be achieved and also provides them with a greater sense of ownership.

Additional Reading and Resources

Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy