The need to clearly define marketing campaign goals is such a pervasive, and sometimes contentious, issue that many businesses will actively defer, or even avoid, it and “hope for the best”.

That approach will almost certainly doom such campaigns from the start. Uncertain goals deliver uncertain results that are probably less useful that not doing the campaign at all.

Basing subsequent business decisions on inaccurate conclusions about what “worked” in a campaign will result in a descending spiral of effectiveness, often coupled with an upward trend in costs. This is never a desirable outcome but, unfortunately, is more common than you might think in PR and other top-of-the-funnel marketing activities.

So, what can you do to ensure from the outset that your marketing campaign is focused on the audience you want to reach and will resonate as a solution to achieve their own business goals? The following is a logical, step-by-step process to help you define marketing campaign goals for your clients, as well as for your own business.

First, establish and share a clear understanding of your objectives. What is your target audience? What market position do you want to achieve (and ultimately maintain)? Who is your competition (it’s not always the obvious candidates)? There are a number of steps that are actually quite simple, but far too many organisations decide to skip – or ignore – some of the crucial ones. We don’t do that, and we recommend that you don’t either.

So, what are they? For your purposes, they will most likely be found in your answers to each of these questions.

What will motivate your target audience to consider your solution and your point of view?

If you can answer these two questions honestly and in substantial detail, it will give your marketing campaign the considered insights you need to define exactly what outcomes you expect before you even start. Such practices not only produce better results, they enable you to learn about what didn’t quite go to plan and recalibrate for the future. Without that, you’ll end up making the same mistakes again…

….and again.

One marketing campaign does not fit all

When it comes to defining goals, different types of marketing campaigns require different levels of information to inform the decision required to define those goals. Yes, reaching customers in different stages of the sales funnel requires differing levels of data. But irrespective of the level required to influence a specific stage of the customer journey, from gaining awareness to prompting action, start your campaign by gathering as much data as you can.

It’s important to remember that accumulating data is not, by itself, your “goal”. It is only the first step toward reaching your goal. The combination of data generation and analysis is the catalyst that drives the ability to identify an achievable goal as well as provide the signposts that will guide you to the most rewarding way of reaching it.

Finding that measurable data

There are different requirements for marketing campaigns when it comes to defining goals: campaigns that produce data easily as a result of what you do and those that don’t produce actual measurable data.

Wherever you get your data from, it’s important to ensure that it’s meaningful, and by meaningful, I mean measurable rather “vanity” metrics. Otherwise, your decisions, and the actions taken as a result, will be more meaningless than meaningful.

Measurable metrics are objective, meaningful and accurate indicators of performance, progress, and effectiveness. They are essential for making data-driven decisions and evaluating the success of a campaign. Examples of success indicators can range from everything from increased revenue to customer satisfaction ratings and engagement levels.

Vanity metrics may catch the eye because they do exactly what the name implies, the sparkling numbers, however, skewed they may be, are designed to appeal to the vanity of the implementors.  Basically, the figures are designed to reinforce an already held belief but are rarely an accurate reflection of the effectiveness of a particular strategy. If you are measuring “success” solely on the number of social media clicks, web traffic volumes or page views, you’re only viewing a small part of a much bigger picture that contains vital information about what your customers really think about you, your product or your service.

Get specific

One thing we often see from companies looking to define marketing campaign goals is that the goals are too vague. “Increase sales” is an admirable and pretty common goal, but “Increase sales by 20% by the end of Q4” is a substantive and measurable target to aim at. Whether you do that through brand awareness, content marketing, influencer leverage or in combination, be as specific as you can on what you want to achieve based on the data you will have already gathered and analysed. This applies to any goal.

Don’t take the easy road

There are times when you are doing campaign research or implementing strategies that, by their nature or restrictive scope, don’t return a broad range of data. Whatever you do (and this relates to vanity metrics) don’t just pluck out the data that’s easy to measure. For example, if you’re running a PR campaign, counting the number of clips – although important and easy to measure in isolation, it misses out a lot of crucial information about the sentiment shown to message and the influence/credibility of the publication that’s covering your company’s news.

A final thought about metrics

We’ve found that a good resource to determine your approach to metrics is the AMEC framework.  AMEC has lots of useful info on its site and fundamentally posits that the process is all about working backward from defining your business goals to calculate what you have to do to reach them. They also clearly examine the concept of “inputs” (what you do), “outputs” (the coverage achieved) and “outcomes” (how people change behaviour). It is this last one, behaviour change, that is the most useful for marketers but is traditionally the hardest to measure. In fact, many B2B companies can’t afford to sustain a programme long enough to fully achieve this measurement as it typically occurs over a considerable amount of time. However, they are many other metrics and goals that can be achieved… so long as the data used to achieve them is intelligently gathered and resourcefully applied.

And now, a final thought

Thinking through, and I mean really thinking through precisely what you want to achieve with a campaign has a direct correlation to its ultimate success. Done correctly, defining your ultimate goal and establishing a roadmap to achieve it can have a profound impact on your business goals.

The key is to ensure you do the research to ensure you are thinking about your goals from the point of view of the audience you are trying to influence, rather than looking inward from your organisation’s point of view.