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Setting Goals in Marketing & Sales

Jacob Brain


As the year draws to an end, the burning question is: how did you do on you goals? For most of us, the results are probably a mixed bag. Yet, sometimes, the question can lead us to a deeper question: did you set good goals in the first place?

In this post, we’ll explore setting goals in marketing and sales to see how we can better gauge growth and industry expectations so we can nail next year with finesse.

Mechanics of a Goal

To have a goal means setting an expectation for the future – to see a desired state, and to move toward it with all your energy and spirit. There is nothing more exhilarating than achieving a goal.

There are many many sites and resources to draw from as you consider setting goals, the methods behind the process, and even how to maintain your momentum. I’m not going to cover all of that in this post, but what I will discuss is the general aspects of how goals work for your team and your departments.

When you set a goal for a department or a team, you are aligning the priorities of the team for the time period. As a manager, this is an effective way to cast vision and direction for the team. Yet the goal itself is not enough. You must then follow up on the progress to help the team avoid and remove obstacles, and nurture the goal in its current status every week. Then, as the goal is completed, you analyze, reflect, and see what it took to get there. Doing so will help you to set the next one. The collective brain and heart of the organization flourishes as you set, work on, and achieve your goals.

So, to recap, goals create alignment and cast a future. Managers coach those in the arena, fighting for the goals to see them through. This also means creating accountability to the goals – both when things go well and when things go bad. Then, once a goal is missed or made, the team reflects on how to achieve the goal more effectively the next time, and notes what went into the successes and failures this time around.

Setting Goals in Marketing

Making goals in marketing (or in any aspect of the business) requires that you have a method for setting goals. The reality is that you’ve got to have some basis for setting your goals. There are three common ones I’ve seen and used:

  1. Previous success. This means looking at the past, seeing what success you had, and planning to replicate that success.
  2. Targeted goals. This is looking at a desired future (what you’d like revenue to be next year, for example), and working backward to figure out what your goals need to be to make that future happen.
  3. Blended. This involves working on the middle ground. You’re looking at previous or industry benchmarks and factoring in the consideration of where you would ideally like to be. It’s a blending of those two methods to find something that makes sense. This is my favorite way of setting goals.

The last way is a great way of setting a realistic “stretch goal.” These goals are a bit outside of normal expectations, yet they don’t push so far beyond reality so as to make them discouraging – which can be a real result if your goals are too big. Set unrealistic goals and teams never reach them. That gets discouraging quarter after quarter.

So, as you choose your method for setting goals, you need to discuss them as a team. Having buy-in from the team and management makes goals really stick. Getting input from the people who will be responsible for achieving the goals keeps the goals from being too far-fetched. Incorporating the desires of those overseeing the company prevents the goals from being too little. The process can create great balance.

Coaching Goals in Marketing

Once the goals are set, coaching the team through the goals would be your next step as a manger. What reinforcement do you provide? What accountability? Here are some aspects that can help your goal accountability and coaching.

  1. Provide a frequently-updated dashboard against your goals. You need to be reporting frequently against the goals. Some companies use monitors in the lobby to show the live status of goals. Some use weekly meetings to share updates. The point is, goals are not real unless they are discussed frequently and tracked.
  2. Meet with each team member to coach performance on the goals. Breaking out individually will allow for candor and accountability in the group. Review the numbers together and see how each team member is supporting or hindering the goal.
  3. Provide group training. Find activities and aspects of the goal that could be supported with training for the team. Start the quarter off with a day-long training to help them hit the goals, or read a book as a team that reinforces the the rationale behind the goal.
  4. Celebrate progress. If it’s a quarter goal, do something when you are on track at the end of the month. Let the team taste victory and keep momentum moving in the right direction.
  5. Track the factors leading to the goal. Discuss the micro metrics associated with each goal so that you’ll have as clear a picture as possible of potential success.

Goal Autopsy

Once a goal is hit or missed, it’s time to do the autopsy. What happened to make or break that goal? There are lots of ways to look at it, and a few fundamentals to hold onto.

First, the cause of most failures on goals are people. Not circumstances, not the market, but people. Don’t let the the conversation move toward this account, or this client, or these poor market conditions. Make sure that the conversation does not drift too far into “no one’s fault” land.

Second, have data. The last thing you want to do is analyze based on opinions. Having data to support the outcomes is ideal. How many calls were made? How many emails were sent? What was the source of all the web traffic? These are all good questions that generate real insight from data. Don’t let feelings enter the conversation. Look at the sales, leads, and hits as objectively as possible to tell the story in terms of data, not opinions.

Additionally, if you did not hit the goal, sometimes it’s hard to know what data was lacking. There are ways around this, but for now, trust that you can get better once you understand the data and make decisions.

Lastly, let everyone discuss their personal experience with the goal as a way to gather collective information for the management team. This is where feelings will exist, and where they should be shared. Let it add a dimension to the story, not tell the whole story.

Want an objective review of your marketing goals? Or want help in setting better ones? Let’s talk.

Hopefully, this has been helpful as you review this year’s goals and work to set upcoming goals that stretch you in ways that make you grow. Here’s to making it happen.

And as always, good luck.

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