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Marketing Metrics & Milestones: Setting realistic goals for sustainable business growth

Season 3

Episode 8

Analytics are a core component of your modern digital marketing plan and help you to set realistic goals and expectations. Without a goal in mind and clear analytics you will track along the way, you are flying blind and much closer to marketing like it's the 90's. It is my belief that your goals should be based on analytics, and that you should monitor them hand in hand. This allows your goals to be both measurable and realistic.

When deciding what analytics you'll track and which you'll create goals for, you need to decide what matters and what can tell you the most about what's happening throughout the experience of your potential clients and customers. For each platform, you likely have almost endless options to track, but having too many pieces of information can be overwhelming and time consuming. Let's break this down so you can decide what works for you. I won't walk you through the analytical options for each platform and the validity of each. Instead, we'll go through what you should base your decisions on, so that you can make the strategic choice based on your own business and marketing plan and the period you're setting the goals for.

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You don't have to have a goal for everything that you track. But the data you do track will help you to make decisions along the way. Some will be tracked through the platforms you use and others will be a more conscious effort as you track them manually. Sometimes you will need to release expectations from one area of your marketing while you pivot your energy to something else, so the analytics you set goals for this quarter might not be the same as you choose next quarter. Self motivation is so important in self employment, especially as a solo business owner without employees or in a creative business without specific client deadlines. I prefer to bring the emotions into the analytics and goal setting on purpose because they're there anyway. We tend to think about where we wish we were every time we look at our reporting. I think the efforts of analytics and goal setting go hand in hand so that you can set the right kinds of goals for balance. You can use your goals to push yourself but not too far, to help you prioritise your to do list and to help you in taking better action at a better time.

Not meeting our goals impacts us all differently and we all manage disappointment in our own ways. So setting ourselves up for unrealistic expectations is what we want to avoid.

Let's go through some of the types of goals first. If things feel like they're out of your control, you might not want to set goals in those areas. If you don't meet them, you could get overwhelmed, disappointed or otherwise become less focused on making progress. If those areas are genuinely an area you want your business to grow, but you aren't sure what is possible, set a goal about something you can control like your own output. One thing I have started doing myself is making content volume goals instead of setting reach or other goals that involve engagement from other people. I have pages printed on my cork board and tick off a piece of content every time I press publish or schedule and can visually see how I am doing at reaching that goal for the year. This helps me to focus on what I can control instead of the algorithms or trends. It also helps me to see what options I have and balances out the weekly must- dos with the goals that can happen at different rates throughout the year. For example, with this podcast, I have been putting out an episode every two weeks and while I see the audio downloads, when I log into Simplecast to upload a new episode, I'm not actually tracking it anywhere or monitoring it so that I don't focus on it. My goal was to create 15 Deep Dive episodes like this one, and 10 interviews this year. Downloads isn't what's on my mind, I'm just prioritising whether I'm creating often enough and whether it is of value to a potential client or student.

This is how I game my brain. Podcasting is a long game and I would rather keep it up than get defeated by a number. When I first started the podcast, I didn't have any analytics I could look at on purpose. You might not be as concerned with gaming your brain as I am, that might be a neurodivergent thing. But we all have the things that motivate us, the things that demotivate us and the things that give us joy. You could try this yourself if you know you have a long game thing you need to stick with for it to work, or prefer the instant gratification of ticking off a piece of paper on the wall. Another of the content volume goals I have set for this year is to publish 25 blog posts. The purpose of doing them is for SEO in the long term. So because I don't have to do them regularly, I could decide I'm going to do them all in one month if I wanted to.

By splitting up some of these volume goals into weekly, fortnightly and irregular I'm not expecting too much from myself, which has massively lessened the chances of me giving up on them and allows me to balance the goals with client work so I can meet my biggest obligations. Especially the ones where sometimes I think I'm going to be busy certain weeks and then there's a lull and then other weeks I think I'm going to fit something in and then all of a sudden I have four extra deadlines that have all kind of come out of nowhere because somebody else is really on time. Now I could obviously prefer to just put those off and just keep with the deadlines but sometimes when you've got a client who's responding this weekend, they're going to be busy next week, you just kind of get the deliverables out. And so having these ones where it's like I can decide which ones I have to do this week and which ones like I could put off till August if I wanted to. That helps me to balance each of the different parts of my business while still maintaining some form of content, and also not losing momentum by not meeting those goals. It also spreads out the dopamine hit of completing each item towards each goal and each cumulative goal.

You also have the option to set a goal of having a certain platform set up by a certain date or to have certain tasks done in a certain timeframe. These types of goals are still very trackable, but give you a little more of the control back. They are also important in making progress with the analytics you're tracking. If you want your organic search traffic to rise, and therefore your SEO to improve, you'll need to tick off a series of to do items in the short term to make that happen. SEO is a slow process too and sometimes an unpredictable one. So setting an action goal in the meantime allows you to feel like you make progress long before the numbers you track change. Because that progress is real progress.

Illustration of someone sitting at a desk and reviewing their business stats

You might set goals for some items and minimum acceptable numbers for others. For example, setting a minimum acceptable number for your email newsletter open rate. That gives you the option to focus more on another area of your marketing while setting a content volume for your email newsletter, with the caveat that if your open rate dips below a certain number, you have to stop to address that. Those minimum acceptable numbers can be especially helpful if you have a team reporting to you so that they know when to raise something with you and so that you know when to raise something with them. It can also help you to nip something in the bud early on instead of it spiralling before you pivot your attention the next time you go through analytics and set goals in order to then fix it. Keep these different types of goals and minimum acceptable numbers in mind as you listen to the episode and review your own analytics. So you can balance the goals you can control and the ones you can't.

As a business I'm sure you often focus on revenue so you could track and have goals for revenue, profit, the number of orders placed or percentage of repeat purchase, a churn rate on your subscription that you're keeping as low as possible and so on. You might also like to track the number of proposals you send out or calls booked with you if you're a client based business. These are valid indicators for you and some are things you should track along the way, especially if you aren't easily able to pull an automated analytic.

When thinking about revenue goals, it can help to make a decision about the type of business you want to have, and what your ultimate goal for it is. If your ultimate vision is to make as much money as possible, your goals will always be revenue driven despite which indicator you track. Instead, your ultimate goal might be to live a more balanced life to take Friday's off or always be able to sign up for parent days at your kids school, or be able to spend a day on your favourite hobby every week. Your ultimate goal will be to make sure those days are always available to you, while revenue will be secondary. It's not that revenue doesn't matter. It's just that you may have made a decision that you will work to live instead of to live to work. These ultimate goals are often the reason you went into business and decided to be your own boss, or at least to choose the business model you did. It can also help to set an enough number and to fully understand your expenses. However, depending on where you are in your money mindset journey if money doesn't drive you, or if you find money to be a poor indicator of what you should and shouldn't do, you can decide if you set revenue or profit goals at all. It's completely up to you.

It's incredibly important to track and set non-sales based goals like reach, engagement, website views or email subscribers. These allow you to know whether you're on the right track much earlier than something starts working to the point of sales. It also allows you to understand the full funnel so that you don't put a dam in the way of your marketing flow. What's important is that you don't worry about vanity metrics unnecessarily. By that I mean the follower count or large volumes of likes that aren't from your target audience. Instead, comments, saves, direct messages, or email click through and open rates are what matter.

If you have a good idea about what actions people might take as part of a pre sales funnel on your website, this is a good area to monitor. It can also help to understand the marketing and sales funnel that we talked about in episodes three to five. For an online store, that's quite simple, since they view the product page, then they go to the cart and then they check out. Although you might like to monitor items even earlier in the experience like a blog post. For your business this might be different. Sure you can't track individual people around your website all that easily, but you can make a note of certain pages you want people to view more. As you manage to push more traffic there, that step in the funnel has improved.

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It's incredibly important to track and set non-sales based goals ... to know whether you're on the right track much earlier than something starts working to the point of sales.

If it's your first time launching an offer, all goals are guesses. This might also be the case if you're trying a new version of something, haven't done any one thing in a long time, or are looking at a new target audience. For that first month, your goal can just be as much as possible and that's okay. You can also decide what you think is a sustainable amount of marketing in that area and do those tasks, tracking your time spent and then compare that to the results. This way you get more data and learnings from that first try, to better set goals and make decisions about your next attempt.

On the second time and beyond, you might like to aim to increase by 5%, 10% or more, you might also prefer to set a goal to maintain the stats you've been getting on platforms that are harder to keep on top of, you could choose to set stretch goals for yourself to push through or to set good, better, best goals where good is your enough number, better is a little bit of a push and best is what you'd be surprised by. You can also scale the difference with a simple percentage difference, it's completely up to you.

Every goal also needs a timeframe, you might set an annual goal with a break down into some quarterly benchmarks to get there, you might also take things one month at a time or one week at a time. Different goals will require different timelines and you can use that spacing to help you balance your workload.

To make things happen, you need to make an action plan. I wrote more about this in my newsletter last week. But I would say that if you immediately break down your goals into a granular task list, you can step over that hurdle of overwhelm of how to make it happen. Anytime that I give myself just that little bit of extra time to like, I don't know, let the goal breathe or like I've done this, and now I deserve a break or whatever. When I come back to my desk, I am immediately overwhelmed because I've kind of like detached a little bit from it and I haven't broken down at least the first few steps. Making the list helps you to then push anything that doesn't need to be done right now into the future as well while letting go of it in your brain. This closed loop allows you to focus more and take more action so your goals have the best chance of happening. Now if this doesn't really happen for you, you might like try this and still find you get overwhelmed. Maybe instead, next time you try taking a break, maybe next time you only write down the action item, that is the first thing you need to do. And then that's all that gets put on the list. And then, only when those things are ticked off, and then you figure out the next step. The only thing about that is that often you end up finding that tasks take a lot longer than you thought they would and so then your goals almost end up like arbitrary because you were never going to get those things done in that time. But it's up to you try a few different ways of how you can approach things, and then find the option that works for you. But I would recommend that the more you let a goal sit without figuring out the steps, the bigger of a task it becomes in your brain.

It's up to you how many goals you focus on at once, but if you're new to setting serious goals for your business less is more. The more you can focus on one to three things at any one time, the more likelihood you have of actually meeting them. Over a longer period like a year, you might have 10 goals but honing in on one or a few at a time, makes it all so much more manageable for you. It's like multitasking, unless one thing is automatic in the background while you do something else it's not actually more productive. Yes, your SEO can be growing in the background without you working on it this month and you use the time you have to focus on your socials. That's not actually multitasking. That's just automation. Focus on closing one loop before you open another and be sure to split up your days if you plan to work on multiple goals at once.

When you set your goals consider whether it will lead you down the right path, how to gamify it, how to best motivate yourself or your team and whether the goals are achievable in the timeline you have set. Think about how you can celebrate milestones, and how you can cope or move forward when you don't reach your goals.

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