smart b2b goals

How to Create SMART B2B Marketing Goals for the Year

Zig Ziglar once said, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” By setting annual marketing goals for your organization, you give your team a target to aim for, a focal point for all their day-to-day efforts, and the means of measuring their progress.

As essential as goal-setting is, many B2B marketing teams struggle with questions like “Which areas should our goals focus on?” and “How do we set goals that are reachable but still force us to stretch?” Fortunately, creating a strong set of goals isn’t that complicated, and even though we’re already a few weeks into the new year, you still have time to create the goals that will propel your team to new heights of success by December 31.

Choosing Your Focus

One of the first questions marketers ask when they approach goal-setting is “How many goals should we have?” A better question to consider is “Which areas should we focus on?”

As you consider which marketing goals to set for the year, the array of options can seem overwhelming. We have at our fingertips analytics concerning web traffic, email response, social media engagement, lead generation, and a host of other areas. It’s easy to get stuck trying to figure out which areas to focus on and which numbers to aim for.

In choosing your focus areas, consider the marketing activities that are most important to your organization’s bottom line. If, for example, email marketing is your number-one source of quality leads, you’ll want to set goals around key performance indicators (KPIs) in that area, such as:

  • List size
  • List growth rates
  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion rates

Once you’ve chosen your goal categories and your specific KPIs, it’s just a matter of setting a target for each KPI on your list. To make sure that the goals you select will serve you well throughout the year, a good rule of thumb is to follow the acronym “SMART.”

Setting SMART Goals

For goals to be effective, they need to be grounded in reality. Setting an objective such as “grow website traffic” or “increase conversions” will do little to help you get to where you want to be at the end of the year. That’s why it’s so important to set SMART goals: goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Specific

“Let’s have a great marketing year” might be a good rallying cry for your annual meeting, but it’s not a viable goal. Powerful goals paint a clear, well-defined picture of what you want to achieve by the end of the year. Pursuing a vague goal is like shooting at a target that’s out of focus, leaving your team wondering whether they hit the mark.

Examples of specific goals include:

  • “Grow our email marketing list of healthcare-industry contacts.”
  • “Increase conversion rates on each of our landing pages.”
  • “Increase the number of qualified leads we deliver to the sales team.”

Measurable

The “measurable” requirement takes those specific B2B marketing goals and assigns numbers to them. When a goal is measurable, not only will you know whether you hit it — or exceeded it — at the end of the year, but you can also set milestones to help track your progress.

For example, if your annual goal is to generate 50 new qualified leads from your monthly webinar series, that averages to just over four leads per month. As you track your results over the course of the year, you can tell on any given day whether you’re on pace to achieve your goal and adjust your approach as needed.

Examples of measurable goals include:

  • “Deliver a total of 200 qualified leads to the sales team.”
  • “Increase landing page conversions by 20 percent.”
  • “Grow our email marketing list by 5,000 addresses.”

Attainable

While a good goal will stretch and challenge your team, it should still be attainable. For example, if you’ve historically grown your email list by an average of 10 percent per year, setting a goal of 100 percent growth is probably unrealistic.

A goal that is perfectly achievable for one organization may be totally unrealistic for another, so it’s important to understand what your team is capable of accomplishing. Use your results from the last couple of years as a guideline and set goals that fall within a reasonable margin. Returning to the email example above, if your list growth rate has averaged 10 percent per year, a 15 or 20 percent growth could be an achievable goal.

Relevant

Make sure the goals you set are relevant given the resources you have available as well as internal and external constraints. If, for example, your marketing budget has been dramatically reduced this year, or if one of your target industries is facing a major downturn, those constraints can have an impact on what your team can achieve this year.

To determine whether your goals are relevant, look at the resources you’ll need and what’s going on in your organization and in your market. If you notice any major constraints, you may need to adjust your objectives.

Time-Based

Every viable goal has a deadline. If you’re setting goals for the calendar year, the obvious finish line is December 31. But it’s also important to set milestones along the way that will allow you to track your progress. You might want to divide that annual goal into four quarterly goals and/or twelve monthly goals, adjusted for any seasonal peaks and valleys.

Examples of time-based goals include:

  • “Deliver 20 qualified leads to the sales team every month.”
  • “Grow website traffic by 20 percent each quarter.”
  • “Increase webinar registrations by 10 percent each month.”

Tracking Your Progress

Now that you’ve gone through the effort of creating marketing goals for your team, don’t make the mistake that far too many B2B marketing teams make: tossing those goals into a drawer and forgetting about them until the end of the year. For goals to be effective, you’ll need to track your progress on a consistent basis throughout the year.

Put a system in place for gathering, analyzing, and distributing your KPI results on a monthly and quarterly basis, if not weekly. Report your actual numbers alongside each annual goal so that stakeholders can easily see what kind of progress you’re making. If you start slipping off pace, you can take the actions necessary to restore your momentum… or you may find that some goals need to be adjusted as the year goes on.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time for teams to set the marketing goals they want to have achieved by December 31. Good goal-setting for your B2B marketing, as we’ve seen here, is part art, part science, requiring a deep understanding of where your company is today and where you want to be. By choosing your focus, setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based), and tracking your progress, you can set your team up for your most successful year yet.

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