So, you’ve got some marketing campaigns in place, results are coming in and things seem to be moving along nicely. But how much time did you spend systematizing those campaigns to laser focus them on your revenue targets? If the answer is “not much”, your targets could be slipping away from you as you read this very line.
Steering a business towards a goal is a lot like piloting an airplane towards a destination. And we all know what happens to an airplane if it’s just one degree off-course and has a long way to travel.
But there are other reasons to get it right when prioritizing your marketing. For example, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of constantly putting out fires, reacting to whatever’s happening in your business or department.
In some ways, that’s good. Fires must be quenched before they spread. The problem is, it can leave you feeling productive, with those endorphins making you think you’re getting things done as you skillfully deal with each new problem.
Meanwhile, there’s a course correction that requires your attention. And now is the time to do it, rather than waiting until the destination arrives at your doorstep only for you to realize that you’ve been off-course this whole time—and it’s too late to fix.
So let’s look at how to prioritize your marketing, stay on track, and easily follow through on your campaigns. That way you can put out those fires while confident you also covered your real priorities. We’ve broken down the process into five steps to make it easy to follow.
First, Dial in Your Marketing Goals
Prioritization begins with a well-defined set of marketing goals that’ll impact your business the most. You can think about these goals as the North Star you’ll use to guide every marketing activity you take from this point on.
The world of digital marketing is increasingly complex, and it’s never been easier to get distracted by strategies and tactics, losing sight of the destination.
For marketers, goals typically fall into one of four categories in your marketing cycle. Just remember, these goals don’t have to be for those end-of-year targets. They can be seasonal, quarterly, or whatever suits your business. These categories are:
Take a good honest look at the stages of your customer life cycle and you can usually identify the under-performing piece.
For example, are you getting enough leads to begin with? If so, is an unusually high percentage being lost before making a purchase? Maybe sales are happening, but the average sale value isn’t where it should be.
If you can’t identify the loose link in your marketing cycle, it’s a good sign you probably don’t have clear SOP’s in place and metrics for each one. You'll find a brief and effective list of questions to help define your marketing goals here.
By identifying problem areas and strengthening each, you’ll optimize your marketing return on investment (ROI) in a way that steers you towards your targets. It also lays a stronger foundation for marketing strategies that pull more of these levers in the future.
Let’s look at what that means next.
Focus on Problem Areas First
It’s a common practice by marketers, to focus on the strategies that pull the lever of all four categories mentioned above. Those are the ones to prioritize. It’s often good for marketers because they cover all their bases, and the idea certainly looks good on paper.
Continuing with the airplane metaphor, consider this: If an airplane had a hole in the cabin, the captain wouldn’t send it in for a general tune-up. They would order repairs on the hole, having the service people plug the leak because that’s the problem.
Likewise, in your business, if you’re seeing excessive churn during the onboarding process for example, all that money you invested in securing those visitors in the first place goes to waste, because you have a leak in your funnel.
If you were to apply a general strategy that pulled all four levers, you would lose many of those new website visitors because you didn’t focus your efforts in the activation stage first, where the problem is. This kind of goal-setting works best after you identify your key problem areas and address them.
Set Your Goals (and Be Specific!)
You’ve heard it a million times but before you roll your eyes, consider this: 63% of companies don’t have a documented content marketing strategy according to a 2018 CMI study.
And if you don’t have a strategy, you obviously don’t have goals to guide that strategy. But hopefully you’re in the other 38%.
Your marketing goal must be painfully specific. For example, if you recognize your churn rate is high during the onboarding process, naturally the goal to reduce churn rate at that stage is a good start.
But how much do you need to reduce it by, exactly? Without setting a specific number, you’ll never really know if you’ve hit your goal or not.
If you need to, fall back on the trusty SMART acronym we also discussed in our cross-platform marketing post. It goes like this:
The steps people most often get hung up on are the ‘Specific’ and ‘Measurable’ pieces.
Specifically, how lofty should you make your marketing goals?
Should you shoot for 20% or 50% traffic growth?
Should you be happy with an increase of 2% or 6% in your conversion rate?
Don’t let this slow your momentum! Here’s a simple way to figure it out quickly.
Take a look at your past marketing campaign’s performance over the last one to two years. Use the metrics from those to benchmark your expectations of your upcoming campaigns.
For example, if your email list has grown an average of 8% per month over the last year, don’t shoot for 50% per month of growth this year. I’m not saying don’t be ambitious. I am saying, don’t set yourself up to constantly miss your goals.
I know it’s not fun digging up past campaign metrics, but it ensures you don’t repeat past mistakes, which is critical!
It’ll also help you objectively analyze past campaigns.
It’s way too easy to think back on a project and let one piece of it cloud your judgement, especially as more time goes by.
For example, you may have run an email campaign a year ago that was a pain to get going because a few automations didn’t trigger at the beginning. Then you discovered a bug in your email marketing software and spent way too much time with support solving the problem for them. Then you finally just handed it off to someone else who managed the rest of it.
By that time you were so sick of it, you didn’t bother keeping up with how it worked. Turns out, it outperformed every other campaign. I’m sure that’s never happened to you :) but that’s why we use those main 1-2 metrics to recall past performance objectively.
There’s a big difference between how you felt about that marketing campaign and what the emotionless, reliable data says actually happened.
By seeing the most successful marketing campaigns of your past, you have a point of reference to set a goal that strikes the sweet spot between high, and realistic.
Brainstorm Marketing Strategies
Now that you’ve figured out your marketing goals, it’s time to strategize how you’ll get there.
To help you, we’ve created a spreadsheet template along with a few examples for different industries. Hat tip to DigitalMarketer where I learned about the growth lever piece. Remember, don’t judge your ideas yet. Just brainstorm.
Click here to make a copy of the Marketing Strategy Focus Spreadsheet. (No opt-in required)
Once that’s done, score the strategies against the goals you’ve set. The four categories of goal in the spreadsheet will help you see which strategies will pull the levers you need depending on the category of your goal. You should now clearly see where to prioritize your marketing efforts to ensure you’re on-track for those targets.
If you need a kick-start for your strategy brainstorming session, check out our guide to repurposing content and these free and effective social media strategies.
Eliminate Distractions to Stay On Course
Finally, it’s time to execute on your marketing strategies. In this section, we’re not adding anything new to your to-do list, it’s all about removing everything that doesn’t move you closer to your goal.
If this isn’t your first rodeo, you’ll quickly find that there’s a significant increase in distractions, and you must say “no” more often than before.
Remember, this is both normal and a good thing. The question to keep in the back of your mind at all times is:
“Will this move me closer to my marketing goal, or not?”
If a new opportunity moves you further from your goal, it’s a distraction. If it moves you closer to your goal, add it to your plan and prioritize it.
There’s a great story I heard a while back from Warren Buffett that illustrates this beautifully. It’s a helpful reminder when I feel myself about to say "yes" to something I know I shouldn’t.
In a conversation with his personal airplane pilot, Buffet asked the pilot to list his top 25 career goals, and then create a separate list for the five most important. Once the lists were complete, Buffett asked his pilot what he’d focus on first, getting the response that the pilot would focus on the first five and then get round to the other 20 whenever he had the time.
Buffett then pointed out that this was the wrong approach. Those other twenty goals were the “avoid at all costs’ list” and should get no attention whatsoever until the first five were attained.
You might notice that this is in line with the Pareto Principle, sometimes referred to as the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. By focusing on the top 20% of the most important factors in your marketing, you’re significantly more likely to get the results you’re looking for.
Now that you have the framework, there are three ways you can execute your strategies.
1. Execute it internally.
Con – Beware the comfort zone of familiarity and falling into the habit of doing what you’ve always done. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Pro – Saves time on finding someone experienced and reliable to help with the job and you get started right away.
2. Hire someone to execute it for you.
Con – Agencies often see the problem through the eyes of their services. If you only have a hammer, every problem is a nail.
Pro – External perspective is always a good thing in business. Blind spots inhibit progress like nothing else.
3. Hire someone to guide your team through the process.
Con – It can be hard to find someone experienced yet personable who will gel with your team to produce results.
Pro – While it may take a little longer initially as you simultaneously execute and create the processes, it pays off big in the end, saving you money in marketing spend and employee hours as conversions increase.
So there you have it. By laser focusing your marketing priorities like this, specifying goals, and then eliminating distractions along the way, you’re sure to reach your targets, whatever they look like for you and your business.
The process is great for troubleshooting your sales cycle and targeting problematic areas in your funnels. If there are some parts of your cycle you’re not currently measuring, this guide should also have helped you identify where they are too.
But perhaps the most gratifying part of this whole process is knowing that you can continue putting out those fires, dealing with the day-to-day challenges while having the peace of mind that your marketing is moving you in the right direction.