If you’ve ever watched Mad Men, the acclaimed TV drama about the 1960s heyday of Madison Avenue ad agencies, you have an inkling of how marketing worked before digital media and the internet.
Back then, businesses:
- Identified their target markets and customer value propositions.
- Crafted creative messages to inspire the audience to try their products.
- Launched a campaign on TV, on radio, and in print, and…
- Waited weeks or even months to find out whether or not it worked.
This approach reached potential customers at the top of the marketing funnel, at what’s known as the awareness stage. It was challenging for traditional marketers to target certain demographics and strategically serve different ads to specific audiences.
Today, however, marketers can reach people much further along in the funnel. Digital platforms like Google Analytics, Facebook, and SailThru provide detailed insight into consumer behavior at pivotal points such as the consideration and conversion stages, when people are ready to take action. There are also countless content formats that marketers can leverage across these platforms to influence behavior. The vast range of opportunities to reach and galvanize audiences makes for more effective marketing campaigns — but also more complexity for the people who plan them.
That’s where frameworks come in — tools that help marketers organize goals, prioritize approaches, create marketing plans, and more. Here we’ll tackle the Objective-First Framework, which will help you set laser-focused goals for any campaign. (For more frameworks to plan, optimize, and measure your marketing efforts, download our free guide, Campaign Essentials.)
To take advantage of all the tools and data available, marketers must be crystal clear on what they and their business are trying to accomplish, and why. Launching media plans across channels without truly understanding key objectives can lead to lackluster results that compromise the brand — and the bottom line.
Set yourself, your team, and your business up for success by establishing explicit marketing objectives and a well-defined path for achieving them.
The Objective-First Framework offers a streamlined approach to setting goals, drawing conclusions, and analyzing channels. It takes a lot of ambiguity out of crafting objectives and aligns stakeholders on what defines success. This powerful tool helps you:
- Structure marketing efforts.
- Share plans and results.
- Use marketing resources wisely.
- Discern what data is and isn’t important.
- Establish a common goal and ensure that all stakeholders are aligned.
The Objective-First Framework can be implemented at any level of your marketing organization — individuals can use it to keep their own goals on track, and teams can use it to pursue big-picture targets. The framework helps you outline goals and hypothesize, execute, and measure results, which means a quicker path to success.
How to Build a Strong, SMART Marketing Objective
As the name of this framework implies, choosing your objective is the most essential step in planning a marketing strategy and campaigns across any channel. A strong marketing objective will answer two critical questions:
- What perception or behavior do you want to change in your customers?
- What will changing this perception or behavior do for your business?
To set up an objective, first consider the following questions:
- What do I or my team specifically want to achieve?
- Why is this goal important to achieve?
- By when do I need to achieve this goal?
- What defines success?
Once you answer these questions, you can determine whether or not your objective is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Just like the acronym suggests, a SMART objective is well thought out and crafted with consideration. It keeps you focused on the path to reaching your goal and helps you avoid logistical or strategic pitfalls.
Here’s a breakdown of the qualities that define SMART objectives.
A good objective should be as specific as possible; this will help you to measure your progress toward reaching it. If your objective can be interpreted in several different ways, it may not be specific enough.
Let’s say you wanted to recruit users for a food review app. Your objective might be, “Attract 200 new users this month.” However, without stating that you want those users to be active contributors to your community, your team might offer a one-time sign-up reward. This may get 200 new users, but they will likely be bargain-hunters who won’t contribute to the community… or return to the app. Make this objective more specific by defining the behaviors users need to take in the app before they can be counted toward your goal.
Could stakeholders disagree on whether or not your objective was achieved? If so, it’s not sufficiently measurable. To make success as unambiguous as possible, think of hard numbers or objectives with “yes or no” answers that remove guesswork from analysis. For example, if your objective is, “Attract 200 new users who will write at least two food reviews in their first month using the app,” you’ve defined a clear “yes” or “no” question with a quantifiable, measurable answer.
People across your organization should also be aligned on the tool(s) you’ll use as a source of measurement — for example, the profit and loss report, a client survey, or sales reports. This establishes a shared vocabulary and ensures that everyone is on the same page (literally) when looking at metrics.
Choose an objective that you know can be achieved but is not guaranteed. This will keep you motivated and creative. If your objective is too easily attainable, there’s no challenge in it and it may not impact broader business objectives in a significant way. On the other hand, if your objective is completely unrealistic, you risk wasting resources, frustrating leaders and teammates, and possibly failing the business.
Don’t set objectives that rely heavily on something that’s outside of your influence or lie dramatically beyond benchmark performance. If your plan requires technologies you don’t have (or don’t exist!), exceeds your budget, or leans on talent that isn’t available, your chances of succeeding will be greatly limited.
Set target dates and key milestones to keep things on track. A realistic time frame provides a finish line to look forward to and creates a sense of urgency for accomplishing the goal. Milestones help organize and streamline key steps in a campaign and hold teams and stakeholders accountable for different components of the project.
Applying the Objective-First Framework to Your SMART Objective
Now that you’ve crafted a SMART objective, it’s time to work through the rest of the Objective-First Framework. In this section, we’ll outline each of the framework’s six steps and their role in driving a successful marketing campaign. We’ve identified the main goal of each step and provided a few key questions you can ask to guide your progress.
Set a SMART objective that describes why you are running the campaign and what you hope to accomplish. Key questions to answer include: What customer behavior are you trying to change? What will that do for the business?
My objective is to attract 200 new engaged users to my food review app in the next 12 weeks. Engagement will be defined as a user posting two reviews in their first month using the app. This objective will increase engagement and community involvement on the app, creating a more attractive package for advertisers. This will boost the app’s revenue.
Determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to evaluate the success of your campaign. KPIs are the metrics that you identify as most important for tracking performance against your stated objective. All KPIs are metrics, but not all metrics are KPIs. Consider: What are the top one to three metrics that address, “Did we reach our objective?”?
I’m going to track number of new users, how many reviews each new user posts on the app, and when they post them. My top metrics will be 1) number of new users — defined by creation of new accounts — between April 2 and June 25, and 2) number of reviews posted by users who joined between April 2 and June 25 within first month after app download.
Determine how to reach your target customer by asking yourself: Where does your target customer spend time online? What devices, websites, and apps are they using? What motivates them?
I’m going to launch an Instagram ad campaign targeting users between 24–32 years old who are food enthusiasts and use similar food apps. My target customer spends a lot of time eating at restaurants, posting and looking at food photos on Instagram. They’re motivated by trying the trendiest new dishes around the city and showing off what they ate.
Put your tactics into action in the channels you believe will be most effective for your campaign, based on your research conducted in Step 3. Then, identify the resources and team members you need to execute this campaign.
The Instagram campaign will cost $250. I need the Creative team to choose three images and write copy for the Instagram post, plus create a landing page to compel visitors to download the app. I’ll also need the Partnerships team to create a tracking URL to which potential users will be directed.
Measure and analyze your performance as it occurs. This will help gauge the health of your campaign along the way. A helpful question to ask is: What metrics tell you how you can improve performance?
In the first two weeks of the Instagram campaign, 5,000 people visited the URL and 250 of them downloaded the app. Fifty-five of those people published one review in their first week after downloading the app. The fact that 5,000 people clicked the link from our Instagram page but only 250 of them downloaded the app suggests that the content on the page to which users were directed wasn’t sufficiently compelling. I need to get more people who click on the Instagram ad to actually download the app.
Use your results to inform iterations on the campaign that hopefully boost performance. It’s likely you’ll find variables you can alter in your campaign that may move the needle on your goals.
Because I suspect the issue is the landing page, I could create an alternate version of it with different images and copy, then perform an A/B test to compare download rates between the two pages.
More Strategies to Drive Winning Digital Marketing Campaigns
The Objective-First Framework is just one of many tools to help marketers organize goals, prioritize approaches, create effective campaigns, determine which data to focus on, and more. In our free, exclusive paper, Campaign Essentials, dive into three more valuable frameworks commonly used throughout General Assembly’s digital marketing programs. Each framework serves a different purpose in focusing, planning, executing, and optimizing your marketing campaigns.
Dive into the tactics that drive successful marketing campaigns through our part-time 10-week or 1-week accelerated Digital Marketing course, on our global campuses or online. Learn practical skills in short-form workshops and bootcamps, connect with others in the field at our exclusive campus events, or get an overview of the field in a free livestream. For teams, strengthen your marketing operations by assessing your marketers’ skills, identifying growth opportunities, and closing your skills gaps.
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