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Building your 2021 marketing plan - step seven: Measuring what matters

It is time to start planning for 2021. Over the last seven weeks or so, I’ve been taking you step-by-step through building a marketing plan. Feel free to check out the full list of steps we've taken.


In this final installment of the series, I'm going to talk you through setting objectives for your marketing. There is no point in starting all of this highly strategic marketing activity if you can't say six months down the road whether it has been effective or not.


However, there is a balance to strike between putting in place a few key measurement criteria and overwhelming yourself with admin. Most people find reporting boring (I find it oddly satisfying if I'm in the right mood) so we want to keep it lean.


Here are my key pointers:

  • Choose the metrics that matter to your marketing (and business) goals - There's no point in measuring something if it doesn't have an effect on your business goals. In the jargon, those are often called "vanity metrics", which is self-explanatory

  • Establish a benchmark at the beginning - You need to know what sort of results you're getting now, to see how much you're growing over time. Knowing your starting point will also help you set realistic goals that you will be able to achieve

  • Make targets relative rather than absolute - You want to measure the trends over time. It feels good to hit 500 followers, but if you started with 495, it's not that big of a deal

  • Measure them regularly - I like checking in monthly because you should have some meaningful results on a monthly basis and if you're going in the wrong direction after a few months, you can course-correct

  • Make your objectives S.M.A.R.T - If the acronym is new to you, here is the breakdown.

Ok, so nice acronym, but what does it actually mean?

  • Specific: Narrow down what you want to measure to one measurable item at a time. So instead of measuring all website visits, why not measure ones from specific sources (eg organic search, or referrals from Facebook) so you can detect the impact of different parts of your marketing

  • Measurable: Make sure it's something you can measure rather than something vague and unhelpful like - "make the website better" - whatever that means

  • Attainable/Achievable: In an ideal world you want to reach your objectives, so there's no point in setting ones that you'll never attain

  • Realistic: The difference between attainable and realistc has always been a bit fuzzy for me, but I think it's more to do with if the objectives are realistically going to get reached given the context of everything else going on

  • Time-bound: There's nothing like a deadline to motivate and putting a timeframe on your objectives is helpful to keep you focused

To illustrate how it works, let's try to come up with some metrics/objectives for some of the tactics I identified in my channel strategies blog.


Monthly e-newsletter: I'm using this to nurture customers and prospects and keep them engaged with me. So I want to measure:

  • Opens: This will tell me how engaged my list is

  • Click-throughs: This will tell me if they like the content in there and which items are the most popular

Facebook page: I want a Facebook page to create a community of people interested in marketing and share tips and advice

  • Reach: This will tell me how far my message is reaching

  • Engagement: This will tell me how useful/interesting my content is

Now, let's make my objectives SMART:


Monthly e-newsletter:

  • I want 70% of my mailing list to open the newsletter every month for at least 3 months by June 2021

  • I want the click-through rate for my emails to increase by 20% within 6 months

Facebook page:

  • I want to increase the reach of my Facebook posts by 50% within 6 months

  • I want to grow the engagement of my posts by 25% within 3 months

The most common question I get when I talk about measurement is, how do I know what's good?

And the answer is (as usual), it depends! It depends on so many factors, including what industry you're in, how established you are, and even whether you're in business-to-business or business-to-consumer.


So when setting these objectives, it's worth doing some research into industry standards. It's also worth remembering that you can't necessarily compare yourself to your biggest competitor if you're a two-year-old start-up and they're a big multinational. Ultimately, the most important thing is that you reach your goals and you improve on your original benchmark. That should be the definition of success for you.


Here are some helpful sources of information when putting together your objectives for the first time, or your're refreshing them. There is loads more information out there on the interweb.

Moreover, you will definitely want to revise your metrics over time. You might find that one of the objectives you started with just isn't useful. Or you might find that you hit your target in half the time, or twice the time. In which case, have you out/underperformed, or do you need to reevaluate your metrics?


Key takeaways

  • Only set objectives that will help you achieve your goals, don't waste your time with vanity metrics

  • Don't be slave to the metrics - feel free to adjust them as you go, they might not be right first time

  • See what results are standard for your industry (if that's helpful)

  • Don't measure yourself too harshly against others

  • Measuring is meant to help you not punish you

And that's it, that's the whole series finished! In case you missed any of the previous installments, here they are:

I hope this has been useful to you and if you have any questions or thoughts I'd love to hear from you at georgina@crabapplecomms.com.


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