Are the objectives for your marketing programs really just reasons without numbers? Well, with some inspiration from a seed planted by a song I first heard in 1975, I’ll try to help you to fix that problem.
I’m a long-time Bruce Springsteen fan. My affliction set in the first time I heard Born to Run played on my local FM station. I remember it well. It was the fall of 1975 and I was sitting in the basement of our family home, pretending to do homework.
When I decided several years ago to learn about blogging, I wanted to do so outside of my work world. I chose to blog about Bruce as I had studied him more diligently.
The blog was fun, I learned what I needed to know, but after five years of weekly posts, I lost the enthusiasm to keep going. I stopped posting at the end of 2012, although I have kept the blog site up. I’m happy I did it and the blog opened doors for me that I never anticipated.
Recently, a new door cracked open. I’ve been asked to consider writing a chapter in a book about Bruce that one day will hopefully be published. The asker found me through my blog.
I haven’t made my decision yet but I’m thinking about it and why I might like to do this. That leads me to the point of this story. I want to illustrate the difference between having reasons for doing something and setting proper objectives for doing that something.
Reasons may give you purpose, but proper objectives give you the ability to measure whether you achieved what you set out to accomplish. To measure whether marketing programs achieve their purpose, you need to be able to compare results to objectives.
I have to decide whether to commit my resources to writing this chapter, in the hopes it will be accepted and published. Similarly, you have to decide whether to support and run specific marketing programs, in the hopes they will move your business forward.
Setting Clear Objectives Will Help Us Both
Let’s start by looking at my reasons for wanting to do this:
- Become a published author
- Improve my writing skills
- Reach a new audience
- Have some fun
I think these are good reasons to do it, but they are just that, reasons. To convert them to measurable objectives, I need to challenge them as much as your boss (not that Springsteen guy) would challenge any of your marketing program objectives with some of those “what do you mean by that?” type of questions. More on that later.
By quantifying the outcomes I’d like for each reason, we can begin to find the semblance of a measurable objective:
Become a published author: This is the easiest one. If the book is published and my chapter makes the cut, then mission accomplished. I have to admit, this is my number one objective, and the one I’d weight highest on my scorecard.
Improve my writing skills: Now it gets tougher. How do I measure the change in my writing skills from before until after I write that chapter? I could assemble a panel of writing experts and have them develop a scoring methodology to evaluate my before writing, perhaps a few of my newsletters. They would then have to use the same methodology to evaluate my completed chapter. The difference between the two scores would be my improvement. I could set my objective at a 10% improvement.
Reach a new audience: I need to start by being more specific about who I’m trying to reach. If I want to reach Springsteen fanatics to draw traffic to my dormant blog, my objective could be to increase average weekly unique site visitors by 20%.
If I want my chapter about Bruce to attract prospective clients for Optiv8 Consulting, then I need to define how much new business I’d like to acquire this way. I’ll set the bar for number of clients at one, which is likely overly optimistic. The dollar value objective for that one engagement will remain a confidential matter between my new Springsteen-loving marketer friend and myself. I’ve met many Springsteen-loving marketers over the years so, who knows, this might work!
Have some fun: This one is tough. I’ll know if I’m having fun when I’m doing it, but what could I possibly use as a Key Performance Indicator for my fun? I’m open to any suggestions you’d like to make but I know one thing. I’ll be wearing a massive grin the day my copy of that book arrives and I see my name in the book.
Since I don’t know which program(s) you’re contemplating running, or what your objectives might be, I’ll suggest a few things for you to consider.
Start by asking if your objectives are just reasons without numbers. If you haven’t done the harder work of quantifying the results you want related to those reasons, you’ve yet to set objectives, and you won’t be able to measure properly when the program is over.
For each objective you set, challenge yourself with a few questions, before your boss hits you with those “What do you mean by that?” questions. These will get you started:
Who are you targeting? Examples: Current customers, prospects, specific market segments, a specific audience.
What do you want them to do? Examples: Follow/like you, subscribe, download, buy or buy more of specific products or services.
When do you want them to do it? Specify a period or a deadline.
How much of that do you need them to do for you to be happy? Pick a number or a percentage growth vs. a benchmark, like same period last year, and don’t sandbag it or your boss will challenge you some more!
The first three of the above questions help you to define the behaviour you want. In the last one, you quantify that behaviour.
In addition to making it possible to measure your marketing, setting proper objectives also sets expectations and defines success. That makes it easier to decide whether to allocate limited resources to a given initiative.
In truth, my decision isn’t too hard and I’ll probably go for it, assuming I can come up with an angle for my chapter. So my consulting work won’t suffer, I’ll re-allocate non-work time that I’ve allocated to other fun things, like to paint my front porch.
As a business executive or owner of a marketing budget, you must optimize your resources and budget by making good choices about which programs to fund. You’ll have your reasons for wanting to support each program, but be sure to challenge your reasons and objectives with some good questions before The Boss beats you to it.
For you Springsteen lovers, the blog is Your Friday Bruce Fix. I couldn’t tell you sooner as I worried you might never come back!