We all know what creating an objective for our marketing plan is, don’t we? Here are some real objectives I have come across in recent years from different multinational companies’ sales and marketing departments:
- To reduce customers complaints by 15%
- To increase registration at our loyalty program during the campaign
- To increase customer retention rate by 35%
- To improve the relationship with our distribution network
- To increase sales
- To improve brand awareness
My question is, are these really objectives? How can I know if we have achieved them? We all learned what SMART objectives are, yet we neglect (or are not used) to setting them properly. And even the few exceptional cases where objectives are time-framed and measurable, they may miss the purpose, do monitor execution performance only, or are activity-based (like all of the above) rather than results-oriented. Why?
Why do Marketing Objectives Fall Flat??
Consider the following table, which was extracted from the marketing plan of a Dutch multinational with literally billions of business revenue:
How might a marketing manager create a campaign that responds to these marketing objectives? Could he or she really know (and show) the contribution of marketing activities to the strategy (let alone to the business objective)? Where is the threshold of success? How can he or she build a connection between marketing inputs and business outputs?
If we you don’t know where we want to go, we could end up anywhere.
This is what happens to most marketing departments. Their disconnection between its activities and the business relegates marketing to a tactical position, a mere cost that can be discretionarily cut when bad times arise. Not being able to include business objectives in marketing plans will put your marketing department on the second row in the budgeting scenario and not even in the theater of strategic analysis. How can we avoid this?
3 Steps to Ensuring Effective Marketing Plan Objectives
1) Set up objectives at all levels of analysis: communication and business.
Make sure your objectives reflect at least the following performance indicators (dimensions of measurement):
- Positioning: What do I want my target to think about my product, brand, value proposition, etc?
- Education: What do I want my target to know? It is knowledge transfer about features, characteristics, know-how, etc?
- Interaction: What I want my target to do in all senses: clicks, registration, acts of purchase, leave information, visit a booth, share, etc.
- Costs: Yes, you need to set up an objective related to the level of investment you want to keep, save, etc.
- Revenues: How much money you want to collect from revenue generating streams (sales, etc.). Beware that this is NOT profit, hence you should not attempt to figure out an ROI from these money inflows.
- Return: This is the real profit of your marketing project.
Note that the first 3 dimensions of measurement are what we most likely measure already in marketing. The other three are business related and not so commonly seen, or residually mentioned, in marketing plans.
2) Make sure your objectives have at least the following 3 elements (known as TIQ elements in the ROI Marketing Matrix methodology)
- Time: you need to know when your data collection is going to be finished. What matters here is not the time of execution but the period of influence of your project in the decision-making process of your customers.
- Indicator: this is what you will be actually counting, it needs to be countable for you to know whether you reached the goal or not. It is the raw material of your data collection plan.
- Quantity: this is the threshold between success and failure. It is the parameter that will let you know whether you achieved your goals or not.
3) Set up a data collection plan:
Setting up the objectives is useless unless they are activated through a tactical plan that aims to achieve those defined goals. This is when the execution comes in place, starting activities that will trigger objectives’s indicators variations. The data collection plan serves the purpose of feeding an unbiased evaluation of your plans. Without it, your success will depend on the subjective observation and appreciation from the people you will be reporting to or other stakeholders.
The 4 Elements Every Data Collection Plan Should Have
A good data collection plan should define:
- The what: This is actually the indicators of your objectives, one of the 3 TIQ elements.
- The who: Your target for data collection. Depending on the indicator, you may need to collect information from different sources. For instance, if you are asking about the safety of a toy, you cannot ask the child playing with it, you should ask the mother. But if you ask about how easy it is to play with a toy, you better ask the very same child.
- The when: The period of influence expressed as the time in your objectives (another one of the TIQ elements) is the “for how long” of your data collection. But you also need to define in which specific moment you will be collecting this information. For instance, if you are asking about the quality of a training course, you don’t want to state the question during the registration process for the session (believe it or not, it happened)
- The How: This is important not only to find the best tool to gather the information but also the most efficient one for later tabulation and analysis.
If you follow all these steps, you will ensure that your marketing plans deliver a measurable impact and one that can be gauged objectively. This impact will not only speak about marketing performance but show business metrics as well. The latter are the metrics that CEOs and CFOs expect to have as a marketing deliverable, but which have been long-delayed by the mirrors and whistles of new media and so many less-rigorous metrics.
Pablo Turletti, an internationally-recognized expert on marketing and sales efficiency and accountability, as well as a marketing keynote speaker, is the founder and CEO of ROI Marketing Institute (ROIMI), which has offices in Miami, Lucerne, and Madrid. ROI Marketing Institute helps companies around the world improve the efficiency of their marketing investments through precise measurement of the economic return on marketing activities. By directly connecting marketing projects and campaigns to a company’s bottom line, he helps turn them into true business investments. ROIMI provides a broad array of services, including auditing, competency-building, implementation support, consulting and research. Turletti is the author of the books ROI Marketing: The New Performance Standard and Marketing & Sales ROI: What Is It Good For? Learn more about the ROI Marketing Institute at roimarketinginstitute.com, and follow Pablo Turletti at twitter.com/pabloturletti or linkedin.com/in/pabloturletti/