Everyone needs a plan, but not everyone has one. Some businesses operate according to each and every whim, while others do so at the bequest only the best research and intelligence.
When it comes to marketing, and various other creative avenues, a ‘finger in the wind’ approach has no longevity. The time for guesswork is over, and the digital frontier needs you to have a more measured, analytical approach.
With that in mind, we turn to the age-old SMART objectives, a key attribute that links well with HubSpot's Inbound Marketing model. to help steer the way. Without further ado, here’s how to create a content marketing plan using SMART marketing objectives.
First of all, before you can carry out a marketing plan, you need to agree on the SMART marketing objectives. Here is what SMART stands for and how they can benefit you:
In the marketing environment, specificity can mean anything, from how you measure results to the kinds of information you gather about your audience. It’s generally considered these days that those who set vague and ambiguous goals don't end up achieving them.
For example, if you are looking to lose weight, setting the goal of “losing weight” is very vague. “Losing 5 pounds” is very clear and focused.
You can use specificity to ensure your marketing plan is targeted and on track for success. Having focused marketing objectives will eliminate distractions and make your end goal(s) clearly visible.
Say, for example, you’re gathering information about one of your personas - what kind of information do you want to acquire? How granular will you go?
Specificity is the name of the game and building your target audience profiles will result in you being far more informed going forward.
In terms of specific goals you should be setting, it depends heavily what stage your business is at. If it’s early on in your business’ life, focus on engagement goals and collect relevant feedback that can validate your product and service. If you’re in a later stage, you should focus on growth metrics. It is important that your goals align with your main marketing objectives.
Every successful, results-driven marketing campaign has some kind of system for measuring results.
Data is everything. Years ago, marketers operated on a hunch, blindly guesstimating without the aid of data, analytics or reporting. It’s a much different landscape today because we can clearly see how campaigns have performed, what we’re doing well and what needs to be improved.
For your marketing plan, you need to know how to get your hands on the most valuable data to you. How will you improve, what can you do to push yourself further and how will you realise your vision for the business?
In short: you measure your capabilities against a (realistic) time frame and then you’ll know what you can achieve. Choosing 1-2 core goals that can impact your bottom line and, depending on your objective, 3-5 supporting goals. These are a measurable number of goals that you can achieve, any more and you can become distracted.
Is your goal actionable? This is such an important question when it comes to setting your marketing objectives. If you don’t know if you can actually achieve what you’re setting out to do, why are you setting that as a goal?
You should only be setting goals that you, realistically, think you have a good chance of achieving. By setting unachievable goals, you only fool yourself and put yourself in the position to fail again and again.
It can also be a very demotivating process to continually fail to hit your targets so why make life difficult for yourself? That said, don’t give yourself easy goals to hit. You should be challenging yourself constantly and pushing the boundaries of how far marketing can take your business.
When setting goals, think “am I realistically going to achieve that” but, at the same time, “could I be setting a more aspirational goal for my business?”. There’s a middle ground to be found and that’s the key to setting actionable goals.
How relevant are your marketing objectives to your strategy?
Your objectives need to be relevant to the strategies you are setting. If you deviate and your marketing objectives are not specific enough, you will become distracted and not focus on the target goal. Relevance also includes available resources for your strategy, whether it is obtainable and can fit in your time-frame.
Think about it… What’s the use in setting a goal that isn’t relevant to what you want to achieve? If you don’t keep this in mind, you might well achieve your goal, only to find it hasn’t taken you to the place you want to get to.
Setting SMART marketing objectives is a crucial process for your strategy and, if you set an objective that doesn’t relate to what you want to achieve, you’ll never know how successful your marketing has been.
Keep in mind the reason you’re setting SMART marketing objectives and use that reason to determine relevant goals to judge its success.
As the hands of time strike ever closer to the launch of your new marketing campaign, you need to ensure you have allocated a specific time within which to judge its success.
Getting the time allocations for your objectives right is crucial to judging the success of your marketing. You need to ensure that you’ve set yourself enough time in the first place. If not, then you will judge your marketing to be a failure before you’ve given it the chance to produce the goods.
If you fail to set a time for your marketing objectives, how can you expect to correctly judge the success of your marketing and when do you decide it’s time to call it a success or a failure? If this isn’t determined beforehand, you can run into all sorts of trouble.
You can give your marketing a set time to start showing results, say six months, in order to return to the goals you set at that time and review the strategy.
So, hopefully, you’re now thinking about the importance of SMART marketing objectives. Here are some other handy tips to get you on the path towards success:
Having a clear vision of the end will mean your objectives can be definite and don’t offer any ambiguity. Time is precious and should not be wasted with unachievable marketing objectives.
Being focused can enable you to see the end goal without focusing on distractions and wasting resources.
Moving forward is crucial. If you are not moving forward then you are not progressing. Setting a long-term goal can help motivate you to reach it and continue to move your business forward.
Managing your time can help you work under extreme pressure to achieve your short-term or long-term goals. Managing your time makes it easier for you to understand how many objectives you need to achieve in a certain amount of time.
Correctly setting objectives, that are actionable and achievable, will give you a sense of gratification when completed, which can help to motivate you to achieve your next goal as a result.
Acknowledging the importance of SMART marketing objectives will help you to achieve your goals sooner than you think. Hopefully, these tips can act as a constant reminder of why you should set SMART marketing objectives.
These are just a few brief pointers as to how your marketing plan can benefit from the SMART methodology. It can be applied across many disciplines and has proven time and time again that we can achieve anything with a bit of SMART thinking.
SMART marketing objectives are especially helpful for creatives, who are often so close to their own work that they get tunnel vision. Objectives give them a wider perspective of the aim of their roles.