So often it is tempting to rush headlong into a marketing initiative without spending time laying some foundations. If you haven’t defined what represents a successful outcome the then you are making things difficult right from the start. And, if you haven’t clarified the purpose of the initiative you risk failing to recognise that it may not even be worth doing.

Clarify the objective(s)

Ideally a marketing objective should cascade from (and therefore help deliver) a corporate objective. For example – is the company seeking growth, improved profitability, a business turnaround or just maintaining the status quo? Moreover, you need to clarify some detail. If the company is looking for growth – what kind of growth? – transformational or steady growth ? Would it be measured in sales revenue or market share? Which sales region(s)? Which product/services? There are a myriad of activities that can be undertaken. If you don’t have any objective(s) then how can you make any decisions about the best way to proceed? Put another way, if you don’t know what you want to achieve – how can you make it happen?

What does success look like?

If you are struggling to nail down your marketing objective, possibly because your organisation hasn’t got explicit corporate goals for the marketing function – whether that is a team of dedicated marketing professionals or just a one day per week of the sales director’s time – then perhaps answering the question “What does success look like?” will help you identify specifics.

Avoid objectives which arent objectives

Avoid creating woolly objectives like “more sales” or “selling as much as possible to as many people as possible”. Such an approach is unlikely to be effective. A meaningful, actionable objective needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and be bound by Time (SMART).

Example Marketing Objectives

  • Increase number/value* of enquiries by 30% by end of November 2017.
  • Increase website visitors/page views/downloads/conversion rate/enquiries* by 25% by the end of this financial year.

Something is usually better than nothing

That said, doing something is, admittedly, often better than doing nothing – particularly because you can “learn by doing”. You can also optimise something but you cannot optimise “nothing”. However, if you are going to invest time, effort and marketing budget on a marketing activity, wouldn’t it be a great idea to spend some time at the beginning of the process to think it through?

Tactical objectives

A tactical objective is usually a contradiction-in-terms. A tactical activity e.g. launching a new website, or exhibiting at Silver Doofer Expo 2017 (SMART or otherwise) is NOT an objective. These are activities worth carrying out only if they help achieve a real objective which creates more value than it costs in resources – in other words an activity which has a positive ROI (Return On Investment). However, if you must operate at the tactical level without linking your efforts to fulfilling a value-adding objective then just be aware that you may be carrying out “raindance marketing” i.e. the type of marketing that makes people feel better and doesn’t achieve anything but nobody can prove otherwise.

Document and “publish” the objective

If you make a record of your objective(s), particularly if the record is visible to other parts of the organisation then you are more likely to:

  • Spend some time making it meaningful and realistic
  • Strive to achieve it
  • Measure your progress against it

In other words, it is more likely to be a worthwhile objective and engender the commitment required to deliver it. Consequently, the initiative is more likely to create success than something that can be easily forgotten.

Measuring progress and the control loop

Successfully delivering against a marketing objective requires clarity on how you will measure progress against the objective so you have a feedback and control loop. This doesn’t just mean WHAT you are measuring but HOW you will measure it and (preferably) report it. For example, if your methodology includes reporting the number of website visitors/page views/enquiries to the sales team every month, then there is an established review process which can result in corrective action. Having no review and control process is likely to lead to the initiative being neglected until close to the deadline – by which point it is too late to do anything. It may have been possible to recognise success and do even better or stop the activity because it was clearly ineffective.


  • Define success
  • Make your marketing objective SMART and link it the delivery of a higher level corporate goal
  • Publish your objective
  • Have a review and control loop in place