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Ever accomplish something totally awesome and gratifying? I’m sure several things come to mind. If you think back through the process and how you were able to reach your achievements, I bet you started with a specific goal or two or added them along the way. We all know the person who randomly did something great, but let’s be honest, most things in life take focus and work.

Goals are critical for achieving success in digital marketing. Much like in other life endeavors, if we want to get to the next level, we have to set something to aim for. There are eight aspects to digital marketing goal setting that can help drive the results you need for ROI and difference-making performance.

1) Align With Top Level Business Goals

This sounds obvious, but for many brands, agencies, consultants, and marketers, the conversation just doesn’t happen. Silos and compartmentalization can cause communication lapses that prevent the top-level business growth goals from making it down to the digital marketer who is creating and implementing the plan.

It is essential to learn and openly communicate about overall business goals and identify how they can be supported by digital marketing. If sales and lead generation business goals are specific, yet the digital marketing plan is focused on exposure and engagement and doesn’t have a strong lead generation focus, there will be a gap. (This isn’t to say that exposure and engagement don’t contribute to the top of the funnel that can ultimately convert to leads).

2) Start at the End

How many buzzwords and phrases can I get in here? We all know it is important to understand the customer journey, define website conversions, have a funnel, craft a content calendar, and have a solid lead or sales attribution. These things are important and are part of our strategy, tactics, and measurements. However, they get in the way if we don’t start with what the end goal is and work backward.

If the top-level business goal is to grow sales 40 percent and we distilled that down to how digital marketing can do that by contributing 50 new leads during the year; that’s our starting point. We have to know this before we jump into the customer journey or funnel and use research and our own information to define the steps. Then, we can plan our content strategy, define the calendar, and start building out the tactical plan.

To get those leads, how many website visits do we need (and to which pages)? Which sources will drive that traffic? What content and set of tactics are needed to get the impressions that lead to the traffic? We likely can find a way to project the numbers we need and set the plan in motion for each step. Starting at the end and working backward is much more powerful than thinking of tactics and hoping that they will deliver.

3) Define the Mix

The digital marketing mix of search engine optimization (SEO), paid search (or pay per click–PPC), social media (organic and paid), email marketing, and all of the other aspects of content marketing, inbound, automation, etc., have many complexities. Whether we have teams that specialize in specific channels or have a more integrated role, we have to understand the channels available to us and find the right mix.

Knowing the company and end goals with our work so far, we can now identify the internal and external resources and expertise at our disposal and define our mix. The ideal mix is impacted by resources as well as focus. If we’re a long lead cycle B2B company, the mix will look much different than an impulse product B2C e-commerce site.

Figure out what you have in house with your agency, with vendors, what dollars you have in the budget for paid media, what makes sense for where your audience is, and lock it in.

4) Set Channel Specific Goals

With the digital marketing mix defined, you can get into more granular goals. These will be secondary to the ultimate, business-tied digital marketing goal(s). These are important as they are indicators and are necessary to roll up into the ultimate goals.

Channel goals versus business goals is one of the biggest challenges for marketers. If I walk into a meeting prepared to report on impressions, rankings, and traffic, but don’t know how those have impacted leads, sales, revenue, and profit; I may have a frustrating conversation ahead of me. I could show a ton of positive stats in my channel, but the business could be losing money.

Make sure that channel-specific goals link up with the end goals, which link to business goals. If I know that I need 1,000 impressions to get 300 visits to get 30 leads, and that will average out to $3,000,000 in revenue–which is my marketing goal, then I have some concrete channel goals. These goals change the conversation to meaningful performance, trending, and deeper aspects in the marketing and sales process versus struggling on the surface with a gap in metrics and importance.

5) Be Realistic

Digital marketing can’t solve every business problem. However, I do feel strongly that it is or can be a dominant factor in driving revenue and growth.

We defeat the purpose of goals if they are set too high, are too lofty, and are not attainable. By putting unreal expectations on what SEO can do and how soon it can do it, we set ourselves up for failure. Finding the right balance of being aggressive as well as realistic is important.

I strongly encourage using past performance data, industry benchmarks, and other tools to project performance expectations with the level of investment and focus in the specific digital marketing channels.

When we don’t set proper expectations, we put unnecessary pressure on the people and tactics to perform in a way that maybe they can’t. If there are only 300 SEO leads to be had, let’s know that and not try for 500 leads, seeking 200 that don’t exist.

6) Get Everyone On Board

I can’t say this enough, you need to communicate and over-communicate. Make sure that the goals are known upfront. That way if there are any challenges or questions, they can be addressed and expectations can be set. This is also the time to define how we’ll report on and communicate regularly about progress.

Being proactive upfront during campaigns and at scheduled meetings, along with reporting intervals, can allow for adjustments to strategy and resetting of expectations if needed. We know we want to hit all of our goals, but changes in search engines, technology, competition, and the marketplace overall can have an impact midstream.

Communication is critical to ensure constant alignment of digital marketing goals and the overall organization.

7) Measurement

One of the most painful things in my career so far that I still see on a regular basis is the lack of a measurement plan. We have to define what we want to measure and then ensure that we have the right tracking and analytics in place to do it. Many data points can’t be retroactively collected. If a specific conversion goal isn’t set, or worse (gasp) Google Analytics wasn’t properly configured on a website, we can have large data gaps.

Measurement is so critical to goals. I can’t emphasize enough that you need to define all that needs to be tracked to see progress and channel-specific aspects of performance and find a way to report on it.

8) Celebrate or Recalibrate

This one is the fun one. Create a plan to celebrate the achievements of meeting and exceeding goals. At Voltage, we are having fun this year with our talk about how close we are to Mexico when we incrementally get closer to our goals. We have talked about the fun incentives and things that can happen as a team and individually when we hit our goals.

The positive, team-building aspect of goals is that we can find alignment and enjoy what we’re doing. On the flip side, when we miss a goal, we can have a productive conversation about the aspects that caused it to not be met, allowing us to make real change and recalibrate so we can meet it next time.


Goal setting is important. We see it in all aspects of life. Digital marketing has a big seat at the table in most businesses and organizations. That means it has real pressure for performance and contribution to the bottom line. We need to treat it with such respect and utilize the important aspects that go into digital marketing goal setting, so we can get to the ultimate celebration that’s waiting for us when we win.

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