Marketing Objectives: How to Set Them Right (with Examples)

Marketer and content writer at Ahrefs. Addicted to SEO, aviation, fragrances, sushi and tacos.
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    Marketing objectives are clearly defined goals that guide your marketing efforts. They’re a key component of every marketing strategy and provide benchmarks for evaluation.

    Every business needs marketing objectives because they help you focus on the things that matter. For example, while it might seem like a good idea to grow your Instagram following, it might not align with what you’re trying to achieve in your business.

    In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about:

    Check the following two examples:

    Objective 1
    Increase sales by 30%.

    Objective 2
    Increase sales of product XYZ in the enterprise segment in the US from $1M to $1.3M by the end of 2021.

    The second objective should set the bar.

    While that first example might seem reasonable enough, it’s not a great marketing objective because it doesn’t align with SMART criteria.

    This management concept stands for:

    Specific - clearly stating the desirable outcome, answers “who, what, when, how much, …”
    Measurable - you must be able to track progress with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
    Achievable - be bold with your goals, but also realistic; use current growth as a benchmark.
    Relevant - does the objective align with your overall marketing and business strategy?
    Timely - set up a time frame for achieving the goal.

    Your objectives should align with all of these criteria.

    This could be a marketing objective for Ahrefs for 2021, aligned with the SMART criteria:

    Grow Ahrefs Webmaster Tools’ verified global user base from 100,000 to 500,000 by the end of 2021.

    However, you shouldn’t create just one marketing objective. List out a few important marketing objectives that everyone can understand—not just your marketing team.

    You can come up with tons of marketing objectives, but that doesn’t mean you should. As Michael Porter would say, strategy is deciding what not to do.

    So here are a couple of golden rules for choosing:

    1. Less is more. The fewer objectives a marketing campaign has, the more effective it is. In fact, having just one or two strategic objectives works best. This is based on analyzing campaigns that were submitted for Effies awards, a marketing version of Oscars.
    2. Focus on short and long term KPIs. Achieving your marketing objectives should result in improving both short and long-term marketing KPIs. In other words, have objectives that directly translate into more profit and others that help with brand building.

    As a general rule, the ideal balance between marketing spend on sales uplift and brand building is roughly 40:60. It’s one of the most important marketing concepts to keep in mind.

    effects of short and long term focused promotion

    There’s a whole publication around this concept. The key takeaway is that brand building is proven to be the primary driver of long-term growth and success.

    Here’s an example of a marketing objective with a brand building KPI:

    Increase brand awareness among webmasters in the US from 25% to 40% by the end of 2021.

    If you’re wondering why this makes sense and how to measure it, keep reading.

    We’ll go through the following examples of marketing objectives:

    1. Create excess SOV
    2. Increase brand awareness
    3. Increase product demand
    4. Boost sales growth
    5. Acquire more users and customers
    6. Increase the quality and quantity of leads
    7. Increase customer lifetime value
    8. Improve your marketing funnel flow

    And we’re kicking it off with the brand building objectives.

    1. Create excess SOV

    Share of Voice (SOV) is traditionally a measure of your advertising share compared to competitors. However, with most brands now fighting for visibility on organic channels like social and search, we can broaden that definition to how visible your brand is in the market.

    This is an excellent marketing objective because there’s a strong relationship between SOV and market share. Once your SOV is higher than your market share, you create excess SOV (eSOV). Your market share should follow in the same direction in the long run.

    sov graph

    Of course, this is an undeniably tricky metric to track across all channels. The solution is to break the objective down into your most important channels.

    Here are a few examples:

    Increase organic search visibility in the US from 6 to 8% by the end of 2021.

    Increase search ad Impression Share from 47% to 65% in the US among Site Audit tools buyers by the end of 2021.

    Increase marketing podcast audience monthly reach from 300 to 500 thousand by the end of 2021.

    How to measure it

    Measuring SOV depends on your choice of channel. For organic search, the simplest method is to track your main keywords in Rank Tracker, add your competitors’ domains, and check the visibility metric in the Competitors overview tab.

    visibility sov

    The visibility metric shows the percentage of all clicks from tracked keywords that land on you and your competitors’ websites.

    Recommended reading: What Is Share of Voice? How to Measure It Across Channels

    2. Increase brand awareness

    Brand awareness represents your brand’s level of familiarity among your target audience. For example, the brand that first comes to mind when you think of electric cars is probably Tesla, not Rivian. That’s because Tesla enjoys a higher level of brand awareness among consumers.

    Here are two things you can investigate regarding your brand awareness.

    1. Saliency. Does your brand come to people’s minds in your niche? In other words, what percentage of your market knows about you?
    2. Positioning. Do people resonate with your positioning? Is your marketing communication creating the right associations around your brand?

    How to measure it

    Measuring brand awareness requires market research resources because you need answers from a representative sample from your market. Market research agencies specialize in this and are your only option to get comprehensive data.

    3. Increase product demand

    Just because people are aware of your product doesn’t necessarily mean they’d ever consider buying it. You’ve probably seen those new phones with folding displays, but I doubt you’d consider buying one anytime soon.

    Increasing product demand is a great marketing objective if the flow between the awareness and consideration stages of your customers’ journey seems to be stuck.

    How to measure it

    A non-scientific but quick method is to check trends for branded organic traffic in Google Search Console. More people searching for your brand on Google means more people who want to learn about your company and products.

    I’d recommend you check comparison data for the last three months year over year while including only search terms containing your brand name.

    gsc performance

    All of this is quantitative data, though. You’ll get the most accurate results if you run a good old survey with a marketing research agency’s help.

    4. Boost sales growth

    Boosting sales growth is the first short-term marketing objective on our list tied directly to revenue or profit. You need to know which financial metrics make the most sense to measure based on your business model and planning.

    Sales growth can also be tied to a specific product or service. This makes options for sales growth objectives almost limitless.

    How to measure it

    Sales metrics need to be accurate and easy to measure. Otherwise, you’re in for some scolding from your accountant. You need to have precise numbers in your Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), checkout systems, or whatever financial dashboard you’re using.

    There’s just one thing to note here. If you use Enhanced Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics, use it only for marketing analysis purposes. Google Analytics numbers are skewed by default and may not track everything properly.

    5. Acquire more users and customers

    Accelerating your user base growth doesn’t necessarily mean more profit, but it has implications that are way beyond any financial metrics.

    For example, we launched a free version of our SEO toolset called Ahrefs Webmaster Tools in September 2020. Increasing our word of mouth, broadening our user base, and familiarizing more people with our product leads to long-term growth.

    How to measure it

    Use numbers from your CRM. Of course, this is not a worthwhile marketing objective for physical product manufacturers selling in supermarkets.

    6. Increase quality and quantity of leads

    Do you have a subscription-based business? This might be the right objective for you.

    The objective here is to improve marketing communications to attract more users who are likely to buy something from you.

    How to measure it

    It’s easy to figure out lead quantity as that information should be in your CRM, but lead quality tracking needs more work and planning.

    I suggest you dive into lead scoring. Develop an automated system that scores all your leads based on the data they provide.

    Here are some data points you should consider evaluating:

    • Estimated purchasing power of the company
    • User behavior and actions taken in your app or website
    • Trial tier and setup
    • Anything the user said to your customer or sales team
    • Any other data you collect from your user registration process

    I suggest you consult this with an analytics expert. Some CRM platforms like Hubspot have a lead scoring functionality built-in, but it may not be the best solution for your use case.

    7. Increase customer lifetime value

    Customer lifetime value (CLV) is a metric that estimates how much money an individual customer will spend on your products or services. Increasing your average customer’s worth not only improves your financial metrics but also allows you to spend more on acquiring new customers.

    How to measure it

    This is the most basic formula to calculate CLV:

    Avg. Order Value x Avg. Annual Purchase Frequency x Avg. Customer Lifespan

    If your AOV is $100, customers buy the product four times a year, and they stay loyal to your company for three years on average, the CLV would be 100*4*3 = $1,200.

    You work with three different metrics in your CLV objectives. Increase any of those metrics, and your CLV goes up.

    8. Improve your marketing funnel flow

    Maybe you sell kitchenware, and the way you attract most customers is as follows:

    1. They come across your promoted posts on social media.
    2. They later click through one of the ads.
    3. They sign up for a newsletter offering a first purchase discount.
    4. They buy some of your bestsellers.
    5. They become a repeat customer.

    It’s called a marketing funnel because people drop off at each of those stages. Not everyone who sees your Facebook ad will click. Not everyone who clicks will sign up for your newsletter. Not everyone who signs up for your newsletter will buy… you get the idea.

    You need to measure where the most drop-offs occur and then take steps to rectify the issue.

    For example, maybe many people are clicking your ads but leave without signing up or buying anything. That’s the bottleneck you need to fix.

    How to measure it

    Everything depends on the bottleneck. Let me list a few metrics you can track for different stages of the funnel:

    Awareness - SOV, brand awareness, traffic quantity
    Interest - email subscribers, returning visitors
    Consideration - traffic quality
    Conversion - conversion rates, sales, AOV
    Retention - NPS, churn rate, customer lifespan

    You’ll know what to measure and how when you identify the bottlenecks.

    Final thoughts

    Coming up with marketing objectives is not a one-time task. You should assess your progress every year and adjust things as necessary to stay aligned with your business objectives.

    It might take time to narrow the list down to the most important and impactful objectives, but it’s well worth it.

    Got any questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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    • Monthly traffic 395
    • Linking websites 212
    • Tweets 59
    Data from Content Explorer