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Frans Riemersma, 18 Nov '15

5 Simple Building Blocks to Create Rock-Solid Marketing Objectives

71% of the marketing objectives are incomplete. Use this simple checklist to make your marketing plan, goals and objectives rock solid.

Marketing objectives are often incomplete. Crucial elements like audience, proposition or even due date are frequently left unspecified. It is hard to imagine that a marketing strategy will be executed successfully without this basic information in place. With a simple checklist, you can create rock-solid marketing objectives.

The checklist enables you to specify clear goals before a project starts. Without it, these items need to be specified when the project status is already in peril, delay or escalation. That is when it is too close for comfort, or even too late.

At such instances, your team is likely to end up in densely populated last minute meetings ordering pizza and going through numerous E-mail threads to find out what needs to be achieved.

This is when you’ll probably figure out that that the initial goal was not properly formulated in the first place. And, just like Chinese whispers, the missing elements lead to ever more confusion when instructions are handed over down the hierarchical ladder.

If you think about it, there is nothing that prevents you from defining that same goal correctly right from the start. The fundamental question “What specific result do we need to deliver to be successful?” can be asked independently of any timeframe or situation.

For over a decade we helped marketers to define goals for their marketing activities. We would like to share three valuable insights with you.

Insight #1 – Marketing objectives consist of 5 simple building blocks

The first insight is that, in essence, all marketing objectives contain the same core elements. Specifying these elements for each objective ensures that objectives are clear and actionable. It creates a common language, which allows team members to validate goals and build their own objectives.

The checklist for marketing objectives consists of these 5 goal items.

1. Audience, Customer, e.g. segment, market, Persona, etc.

2. Deliverable, Marketing material, e.g. poster, TV ad, web banner, etc.

3. Proposition, Product or Service, e.g. star product, SKU, etc.

4. Due date, Date by when the result should be achieved.

5. Change, Metric, e.g. churn, revenue, leads, etc.

We called this checklist the Objective Validator. It helps to create a Minimal Viable Objective, so to speak. It is an easy to use checklist to get the basics right and validate objective completeness.

With the growing popularity of Agile and Lean startup methods, concepts like “failing forward” have been introduced, and we are encouraged to “fail fast”. The idea is that many small iterations propel innovation and improvement. Short cycles allow us to quickly detect what goes wrong and steepen the learning curve. With the Objective Validator success is clearly defined, and so is failure. It brings a method to the failing. Otherwise it is madness.

Insight #2 – Marketing objectives are incomplete

The second insight is that goal items are quite frequently not well specified, or not specified at all. To illustrate that, let’s take a closer look at one of our customer cases; a company in the financial industry, comprising 9 business units and operating in 17 countries.

The marketing department had formulated 37 tactical and operational objectives concerning their customers. The marketing objectives covered all sorts of areas: brand, digital, social media, outdoor, Radio/TV, merchandising, in-store materials, events, trade shows, sponsoring, online, Public Relations, etc.

After consolidating presentations and numerous spreadsheets from 24 different teams we created one overview, their reverse engineered marketing plan, so to speak.

As for the completeness of the objectives, we found the following.

- The most used goal items are Deliverable (95%) and Proposition (57%).

- 78% of objectives had no more than two items specified.

- 32% of the objectives included the Audience.

- None of the objectives consisted of 5 or even 4 goal items.

- None of the objectives included a Due date.

- None of the objectives included a qualitative or quantitative Change

Insight #3 – Marketing objectives specification brings huge focus

Once we introduced the 5 goal items, marketers immediately started adding the missing items. As for the specified items, they realized they could use some more detail.

In this case, Audience was specified in objectives as broadly as naming a continent (‘Latin America’), or ‘our clients’ or ‘key segments’. That is not specific enough to target audiences effectively and measure success, the marketers realized. Before we knew it they started iterating, which steepened their learning curve and drove results. In the weeks after, with every iteration they gained a much clearer picture of their client.

We observed the same learning curve for the other elements Proposition, Deliverables, Change and Due Date. Many clients who applied the checklist increased their performance and effectiveness. And sure enough, it also reduced the number of panic meetings, resources wasted and late deliveries. No more pizza sessions at work.

Take the 1-minute test

We recommend you use the Objective Validator whenever you set a new goal. You can be sure the resulting list will not be a source of confusion, delays and escalations, but drive results for marketing and the company instead. It will create tremendous focus and dedication in your team.

For your convenience, we created a checklist as a quick reference.

1. Audience: specify a market, segment, audience or persona.

2. Deliverable: specify output, campaign, microsite, landing page, event, etc.

3. Proposition: mention specific brands, products, services.

4. Due date: add a due date.

5. Change: specify a number (or range) of leads, churn, revenue, GPRS, etc.

Do the 1-minute test now. Take any marketing objective and run it through the Objective Validator items. I dare you to accept my challenge. I assure you, once you have done the first one… you will get addicted soon.

Reach out to me, if you need help.