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Setting goals for digital marketing campaigns

Author's avatar By Chris Soames 03 Mar, 2015
Essential Essential topic

8 steps showing how to combine SMART and RACE to set campaign goals

SMART goalsGoal-setting-quote are a commonly referenced concept in marketing, to help check that goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time bound (i.e. have a deadline). Goals have their place at all levels of planning whether business planing, marketing planning or campaign planning. It can often be the difference between a successful campaign and not. As my previous post on goal-setting for marketing showed, they have huge benefits in:

  • Empowering, aligning and focusing teams and colleagues
  • Managing senior management
  • Giving you and your team a sense of success
  • Allow you to understand a campaign within a wider marketing activity context

But in practice, it's not easy to select and set goals, they are very rarely obvious especially when you put them against the SMART test. Setting goals requires a numbers of thing's before you can start to set them which we will explore in this post with reference to the Smart Insights RACE digital planning system. Success factors for this include:

  1. Clarity on your terminology. Companies operate differently, get clear on, objectives versus goals, KPI’s versus CSF’s (Critical success factors)
  2. Have enough insights / data / information to set realistic and specific goals. Making sure you are using the tools cheaply available now to collect and help you use data in this process.

A practical process using RACE to establish goals

The RACE framework is a really good way to focus in on the appropriate goal type, it focusses your thinking and enables to keep thinking at a strategic level without worrying about the various channels and techniques within each of the RACE headers.

Step 1: Identify the primary purpose of the campaign

Ask 'What is the main reason you need to run this campaign'? Is it to generate awareness of a new product? Encourage more of your fans and leads to convert into customers or just to get your current customers to engage with more and maybe repeat purchase? Each campaign should have one primary purpose, this will make the rest of the process much more succinct.

Step 2: Set a broad, non specific goal

Once you have established the primary goal type it is good to just get down in basic speak without data what the goal might be. An example could be to increase my footprint online from X to Y. Another could be to increase customer LTV from X to Y. If you can think of more than one goal write them down and go through a process of killing ones that are maybe on reflection not so relevant, Combine any that are quite similar and could form one goal and Keep any that work. (Kill. Keep. Combine). It is important this goal is aspirational and quite broad if you are to allow creativity later in the planning process. With the example of growing your footprint, things like natural search share, mentions online and fans would all be relevant ways to measure and grow footprint for example.

Step 3: Set broad goals for the other areas of RACE (Secondary goals)

With each campaign it is beneficial that you take the time to repeat the process across RACE. Each campaign usually has ways in which it will span across other areas. At this time don’t worry too much about the data and exact details, we come back and tighten them up later in the process. You may need to repeat the Kill, Keep, Combine process at this point.

Step 4: Set the metrics you think you can utilise to monitor progress or that influence the goal (these become your KPIs)

For each goal type you should arrive at between 1 & 5 metrics that you know you can track (and ideally already are) and that either influence progress against the goal or alert you to whether you are on track to achieve your goal.

Step 5: Get your baseline data for the metrics and any insights from the impact of previous of previous activity

Once you know your metrics create a simple spreadsheet which down the left has the metrics, the first column should have how you currently perform for that metric, use averages or moments in time where relevant. The future columns would include your targets, these are either weekly or monthly depending on the duration of the campaign. You don’t need to set targets yet though.

Step 6: With your vague understanding of budgets revisit your primary goal and set a “from” and “to”. Repeat for secondary goals

Now you have the data it’s time to really tighten up the original goals. I am going to be brutally honest with you now, an amount of this "is finger in the air", but based on the data you have to hand, your experience and a bit of a aspirational change your Xs & Ys into numbers.

Step 7: Set targets for each of the metrics for appropriate time frames

With your goal in mind-set realistic growth in the right metrics over the timeframe of your campaign. This can be a little more difficult, usually an exercise where you should state any assumptions you have made and include others in the process, it is certain something you should have time away from and revisit before moving on through the planning process.

Step 8: Take the 10 question test

  • 1. The truth test. Are we really 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 behaviours?

As you can see, goal setting could actually happen over a number of days and should be refined until you are confident they are right. Once you have this complete you can continue the planning process by getting into “how you will get there”. After going through this detailed process I would ask that you make goals and your progress against them visible at all times to everyone involved in the project. Now you know exactly what you are tracking and have targets creating dashboards makes it useful.

Remember, it isn't easy, it usually needs refining over time and will need various types of people involved in the process. Once complete though the confidence you will have in your ideas should be extremely high.

Author's avatar

By Chris Soames

Chris Soames is a Smart Insights blogger and consultant, he has worked in digital marketing for over 6 years with the last few years managing international web strategies for a leading travel brand. Now the Commercial Director at First 10, an Integrated marketing agency, he helps clients get clarity on their marketing strategy and create campaigns engineered to engage with their consumers to help drive sell-through. Most of all, Chris enjoys working with talented people who want to create great (& commercial) things not just tick boxes.

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