Growth marketing strategy Part 4: grow your business using SMART Goals

March 26, 2020 | by Alex Mampieri

How do you build up your business brand and create more leads? How do you make sure your organisation can keep growing in a sustained way? These are big questions going through many a CMO and marketing managers' head. In the previous parts of this series, we addressed how to put in place methodologies, pick you're appropriate tool stack and ensure your growth marketing team acquires the skills needed to drive success through training. Now it's time to have a look on how to create and implement objectives and goals in a growth marketing plan so that you can work towards that success on a daily basis. We are going to explore how to create objectives and set goals to stimulate your organisations growth. 

 

The difference between marketing objectives, goals and metrics:

Have you ever thought about what sets objectives apart from goals and where metrics actually fit in? I am sure many of you are intuitively aware that there are differences between these 3 terms but it is only when you are totally clear about what they stand for and how they fit in with each other that they will help you define your growth targets and help you focus on the right data measure your success. 

 

What are growth metrics?

Most of you will know very well what a metric is. In fact, reviewing metrics is a big part of our jobs as marketers. These days it's unusual to make any decision or take any action without at least a cursory glance at the metrics. So what defines a metric? A metric is nothing more then a unit or system of measurement. Anything that can be measured by a number or other quantity is a metric . A growth metric then signifies a measure of growth over a given period of time. When a metric for your website could be 10,000 over the last month. A growth metric could be a 10 percent increase in visitors this month from last month. Modern marketing software often displays both the metrics and growth metrics for any given statistics. Note that growth metrics can also show negative growth. They often show this using a minus (-) sign. 

Another way the term growth metric is used is to showcase a tool or system as a growth multiplier for example this tool has generated 10x in leads, however this definition is not relevant to this blog post so we will not cover it in further detail here. 

The purpose of a metric then is just to measure something. Anything that can be quantified can become a metric. The purpose of a growth metric is to measure growth or contraction over time.  so confusingly growth metrics can also measure reductions. Your base growth metrics might be simple but multiple statistics can be combined to measure quite complex and granular changes. 

Here are some examples of growth metrics:

  • Increase (or decrease) in social engagement on twitter (e.g. clicks), this month versus last month. This can be the amount of clicks or an increase in percentage points. 
  • Increase or decrease in website conversion through a specific landing page this quarter over last quarter.
  • The number of socially engaged leads that became a customer through the website vs non socially engaged leads (this month versus last month) as you can see, we combine multiple statistics to define a more complex more granular growth metric here. 

quarterly report - growth metrics example

What are Growth marketing objectives? 

An objective defines where you want your marketing team efforts to lead.  You define objectives to set out what is that your team needs to achieve over a given period of time to be considered successful.

To create objectives you need to ask:

"What does my marketing team need to accomplish over a given period of time, to be successful" 

The answer to this question sets out your growth marketing objectives for for that period.  

Objectives often contain key result (KR) metrics  and are an important part of any growth marketing plan. Their purpose is to define what is considered to be a successful time period at the company, departmental and team levels but they are often also filtered down to even individual team member objectives.. Your growth marketing objectives should tie in with the company wide objectives of other departments and tie in with your companies overarching growth objectives and vision.  

 Lets have a look at an example of growth marketing objectives in a yearly growth marketing strategy plan:

Picture a SAAS company that sells a subscription based set of tools for management of recruitment procedures for contractors.  The company uses a low touch sales model with freemium tools.  The Company has seen sustained growth over the last 3 years and the long term vision is to become the number one supplier of contractor and recruitment management software for agile organisations. During meetings of the executive board they set out the growth objectives for the year to support the long term vision. There needs to be an increase in sales of and on-boarding of new customers of 10 percent this year. There needs to be a small reduction in churn of paying customers from 10pc after one year to 8pc to ensure the revenue growth objectives can be sustained. 

The head of services confirms that he will address the churn rate reduction objective. 

The head of sales sets an objective to increase the handled SQLs by his sales rep by 15% and to improve the conversion rate from SQL to customer by 5%

The the head for sales and the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) enter in a separate discussion to confirm the increase of MQLs needed and to discuss how to improve the conversion ratios. As a result of this discussion the CMO agrees to set the objective to: increase the number of MQLs that go through to sales by 40% and to create and improve the amount of high quality content available to sales reps for closing customers by supplying 10 new pieces of close stage content for use by sales reps.  

What you see above here is the type of high level objectives that would find their way into departmental yearly growth plans and make a coherent overarching growth strategy. 

 

What are growth marketing goals?

Goals are how you challenge your teams to achieve the highest possible level of success over a given period.  Goals are driven by the objectives and key results that were set in your high level discussions and the vision for the organisation.  

Where the purpose of growth marketing objectives is to set out what you want to achieve in a given time period, the growth marketing goals identify the needed changes to accomplish these objectives. 

Let's go back to the example growth marketing scenario and focus on how the high level objectives for the marketing department might be lead back to a series of goals. Hold on to your hats! It is about to get very "metrical".

The CMO has set out a target for his department to generate a 40% increase in MQLs and for his department to write 20 pieces of content to help close Sales Qualified Leads (SQL's) in to customers.  He sits down with his senior managers to flesh out these yearly objectives into goals for his teams. First they work out the numbers (growth metrics) needed to achieve objectives set out for the department.  

Last year they generated 5000 new MQLs. 

Most MQL's converted from website visitors and email signups (about 3500 of direct through the website and 500 of them through email). The total visitor numbers to the website for last year where. 110,000.  This puts the average conversion rate around 3.6%

The remaining MQL's were sourced "offline" through sign ups at trade shows and events. They only organised or were present at 2 events and trade shows. 

In order to increase the MQLs by 40% as set out in the departmental objective they need to produce 5600 MQLs this year.  After looking into last years growth (from 2,200 to 4000 MQLs)They decide to set the challenging goal of 6000 MQLs for the year.  

At this point the marketing teams have their own meetings to discuss what targets they need to hit in order to support the high level goals set out. The content team will make a series of adjustments to try and increase conversion from website visitora. There will be updated goals for ad campaigns. Landing pages will be reviewed and the best performing once will be used as templates to increase conversion. 40 new content pieces will need to be written for the blog including the content pieces that are part of the high level objective set out with sales (see the objectives example) The email and automation specialists will focus on increasing email efficiency and increasing content quality to increase the conversion rate by 2% over the year.  

As you can read a whole set of goals need to be set to achieve the departmental objectives. Ideally these are data driven and contain clear measurable metrics that can measure the performance against the  goals at all time. More on this in below.

How to define and implement SMART goals for your marketing department:What are Smart Goals - Growth marketing info graphic by about inbound

Now that we had a look at the difference between objectives, goals, and metrics, I hope you clearly understand that Marketing GOALS are NOT STATS, objectives or metrics. Those growth marketing stats you are chasing are NOT your goals. They are measurement metrics that should support your goals. They are only one part of the Goals. Now as you might have noticed another word crept in to this paragraph. In the above headline I don't  mention just goals. I mention SMART goals. Some of you might think that this is just an eye catcher to make you keep reading, but in fact SMART is an acronym developed over the last century. It is not exactly clear when it was first used but the generally accepted that it was first written down by a consultant named george T. Doran. It has since been adopted by - and forms an important part of the inbound methodology thought by Hubspot and is also used across a wide variety of sectors by management consultant and HR departments alike. 

So what is a SMART goal in inbound marketing?

Well, the acronym SMART stands for the the following words and meanings:

  • Specific: your goal should specify an exact number and a clear time frame. For example: Don't say may goal is to convert more leads. Say the goal is to convert 100 more leads by the 31st of June or the end of Q2.   
  • Measurable: Make sure that you have the data and reports available to track the specific metrics that support your goal. You should track during the time period you set out, not just at the end of it. 
  • Attainable: Set your goal to give your team a bit of a challenge but ensure that it is still possible to make it.
  • Realistic:  Be realistic about what your departmental and teams capabilities are. Use data from previous periods to look at the business landscape, staff capabilities and previous results when you set new goals. 
  • Time-bound: Ensure that you give yourself a clear deadline. Avoid chasing a number without a time frame. 

Have a look at this blogpost by the team at Hubspot academy for examples and in depth explanations about SMART goals for their approach to SMART goals are and examples.

hubspot set goals appNB you can set your goals in Hubspot Marketing Performance Report

 

How do you define SMART goals to power your growth marketing efforts?

Once you pick your goal using the SMART principle it's time to discuss the actions needed with your team and to put in place a measurement system to support it. Lets go back to our earlier used example. ? There was the high level goal of increasing conversion by 2% over the course of this year. First you need to translate this goal into a SMART format which makes it as clear and easy to understand as possible.  To do this we will need to do some more math. We'll start with what our conversion rate needs to be at by the end of the year to ensure we get a 2% increase. 

We know last years conversion rate was around 3.6% (see the example above). So if we add the 2%, the conversion rate increase, the new rate would be 5.6%. 

Now it's time  set the exact time at which the goal needs to be reached. In this example we will say that the goal needs to be reached by the 20th of December 2020.  If you pick a date bear in mind that you need to be able to process the results and even if possible discuss them with your team. In this case we picked the 20th to avoid that our final measurement falls in the middle of the end of year holidays.

A very important and often missed part of the specific is to add a measurement time frame over which we look at the conversion rate to see whether it successful . Over what amount of time should the conversion rate have been at 5.6%. We'll say that the overall conversion rate will need to have been at 5.6%  in Q4 2020.  

Here is example of what our resulting SMART goal wording could look like: 

Our yearly conversion goal is to increase our overall site visitor to lead conversion from 3.6 to 5.6 percent as measured on December 20th 2020 for Q4 2020. 

So now that we have our main smart goal picked it is time to discuss it with your growth marketing teams and ensure that they all understand exactly what this goal means. It's important that all the marketing executives and managers involved understands exactly what the target is and how it will be measured. Once you have made sure of this it time to break it all down and make it implementable. 

How to break down your SMART goals into team level goals and activities:

The goal above seams very daunting as it signifies a large increase over a long period of time. In itself it is hard to envision all the hard work needed to try and hit this target. At this point it is time to work out with your marketing managers how to break this big goal down into smaller chunks of work with their own SMART goals for individual marketers or teams.  These should be reviewed on an ongoing basis and their results should be measured against the targets of your overall goals. 

Following on from our growth marketing scenario let's have a look at some examples of SMART goals for smaller chunks of work that could be used to work towards the conversion increase at the end of 2020. We will also attach some Objectives to this goals to tie in with your overall goal. (I will bold the SMART goal part of each example and normal text for the Objectives so it is easy to keep them apart):

  • Our marketing automation team will review and update 40 blog posts with new or improved conversion forms by March 31st 2020. Objective: We expect that this will lead to a 0.5-0.8% improvement in our website conversions once implemented.  
  • Our content marketing team will identify 2 topics and related high quality keywords based on previous conversion scores and write 10 pieces of content with conversion forms based on these by June 1st 2020. Objective: We expect that the improved targeting will lead to an increase of conversion on this content of about 2%  over the other content which would lead to approximately 0.2% to 0.3% overall increase in the visitor to lead conversion rate.
  • Our marketing automation team will add chat bots to 5 of our main conversion pages to have an additional conversion path in place by May 1st 2020. Objective: We expect this to increase our overall  website visitor to lead conversion rate by 0.4 to 0.6 percent once implemented and fine tuned.
  • Our ad management agency will run 2 paid advertising campaigns to target repeat visitors to our website and social media with promotional discounts to drive 300 conversions by 31st of October 2020. Objective: Based on previous targeted campaigns we will expect this campaign to increase our overall conversion rates by 0.6% for Q4 2020.
  • Our marketing automation department will update our forms on our website to provide immediate email validation and basic feedback by June 1st.  Objective: We expect this to increase our overall website visitor to lead conversion by 0.3 to 0.4 percent once implemented by reducing the amount of typing errors when visitors provide their email address. 

If we count up the best case projected increase after hitting all the above goals we should see a overall improvement in conversion of 2.7 percent. This would be great but there is obviously a big margin of error in the projected objectives. In real live the above goals would only represent a part of all the year around goals and the individual conversion gains likely be smaller but I hope you see the point on how it is important to break down departmental goals in to manageable and achievable SMART goals to end up with the manageable and clear set of objectives that are easy to understand by your teams. 

Make sure you get your team managers to discuss these goals with each team member. They should ensure all of these goals are fully understood and it is clear how you expect them to be implemented. The SMART principle should make this easier to do. It is also very important that you listen to staff feedback before committing them to it as your marketers should have valuable experience and skill to their specific areas that could help you adapt and improve these goals. 

How to set up reporting to measure progress towards your SMART goals:

After you have your objectives and your SMART goals in place at the departmental and team levels, it is time to set up the systems to support these foundations. You will need to make sure you have easy access to the metrics that you want to influence and any metrics that are relevant to measure the progress that your marketing teams are making towards their goals. This means you should work out a report or set of reports that will allow you to review this numbers. This might be hard or easy depending on how integrated your marketing tools are and how granular they can be in their reporting. If you work with an integrated growth stack such as Hubspot it should be relatively straight forward to get most of these numbers but you might need to get the staff with each individual goals to report back on some of them.

For other less integrated growth marketing stacks getting these numbers might be substantially harder to put in a report or on a dashboard and you might need to rely more on reports manually calculated  compiled by your marketing staff. 

Let's compile a hypothetical report based on the SMART goals for the marketing automation team in my example of team goals above:

We will start with our overal departmental SMART goal metric. I would advise you to include this in all your SMART goal reports as this is keeps your focus on your overal Objective. 

  • We add the overall visitor to lead conversion rate for the website over the previous 3 month period (This overall metric should be part of all your marketing reports). 

Now lets look at our individual marketing automation departmental goals and see what the metrics we could report on how to implement them:

1.  Our marketing automation team will review and update 40 blog posts with new or improved conversion forms by March 31st 2020.

it's hard to get an automated number as it is about changing existing content on forms. You will need your automation team to provide periodic updates on how many and which pages they have updated with improved conversion methods. If you use any major marketing solution you should be able to create a specific metric and track the combined conversion rate for all the pages that your automation team will update. 

  • We can add a number of pages updated with improved forms (out of 40 in this case)
  • We can also add an overall conversion rate for these pages over the last month versus overall last year. 

This should give us information about how you are doing against this goal and it's objective of increasing conversion rates. 

2. Our marketing automation team will add chat bots to 5 of our main conversion landing pages to have an additional conversion path in place for these pages by April 31st 2020.

For the number of pages that chat bots are added to you might need to get a manual number sent to you by the team member involved although again in some case such as with Hubspot you could set up automatic tracking for this by creating a custom report for it. again its worth to have both chat bot conversion for these pages over the last month and overall conversion stats for the quarter versus Q4 goal on this report to help see things in context. 

3. Our marketing automation department will update our forms on our website to provide immediate email validation and basic feedback by June 1st

This is a yes, no stat - as such it depends on feedback from your marketing automation team directly. There could be underpinning metrics however (do individual forms need to be replaced with new ones, etc. If so the appropriate completion metrics could be added. its worth putting in a form conversion % stat (last month versus overall last year. 

If your tools support it you could create a dashboard that have all these numbers displayed so that at any time you can glance at this dashboard and see where you are in terms of your team goals and how the results compare to your objectives. 

How to implement feedback loops and use your reports to measure and adapt your SMART goals:

Once your reports are set up, it is very important to implement a timeline for each SMART goal and pick a number of dates at which to review and discuss them with stake holders. This will allow you to make sure you are on track to achieve your objectives and to make informed decisions on what to do if you are not on track to complete them.

How and when you implement your review needs to decided separately for each goal and should be based on its length, the complexity of the goal and where in the timeline to completion most work will need to be done. It also depends upon the size of your marketing department and teams and whether you have team managers that can take care of the management of these individual goals or if you need to be more involved. Make sure that you do set these review dates and that the managers and/or staff members that are responsible for achieving the goals are all aware of them so they have clear deadlines to work towards. You or your team manager can set clear deadlines for progress made at these check in points to ensure the priorities remain clear. 

Having these timelines and feedback loops in place also allows you to respond to unexpected changes in the markets or other set backs that impact your chances of reaching your goals and will allow you take measures to change things earlier so that you don't loose valuable time chasing goals that can no longer be met. I'm sure this all sounds like a lot to implement and decide but once you have your objectives goals, metrics, reports and timelines in place you can keep building on these templates to give yourself an effective strategy and that all your employees can understand and get behind. 

The following video shows how a coherent growth strategy is born out of a mission and Vision and translated into goals:

 

The video animations are based on the below tiltbrush infomodel. Your objectives smart goals mission and vision should all tie in for a a growth framework. You can move from left to right and up and down by (left) clicking or tapping and dragging and zoom in and out with your mousewheel or by using pinch on touch screens. 

 

 

Resources:

https://blog.hubspot.com/customers/when-smart-goals-are-not-enough

https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/brief-history-of-smart-goals.php

https://www.aboutinbound.com/blog/the-pillars-of-a-successful-marketing-growth-strategy-part-1-methodologies-and-common-concepts-0

https://www.aboutinbound.com/blog/the-pillars-of-a-successful-marketing-growth-strategy-part-2-know-and-build-your-growth-stack

https://www.aboutinbound.com/blog/marketing-growth-strategy-3-educate-your-team-to-drive-success

Written by Alex Mampieri

Alex Mampieri

With a background in IT services, a passion for media and a natural dislike for most outbound marketing techniques, I developed a fascination with honest data driven marketing practices. I love learning and believe human communication is core to success. As a consultant at About Inbound my main activities are researching and writing about marketing technology and assisting our customers with technical marketing tasks in Hubspot such as database maintenance, Automation workflows, template migration etc.