Creating an inbound marketing strategy is complex at the best of times, but it is impossible if you are unsure as to what your goals are. The end of the year is the perfect time to update your marketing goals to be in line with your overall business goals.
1. Be SMART
The SMART framework is one of the most popular ways to plan goals, as it is effective and simple to implement. SMART stands for:
- Specific — detailing exactly what you want to achieve with your goal will make it easier to accomplish.
- Measurable — you need to measure your progress to know when you have reached your goal.
- Attainable — the goal should be neither too challenging nor too easy.
- Relevant — it should have a link to your main business goals.
- Timely — set a deadline for completion.
The SMART framework is valuable for ensuring that you set realistic targets that you’re able to both achieve and measure. It also helps you consider the metrics you’re currently using — to determine if they actually play a role in your marketing strategy or if, in fact, they’re just wasting your time by making you feel productive.
2. Analyze Your 2017 Performance
Last year, we told you that to prepare for 2017, you need to turn to your data from 2016. The same advice applies to this year. By analyzing your successes and failures of the last 12 months, you can see what has worked and what needs changing.
Consider aspects like what channels bring the most and least quality traffic, leads, and customers, what social platforms receive the most engagement, what PPC ads are receiving the most response, and what is your best performing content. Don’t forget to also measure your SEO success. All this is valuable information that you can use to see where you need to focus your attention next year.
3. Create Goals You Will Reach
There is no point creating goals if you have no interest in actually reaching them. Furthermore, whereas you do need to challenge yourself, your goals must be reasonable. Constantly falling short is bad for morale. Plan goals that your team will feel proud to achieve, that are within your capabilities, and that have meaning to your business.
This sounds easier than it is in practice. To ensure that you’re setting achievable goals, there are a couple steps you must take.
First, look at where you are today and how long it took you to reach this position. For example, if you’re deciding by how much you want to increase leads, consider by how much they’ve increased over the past months. If you expect a huge jump, you’re being unreasonable and only setting yourself up for disappointment.
Next, think about what matters to your business. It may sound impressive to grow your followers on social media by a huge amount, but if this does little to take your business to the next level, it’s a pointless goal. Decide what you care about most and create just one or two goals that are directly related. You can then develop a few smaller, support goals to keep you motivated without taking your focus away from the main target.
4. Consider the Long Term
What you do to reach your goals needs to play a role in your long-term strategy. Consider how the actions you take today will impact your sales, brand awareness, and brand image now and in the future. Nothing you do should complicate your life later for minor successes now.
For example, if you want to increase sales, special offers and price reductions may be effective — but at what cost? It may be better for your business to focus on goals that will lead to more sales and customers in the long term, such as by improving your visibility online, increasing engagement on social media, and better nurturing your leads.
5. Work Backwards
You are planning for the whole of 2018. Start by thinking about where you want to be at the end of December next year. Then, you can consider what actions and achievements will get you there.
Split your goals down into smaller targets for each quarter. This will help you with delegating tasks accordingly and setting deadlines. It will also ensure that projects make sense to your team members — they will know why they are working on a certain task and how their efforts contribute to the big picture.
6. Prioritize What Matters Most
Ideally, you want to gain more leads, retain current customers, reach more of your audience, improve the effectiveness of your ads, increase your social media followers, create content that more users want to share, and rank at the top of the SERPs for your keywords. All these are worthy goals, but if you try to do everything at once, you are setting yourself up for failure.
By all means work on improving your entire marketing strategy, but you need to decide what matters most of all. Look at your current position to see where your opportunities lie. Also consider what matters most to your target audience. Decide on your core goals for 2018, making other aims into supporting goals that will help your business continue to grow.
7. Allocate Resources
Another way to keep your goals in check is to bring your resources into the calculations. To start this, decide whether your priorities lie in branding, lead generation, or sales. If you have a large budget and team, you will be able to allocate a significant amount to all three, but if you have limited resources, almost everything will go to a single area.
Then see how you will further divide your resources by the activities that will support this priority. For branding, your focus should be on activities that drive awareness, such as ads, whereas for lead generation you’ll want more budget for blog content and social media. For sales, you should spend more on premium content and email marketing. Whatever you pick, some of your budget will need to go to SEO.
8. Monitor Your Progress
To check that you are on track to reach your goals, you need to measure progress on a regular basis. Consider how to determine whether you have met a goal at each stage by relying on the metrics you defined through the SMART framework. This will enable you to keep improving as the year goes on and increase your chances of success.
If you find that you are falling behind, turn to the data to figure out why. It may be that you need to change your approach or designate more resources to a particular task. By communicating your progress with your team, you can all learn from the experience.
9. Strategize to Stay Motivated
When planning how to achieve goals, include tactics that will keep your team motivated. One important strategy is to include rewards when you meet a milestone. The bigger the achievement, the more you should celebrate.
Remember, goals are never set in stone. In fact, it is a good idea to be flexible, as best practices may change over 2018. Keep up with the latest changes to social media platforms, Google algorithm updates, and other news and information that could impact your strategy. If your goal, or the tasks you planned to lead up to it, become impractical or unnecessary, adapt.