An Expert’s Guide to Setting Realistic Marketing Goals (and Achieving Them)

Marketers like you are heading into 2021 with some revised expectations. Many CMOs started last year off with budgets that accounted for about 11 percent of revenue. By mid-year, that had changed, and marketing departments clamped down on their spending.

Most experts predict that marketing budgets will remain smaller in 2021. Companies must try to recover from the downturn, and they have to do so the right way.

What does that mean for your marketing goals? Now, more than ever, you need to be able to set realistic goals. In the face of scaled-back budgets, you want to be sure you’re maximizing every marketing activity.

This guide will help you set those goals, so that they’ll be well within your reach.

Gather Your Data and Crunch Numbers

The first thing you need to do when developing marketing goals is get your data in order. Pull KPIs and other metrics. Then analyze the data to discover what’s working and what’s not.

This kind of data analysis should also reveal trends. Did your company experience huge social media growth just by posting a couple more times a day? Did you spend on ads that didn’t meet their performance benchmarks?

Keep in mind that surface-level data can show you the “what,” but it may not show you the why. You’ll need to dig deep down into the data to see what’s going on. Did your ads not perform because you were targeting the wrong audience or because you had bland copy?

Once you understand both the “what” and the “why,” you should have a good idea of both what you’ve done and what’s possible.

Align Marketing Goals With Business Goals

Another key step in setting realistic marketing goals and objectives is to make sure you’re in step with the rest of the business.

At first glance, this may seem obvious, but it’s often an issue for marketers. They may want to grow social media presence and raise brand awareness. The business wants to focus on retaining existing customers.

The marketing department here is out of line with the business vision. Their tactics may aim at finding new customers while ignoring existing customers. In turn, the actions of other departments may undermine or contradict marketing.

This can lead to deadlock in getting marketing initiatives approved. You may want to spend budget on a brand awareness campaign. Nobody will approve the plan, because they don’t see how it supports the business’s goals.

When you align your marketing goals with the business’s goals, they’re more achievable.

Set Measurable Goals and Use Benchmarks

The next trick for making your marketing goals more achievable is to make sure they’re measurable. You can set a vague goal like “get more followers” on social media or “drive more traffic to the website.”

Those are goals, but it’s difficult to measure them. How do you know when you’ve “achieved” this goal? Do you need to get 200 more social media followers or will just 2 do the trick?

A measurable goal makes tracking it simpler. Suppose you want to achieve higher brand awareness. That’s a good goal, but it’s not particularly measurable.

How do you know when you’ve achieved brand awareness? How much more brand awareness will count as “higher” awareness? Do you even know how aware people are of your brand right now?

Benchmarking will help. If your goal is to raise brand awareness, then take a survey right now to see how aware people are of your brand.

From there, you can set a measurable goal, like “grow brand awareness by 50 percent.” You’ll use periodic surveys to see if brand awareness is increasing.

Benchmarks also help you keep your goals realistic. You could say you want to drive 6,000 percent more traffic to your website. That’s a measurable goal.

Is it realistic though? Chances are it’s not, although you’d want to check in with industry benchmarks. How much traffic growth per month, quarter, and year is reasonable in your industry?

The same is true of a pay-per-click ad campaign. Benchmarks for your industry can tell you what a “good” click-through rate is. If you use the wrong benchmark, then you may set goals that are out of line with what’s reasonable or achievable.

Match Your Initiatives to Goals

Your final step in setting realistic marketing goals for next year is to make sure your match your initiatives to your goals.

The last 12 months have seen enormous upheaval in the marketing landscape. More marketers have adopted digital marketing, and many have increased budgets for technology.

You’ll need to adjust your goals and expectations if you choose to adopt new channels. Take virtual events as an example. The experts at Rockway Exhibits note that success at virtual conferences is different than in-person events.

You can’t use your in-person tradeshow goals to benchmark your virtual conference performance. You may need to think about different goals for the virtual conference. A virtual conference may be better for raising brand awareness or growing an email list than making sales.

This is why you need to carefully align your initiatives with your goals. You might think that adopting a virtual conference will support your in-person tradeshow goals. The reality might be that a different initiative could better support those goals.

A virtual tradeshow much be the right initiative for a different set of goals as well. It might drive traffic to your website or increase requests for private virtual demos.

The better you align your marketing initiatives to your goals, the more achievable those goals become.

Supercharge Your Marketing With Great Advice

Setting marketing goals is something that can stump even the experts. It’s tough to make goals both realistic and challenging.

This guide should have you setting better, more achievable goals for 2021.

Looking for more tips on how to market your business successfully? Check out our archives! We have plenty of how-to guides and tips to help you get more out of your marketing strategy.