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How to define SMART marketing objectives

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 25 Nov, 2021
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From SMART to SMARTER marketing objectives: Discover how to define marketing objectives, measure your digital marketing channels and campaigns, and use data to inform strategy

When identifying specific marketing objectives to support your long-term goals, it is common practice to apply the widely used SMART mnemonic. You will know that SMART is used to assess the suitability of objectives set to drive different strategies or the improvement of the full range of business processes.

By definition, an effective SMART marketing objective is:

Specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.

One of the main reasons we called our site and service SMART Insights is because we help marketers succeed through using a more structured approach to their marketing strategy and planning.

We've got marketing tools and techniques to support you in defining and measuring your marketing objectives, so you can use data to inform your marketing strategy.

If you're looking for a winning marketing strategy to reach and acquire more customers, why not book a free consultation to kick off your strategic planning? Identify and plan real-time SMART Objectives that work for your business. Book in your call to get started today.

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How can SMART objectives help set realistic targets?

When setting future digital marketing objectives, such as in a digital marketing plan, it’s useful to look hard at each measure and ask “is it essential?”. The SMART mnemonic helps as a test or filter which you can use to assess the quality of measures. The Smart Insights definition of SMART is:

  • Specific – Can the detail in the information sufficient to pinpoint problems or opportunities? Is the objective sufficiently detailed to measure real-world problems and opportunities?
  • Measurable – Can a quantitative or qualitative attribute be applied to create a metric?
  • Actionable – Can the information be used to improve performance? If the objective doesn’t change behavior in staff to help them improve performance, there is little point in it!
  • Relevant – Can the information be applied to the specific problem faced by the marketer?
  • Time-bound – Can objectives be set for different periods as targets to review against?

Keep your strategic objectives SMART, link your objectives to strategies and KPIs, and make sure all of your team know exactly what the target is. Smart Insights have marketing tools and techniques to keep your team on track. Managers can utilize our advanced module forecast results and ROI for digital marketing activities, for Business Members, to set goals.

Our dedicated strategic and channel-specialist strategy resources support each member of your marketing team to drive integrated results. Book your consultation to find out more.

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Defining marketing objectives

Of course, different people interpret objectives differently. You can refer to the Wikipedia definition of SMART marketing objectives. Our handy graphic summarizes the five different SMART components we recommend for your marketing objectives.



Apply the RACE Framework to streamline your marketing objectives

We recommend integrating your marketing objectives across the RACE Framework. By structuring your objectives by customer lifecycle stage, you can track granular KPIs and customer-centric data to inform your marketing strategy throughout reach, act, convert and engage. After all, your objectives are different for prospecting and retargeting, right? If you don't apply RACE to your objectives, you're missing a trick. We've got marketing solutions to support you to create a winning marketing strategy, find out more.

Omnichannel customer lifecycle

You've learned the theory, now it's time to put it all into practice. Join thousands of savvy Smart Insights members using our marketing solutions to optimize their marketing and smash their objectives.

Find out more about the RACE Framework, our popular strategic marketing planning structure for managers and teams, plus other marketing essentials to help you identify new opportunities to create and implement a winning strategy for your business.

Need a winning marketing strategy?

Book your free 1-2-1 consultation to develop your new strategy with the RACE Framework

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Marketing objective examples

Here are some typical examples of SMART objectives, including those to support objective setting in customer acquisition, conversion, and retention categories for digital marketing:

  • Digital channel contribution objective. Achieve 10% online revenue contribution within two years.
  • Acquisition objective. Acquire 50,000 new online customers this financial year at an average cost per acquisition (CPA) of £30 with an average profitability of £5.
  • Conversion objective. Increase the average order value of online sales to £42 per customer.
  • Engagement objective. Increase active customers purchasing at least once a quarter to 300,000 in a market (a hurdle rate metric)

It’s worth guarding against the mistake I sometimes see with student assignments where, rather than listing objective examples like those above, the student will create separate objectives under a heading of each of SMART - this doesn’t work… Better is to group objectives logically, sometimes separating overall business and marketing objectives and digital marketing objectives.

The Ten Measures Design Tests

You can add to your tests of choosing the right marketing objectives using these 10 measure design tests developed by performance management specialist Professor Andy Neely. For SMARTER metrics, ask these questions for your KPIs as you develop them.

  • 1. The truth test. Are we measuring what we set out to measure?
  • 2. The focus test. Are we only measuring what we set out to measure?
  • 3. The relevancy test. Is it the right measure of the performance measure we want to track?
  • 4. The consistency test. Will the data always be collected in the same way whoever measures it?
  • 5. The access test. Is it easy to locate and capture the data needed to make the measurement?
  • 6. The clarity test. Is any ambiguity possible in interpreting the results?
  • 7. The so-what test. Can and will the data be acted upon, i.e. is it actionable?
  • 8. The timeliness test. Can the data be accessed rapidly and frequently enough for action?
  • 9. The cost test. Is the measure worth the cost of measurement?
  • 10. The gaming test. Is the measure likely to encourage undesirable or inappropriate behaviors?

These tests show there are additional filters on top of SMART that are useful to choose the best measure. I particularly like the "So-what test, another way of explaining relevance and Gaming - a common issue with target setting that isn’t considered by SMART!

Alternative SMART objectives definitions

Finally, some have developed the SMARTER objectives definition that shows the need to re-examine the relevance of SMART objectives over time.

This definition certainly shows the many alternative digital marketing objectives definitions - you may want to compare your current approach against these!

Letter Most Common Alternative
S Specific Significant, Stretching, Simple, Sustainable
M Measurable Motivational, Manageable, Meaningful
A Attainable Appropriate, Achievable, Agreed, Assignable, Actionable, Adjustable, Ambitious.
R Relevant Results-Based, Results-Oriented, Resourced, Realistic, Reasonable.
T Time-Bound Timed, Time-Framed, Time-Specific, Timetabled, Time-limited, Trackable, Tangible.
E Evaluate Ethical, Enjoyable, Engaging, Evidenced
R Reevaluate Reviewed, Rewarded, Revisit, Recordable, Rewarding, Reaching.

Set and achieve your business SMART objectives

Now that we've defined what SMART objectives mean for you and your marketing strategy. What are your next steps, and how can you ensure you make the right choices?

We've got a library of ready-to-go marketing strategy tools and templates, all integrated across the RACE Framework, to support you:

  • Setting your marketing objectives
  • Tweaking and improving your marketing activities in line with your goals
  • Managing your team and accelerating results
  • Applying data and customer insights to constantly review and adapt your strategies and tactics

Whether you want to improve your Google Analytics skills, train your team, or apply new data-driven templates for growth forecasting, we recommend using the RACE Framework to springboard your marketing from strategy into action. All our marketing solutions are integrated across RACE so you can confidently apply your findings to improve your marketing across one, some, or all of the stages of your customer lifecycle.

Book a free 1-2-1 consultation call with a member of the team to take stock of your current marketing strategy and put a plan in place to grow. Through RACE you can identify new opportunities at every stage of your marketing cycle and prioritize the key journeys that drive the results you need.

Our 1-2-1 strategy consultation calls are designed to help you address your marketing challenges and discover solutions to help optimize your strategy. Book your call to find out more.

Need a winning marketing strategy?

Book your free 1-2-1 consultation to develop your new strategy with the RACE Framework

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Grow your business and professional marketing skills

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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