Marketing success starts with setting the right goals

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt, CEO of Truly, has over 20 years experience in market research and strategy on both client and agency side. She wrote one of the first books on how the social web is changing business, was named one of 2013's Entrepreneurial Women to Watch by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in Fast Company. She has built an engaged and enthusiastic business audience online of over 345,000 followers, including a significant number of thought leaders. Tara combines a data-centric with a human-centric approach to building an audience, leaning heavily on insights into consumer patterns and behaviors while keeping an eye on online trends and changing expectations.

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Nine times out of ten, we get approached by companies who, when asked, “What are your goals?” answer one of two ways:

  1. 🤷
  2. [insert some enormous number here]

This is, all too often, because they don’t have an idea of how to set actual goals. They don’t have benchmarks or, when they do, they see these enormous numbers (without seeing what it took to get there).

When they’ve given me an enormous number, I often ask, “Why that number?” and the answer is often:


…leading me to realize that the real answer to this question is almost always “I’m not sure.”

This is a problem.

#1. How can we know if we’re succeeding if we don’t set a goal? In the video, I compare setting marketing goals with losing weight. Almost every diet starts with setting a weight goal. If you didn’t do this, how would you know if what you’re doing is working? If you don’t set a goal, you’re more likely to abandon the program. That’s a waste.

#2. How will we determine which inputs work/don’t work to progress towards that goal? Once again, I’ll use the losing weight example. Lots of people will go to the gym every day but then eat the same. Then they’ll tell their friends, “Gawd, I just can’t seem to lose weight!” This will also lead to the eventual abandonment of a program. Once again, a waste.

Some goals are more measurable than others, btw. For my agency, we didn’t put out ads or press releases or the like. I made videos. I couldn’t say that “For every video, I made, we brought in ‘x’ leads.” But what I did know was when I made videos, we had a steady stream of leads. When I stopped making videos, those leads slowed down (and even dried up). I also knew that speaking at conferences brought in leads, not necessarily from the audience, but from the social proof of speaking at those conferences. I also knew what didn’t work. Sponsoring events didn’t work (or, at least, industry events).

Our process of setting leading/lagging indicators as a services organization was to invest in things: content, networking, presentations, SEO, SEM, sponsorships, events, etc. and, over time, we got a good picture of what worked and what didn’t.

But marketing business services is different than, say, marketing a fashion line or consumer goods or an app or a restaurant. And my video this week is aimed more at the latter (though business services should still heed leading/lagging indicators and SMART goal setting).

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