Setting effective content marketing goals can be the difference between meaningful marketing results and just patting yourself on the back.
Most marketers, at some point in their career, get to have a "back-patting meeting." Once a campaign wraps, everyone gathers in a conference room and shares wildly varying metrics to show how strongly their work performed. Yet without a unified objective or common understanding of what that performance means for your marketing strategy, the declarations of victory may feel a little hollow.
It's a natural tendency to look for the good in the work we do. But sometimes, we fall into a trap of chasing vanity metrics at the cost of moving the needle on KPIs that actually matter for our brand. We put the numbers before the goals. While those metrics may look impressive in a report, good goals help us realistically evaluate where our business is today and create intention in our work to improve that position.
Three Components of Excellent Goals
Measuring marketing results is not about watching the right metrics move up or down. A good goal can give your content team a clear direction and purpose to reference while you're in the midst of a content effort. Conversely, poor goals can leave your teams unaligned and unaccountable.
There are many models for general goal setting available to us today. SMART goals are a popular model for HR departments and planning committees nationwide. CLEAR goals are popular with entrepreneurs and LinkedIn power-users who want to encourage healthy company culture while building businesses. My personal favorite for ridiculous naming, BHAGs ("Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals"), help C-suite professionals worldwide set exciting visions for their companies.
There are a hundred and one models of goal setting that your team can explore today, depending on your workflow and preferences for witty acronyms. Regardless of which model you choose, there are three key components to excellent content marketing goals.
Image attribution: Taylor Grote
Goals move businesses.
When you set a goal for your team, it should be immediately clear what it would mean for your brand to either miss or achieve the goal. If meeting a goal won't ultimately have much impact on your business, then you're likely pursuing a metric more than an objective.
One example of a potentially uninfluential content marketing goal is web traffic growth. Effective content marketing should drive new and returning users to your site, sure. But often times, I'll see marketing or leadership teams set ambitious goals for growing web traffic, without any thought to what that traffic does once they hit their page. This can result in a goal that's wildly ineffective at earning results. In one quarter, traffic could be down, but visitors are highly engaged and continue further into the funnel with your brand. Meanwhile, the next quarter might see huge surges in sessions but to the detriment of healthy site interaction.
In this example, the volume of visits doesn't really have an impact on the business-defining goals around quality of visit, or combining volume with interaction, would have been a far more influential approach.
If there's one common theme you'll see through every form of goal-setting system, it's making sure your goals are measurable. Goal measurement is essential for conducting post-mortems on campaigns to keep accountable to projected performance. But I like to take this even further when it comes to measuring marketing results: the more measurable your goal is in the moment, the better it is.
It's essential to be able to evaluate your marketing after the fact, but being able to keep tabs while your marketing is progressing can be important feedback for your team. This holds especially true when a campaign involves testing new tactics or brand positioning. When setting a goal, consider what metrics can inform your attainment of that goal and your team's ability to easily measure those data points. Then, make sure you have the proper technology in place to monitor your analytics and understand content performance.
If you're not already measuring and analyzing your current content marketing activities, it becomes much more challenging to scale your content marketing program for future growth.
The final component of excellent goal setting is by far the one that is most missed by marketing and business units writ large.
Goals can be communicated to teams in a number of ways. We announce them in meetings and send them around in emails. We set up trackers and dashboards. We write a thousand notes, comments, and addendums across countless documents in our organization's shared drives.
The result? Goals are often forgotten because they become impossible to agree upon or reference down the line.
Image attribution: Japheth Mast
When setting a goal for your team, it is essential to document that goal in a publicly accessible, central place. Keep track of notes or edits, and have a final date in place where your goal becomes immutable. Using a content marketing platform to document your progress within the context of your overarching brand strategy holds your team accountable to the work they do, while also giving a central space for analysis and learning that improves your team over time-regardless of whether a goal is hit or missed.
Meeting a goal is not the endpoint of your marketing efforts. It's the motivation to keep doing more and scaling up your content production in ways that resonate throughout the entire organization. Where many teams fall through after reaching a goal is failing to prove what that accomplishment means for the brand's future.
Content marketers should be consistently, systematically setting up goals in a way that makes progress clear to leadership and gives your team visibility into how they're doing. Today content touches every part of the larger marketing enterprise, meaning that "content marketing goals" and "marketing goals" are one and the same. Sure, it feels great to see metrics move in the right direction, but that one measurement is part of a much larger collection of successes.
Embracing effective goal setting can offer a powerful sense of motivation and accomplishment to your marketing team as you test, learn, and bravely explore new ways of engaging your audience with brand storytelling.
Skyword360 technology allows large-scale organizations to create a unified content strategy and set impactful marketing goals that achieve real, measurable results. Learn more.
Featured image attribution: Blaque X