Your Online Marketing Success Begins With Goal-Setting

goal-settingYour days are spent worrying about how to continue delivering a product to your customers without increasing prices or losing market share to hungry, well-funded competitors. Your nights are filled with thoughts of what happens if you cannot continue to meet those ever-increasing demands. How long could you meet payroll? How many people could you layoff without hurting the business? Would you have to look to investors for help?

But at this moment your biggest concern is ,“Why in the hell am I sitting in a 9 am meeting being asked to discuss ‘quarterly goals’ for online marketing?”

We know what you’re thinking:

  • Increase revenue
  • Increase profits from revenue
  • Grow customer base to increase revenue, which makes it possible to increase profits from revenue
  • Repeat

What if we told you that the meeting you’re sitting in could be one of the most important meetings you’ll ever attend? What if we told you that the details you could hash out in the next hour could reshape your company and the role it plays in the current market? What if we told you that goals—not social media, not data, not tools—are what your company needs most desperately as it relates to online marketing?

Well, that’s what we are telling you.

Goals Might Be A Tough Sell, But They Are An Indispensable Asset

Online marketing is a point of emphasis for untold numbers of business, and for good reason: Web visibility can equate to more customers, more products sold and more revenue. But the path to success is far from linear, which is where goals come into play.

The No. 1 question asked by business owners who jump into online marketing is “Where do we start?”

whatThe only viable answer is “with goals.”

I admit, the first time this line of thinking was shared with me—during Mozcon 2013 by Mackenzie Fogelson of Mack Web—I was taken aback. Like many others in the audience, I immediately thought “There has to be more to it.” I was right.

There is much, much more to online marketing. But, goals do come first. Here is why, we are swimming in a sea of information, with more tools and platforms than we’ll ever have time to use. We have data up to our eyeballs, personnel strewn across the planet and enough ideas to fill up a college textbook.

All of this information often leads to the thinking that everything is important. It’s not. There is a clear pecking order as it pertains to what your business should focus on at any given time. Creating clear, definable goals ensures everyone is on the same page at the same time.

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

What you assign importance to becomes the priority.

The process begins with a little exercise:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What impact is that likely to have?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What will you need to measure to track performance?
  • What constitutes success?
  • What’s the next step after accomplishing this goal?

Let’s say your business is dipping its toe into social media. You’d love to see some movement on what you consider to be the three most important platforms for your business: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Your goals could look something like this:

  • Hire one full-time employee to man social media
  • Grow Twitter followers by 10 percent over the next 90 days
  • See Facebook Likes increase by 15 percent over the next 90 days
  • Grow Instagram engagement by 20 percent in the following 90 days
  • Increase social shares from the company blog by 50 percent in three months

You’ll notice several important elements in this fictional example.

  • Time element: An established time-lime for completing the goal(s) is an imperative. This creates a sense of urgency and of purpose, but mainly it makes everyone aware that the task at hand is the priority for the allotted period of time.
  • Personnel: Your staff needs to be clear on who’s responsible for helping attain this goal. Empowering teams members to help move the needle is ideal, but the key players must have the authority to advance the charge without others second-guessing them. A formal meeting making everyone aware of what’s happening and who the main players are could prove invaluable.
  • How success will be measured: The term goals might sound nebulous, but they are anything but. Assign a value, metric to them, and you can track them with ease. Rigidity is not the priority here. Be realistic about what can be accomplished in the predetermined time frame, while understanding that significant movement in the direction of a specific goal is tantamount to success. (For example, increasing social shares from the blog by 37 percent as opposed to 50 percent could still be viewed as a success.)

Your first priority is determining what your goals should be, which brings us back to “Where do we start?”

I tell business owners to start with a goal that can significantly impact the business but that won’t sap resources they cannot afford to expend. It could be as simple as posting a weekly blog or as involved as launching a responsive-design website.

Whatever goals you choose, they must comprise three core elements, which I’ve dubbed the “3 M’s Of Goal-Setting”:

  • Measurable: There must be concrete metrics in place by which your team’s performance toward the goal can be measured against. Strive to be as specific and as transparent as possible so everyone knows what they are working toward.
  • Manageable: Refrain from setting goals that are clearly out of the reach, either for the time frame or for the team you have assembled. Make certain to devote the necessary resources to the task.
  • Meaningful: When CEOs ask “Where do we start?” I always answer with “What will have the biggest impact on your business over the next three months?” This helps to identify hot-button issues. I suggest you do the same. Think of (a) what you most need to get done in the next 90 days and (b) what, of the things you could accomplish in that time-frame, would be the biggest positive for the business.

It’s easy to read this post and think, “That sounds too easy. What impact could it really have?” What I love about the goal-identifying/goal-setting-approach is it drives focus inside of an organization. Everyone knows what the priorities are, so it’s much harder for individuals or teams to get off task.

I hope you’ll give this technique the good old college try. I know from first-hand experience how successful it can be.

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