You may not set them consciously, but most things you do come with goals attached. If you’re cooking dinner, perhaps you have the goal to feed your family. If you’re working out, your goal may be to blow off steam, reduce stress, or be more active. Goals allow us to be more driven toward accomplishing the task at hand and inbound marketing is no exception to the rule that everything you do should have a goal.
Why is goal setting in inbound marketing important? Because your leadership team wants to know that what you’re doing is making an impact on the organization's growth. As we enter a possible recession, goal setting in inbound marketing is more important than ever before.
Defining SMART Goals
You’ve likely heard of SMART goals before, but in case you need a refresher, we’ll catch you up.
- Specific: The goals should answer questions like what, how, when, where, and why.
- Measurable: Any goal should be easily quantifiable and able to be analyzed and compared to previous goals.
- Attainable: Goals should be realistic and reachable.
- Relevant: The desired goals must have a real and important impact on your company.
- Time-bound: Goals must be achieved within a time frame. We recommend setting yearly goals with quarterly milestones that ladder up against them.
SMART Goal Setting in Inbound Marketing
Entertain me for a moment. Let’s say your company wants to increase revenue for the coming year, and your leadership team puts you in charge of crafting a goal for marketing. The company has a goal to increase revenue by 25 percent in the next year.
When setting goals, it’s important to think backward. Knowing that the organization wants to grow revenue by 25 percent, now is the time to ask a series of questions:
- How many customers will it take to make this goal a reality?
- How many opportunities do you need to generate to achieve that amount of customers?
- How many SQLs do you need to hit that amount of opportunities?
- How many MQLs will convert to SQLs?
- How many leads do you need to hit your MQL numbers?
- How many website visitors will you need to hit your lead metrics?
Working backward will allow you to create a SMART goal in the snap of a finger. OK, it takes a little bit longer than that, but taking the time to develop a goal this way allows you to ensure that the goal you present to the leadership team is attainable. Better yet, you’ll have a goal you can contribute to through your marketing efforts.
Applying Your SMART Goals to Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
We’ve talked conceptually about SMART goal setting in inbound marketing. Now it’s time to define our inbound marketing goals. Remember our overall company goal of increasing revenue by 25 percent? Let’s define our inbound goals:
Goal No. 1: Hit 2,000 MQLs per quarter
Goal No. 2: Increase your lead-to-MQL conversion rate by 2 percent by end of year
Goal No. 3: Increase website traffic by 50 percent by end of year
All of these goals ladder up to each other, allow marketing to be in control—and, better yet, if they’re all achieved and your average MQL-to-customer conversion rate stays the same, you’ll be able to achieve 25 percent revenue growth by the end of the year.
Why does this matter for inbound marketing? Oh, my friends, remember what I said earlier? Everything in life should have a goal attached to it, and your inbound strategy isn’t an exception to that rule.
Marketing plays a key role in overall organizational growth, and we need to make sure the entire organization is aware of marketing’s performance. After all, in a recession, history proves that marketing is often the first department to be cut. Why is that? Because the marketing department isn’t accurately explaining the importance of goal setting in inbound marketing and how it relates to—and, quite frankly, helps directly achieve—the goals of the entire organization.
But marketing is important; in fact, it’s crucial. But don’t just take our word for it! Even CNBC agrees: “results showed that companies who stayed the course with marketing spending during two years of recession [in the ‘80s] significantly boosted sales.”
Goal Setting in Inbound Marketing Is Not One Size Fits All
It’s important to note that one marketer’s inbound goals, no matter how strong or inspiring they are, won’t necessarily work for another marketer. Your goals should match where you are in your inbound marketing journey. The example provided above assumes that your organization is using lifecycle stages, has been for at least 90 days, and has accurate conversion metrics from stage to stage.
If you’re newer to inbound marketing or are just starting to shift from traditional marketing to digital marketing, don’t fret. You can still set accurate goals to measure up to the company's overall goals; you just may have to start off more simple. For example, your goal might be defining lifecycle stages by the end of the quarter.
What to Do After You’ve Hit Your Goal
Say you’ve set your goal and hit it. Amazing! Congratulations! Does that mean you’re all good for the rest of the year and can kick back and relax? NO! Now is the time to set new goals and continue to grow continuously. Trust us, your CEO will thank you for that.
We’re not going to lie, inbound marketing is hard—it’s not just an art, it’s also a science. If you’re starting to get sweaty palms and feel overwhelmed reading this, it’s time to invest in a partnership with an inbound marketing agency to help you hit your marketing goals.
About the author
Heather Hiltzik is a director of client services at SmartBug Media. She leads a team of strategists and works with clients on SEO, analytics, lead generation, sales enablement, customer success, and inbound marketing strategy. Heather got her MBA in marketing at the University of Illinois. In her spare time, she loves to travel and spend time with her husband and three rescue dogs. Read more articles by Heather Hiltzik.