How to set marketing goals and objectives for your business

When executed effectively, marketing is one of the most strategic functions of a business. In an ideal situation, marketing would figure out the target market, messaging, competitive landscape, products and services, competitive positioning, channels of distribution, ways of communicating, prices, and forms that goods and services come in. Because of this, developing a strategy and tactics without first establishing a set of marketing goals that are in line with business objectives is a risky move that could have a detrimental effect on the company as a whole.

In this article, we’ll be going through how you can set your marketing goals. Ideas and concepts originated from The Next CMO

Common challenges and pitfalls of marketing goals

If we as marketers are being completely honest with ourselves, creating and maintaining a marketing plan is rarely an easy process.

The executive team typically provides us with the company’s goals, and finance provides us with the budget amount, after which we enter the marketing plan. You cannot achieve operational marketing excellence by letting others at your company set the terms of how you will engage with customers without getting their input on what success looks like.

Another frequent pitfall is when the company direction changes months after you finalize your marketing plan and budget and start executing. As agile marketers, we adapt to implement a new set of tactical requirements (likely lead generation) in order to address the pressing issue that has been thrown at us. But when that happens, we usually don’t revisit the original plan. Should we even refer back to the original plan? In most cases, the original marketing plan becomes irrelevant.

There are six main factors that cause marketers to lose sight of their marketing goals:

  1. Desperate marketing efforts are produced when revenue targets are missed.
    for pipeline filling
  2. The management group frequently modifies priorities or
    Uncoordinated, leading to confusion
  3. Continuity is harmed by team turnover, especially in leadership.
    between various functions
  4. A junior team with a tactical mindset didn’t comprehend the objectives
    beginning with
  5. The marketing strategy was not in line with the objectives,
    worse, was constructed without objectives
  6. The objectives in a slide presentation that was delivered at the
    the start of the year is no longer relevant.

Since most marketing teams are made up of various roles, team members might each have their own special ways of handling the budget and plan. If the goal has limited visibility, marketers will develop tactical, aimless campaigns and programs, which will lead to budget risk and spending on the wrong things.

How to define marketing goals

Depending on where your company is in its development, defining goals can be very simple or very difficult. Smaller businesses may have more work to do, but they also have fewer resources available to them to accomplish and monitor a wide range of objectives. With a large team comes a variety of individual goals that must support marketing initiatives and business objectives, though the goals may be clearer for larger, more established companies.

Getting the executive team to agree on the company objectives is, in any case, the first step in the process.

Plans and budgets must be made with the objectives in mind because marketing will probably play a big part in achieving many of the company’s goals.

You must also obtain the full marketing team’s support for topline goals in order to ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction. Confusion regarding strategy and tactics will result in the absence of executive alignment and marketing team buy-in on the goals.

Keep in mind that not all goals can be precisely measured when deciding what you need to accomplish in the upcoming year. Because of this, marketers ought to feel at ease combining qualitative (rebranding the company) and quantitative (x number of leads) goals.

That said, all goals will be built according to three topline marketing objectives:

  • Sales
  • Perception
  • Awareness

Try to think of a marketing objective that does not correspond to one of these goals. There may be one, like a product launch, that can help you accomplish all three of these top goals, but you’ll always come back to these three. A chart with examples of frequently used goals is provided below to show how neatly they fit under these top-level objectives.

Your marketing strategy can be created once your qualitative goals have been established. Make sure your marketing budget is enough to accomplish each goal and create a series of campaigns that are intended to boost performance in relation to the objective. Your objectives, plan, programs, campaigns, activities, budget, and performance metrics should all be kept in one location so that they can be connected and always visible for collaboration.

Sales Objectives: Marketing goals that maintain or expand

Marketing goals that help to maintain and expand the business are “sales” driven. Here are some examples of marketing goals that align with sales objectives.

Sales objectives

Awareness objectives: Marketing goals for brand visibility

These are a set of objectives that aims to get the word out for your business. Typically, these are seen as “vanity metrics”, but these are still needed to ensure top of funnel traffic. Here are examples of marketing goals for awareness objectives.

Awareness objectives table

Perception objectives: Managing brand, positioning, and messaging

Beyond just creating awareness, this set of objectives is aimed at creating a better perception of the company. The impact on sales might not be immediately seen, and is more of a long-term investment in the brand. Matured brands like Coca-cola, Apple, and Amazon are great examples of companies that focused on building their brand perception over a long period of time, which in turn helped them achieve market leadership.

Here are the usual objectives for perception-based campaigns.

Perception objective

How to avoid setting unrealistic goals

There are six common reasons why Marketers might be setting unrealistic goals:

  1. Data gap – Marketers might not have important and relevant historical data, which causes marketers to make estimates which are usually inaccurate.
  2. Executive Pressure – Following what the Board/CEO insists on, although they have no marketing and/or sales background.
  3. Hero Complex: Marketer takes on and volunteers for too many responsibilities for achieving company goals, some of which is not under the marketer’s control either.
  4. Insufficient resources: Both manpower and financial resources
  5. No strategy alignment: There isn’t a clear strategy with campaigns to achieve goals. Sometimes, there isn’t clear quantitative goals or vision from the management too.
  6. No Team Alignment: Team members are not working on tasks that roll-up to a top-line objective. When marketers feel busy but are still not achieving their team goals, misalignment in team work and responsibilities might be a root cause.

Start early, first. Setting your goals for the coming year six months in advance is a good idea, but you should also be flexible in case there are any significant changes in the market, your competitors, or your business that could have an impact on your goals.

Establish your goals in detail before creating a plan or budget. Make sure you participate in a scenario-planning exercise to compare the best- and worst-case scenarios for your performance in relation to the objectives. Apply the same scenario-based approach when developing your strategy and campaigns.

Your team’s size and level of sophistication will determine how many annual goals you should set, with a range of four to six being ideal. Goal achievement will be more difficult if a marketing team has too many goals because they will dilute their focus.

How to create a marketing goal pyramid?

A goals pyramid unifies all of your tactical marketing and gives the team a clear direction.
The Pyramid begins with your topline marketing goals, which are paired with more precise qualitative targets, measures, and implementation plans.

Top-line objectives

Sales, awareness, and perception are the three topline objectives that practically all marketing objectives fit within. They are at the top of the Goals Pyramid for this reason. As you begin the marketing strategy process, they assist in organizing the rest of your thoughts.

Qualitative goals

These are more thorough and tailored to your particular business requirements. In the example shown below, the qualitative aim of “generate opportunities” gives the topline goal of “sales” more context.

Metrics of achievement

These are the quantitative goals that give the qualitative objectives a precise measurement. “Generate 400 opportunities” is written in our sample pyramid.

Team/individual sub-goals

These are metrics-based sub-goals that either a team or a person must accomplish. In our scenario, 250 of the 400 opportunities must be produced by the digital marketing team the following year.

Marketing strategy

This is the method you’re employing to accomplish the goal. To reach the target demographic and create the 250 possibilities, the digital marketing team is adopting a “digital advertising approach” in the example below.


No matter how big or small, all of your campaigns should be built on goals. The campaigns will make use of the strategy and attempt to achieve the goal metrics. To meet the target of 250 opportunities, the campaign in our example will offer a free trial.

Marketing goals pyramid diagram

Build a marketing strategy

You need to develop a strategy for attaining each goal when you have all of your goals for the year determined. Your marketing plan’s fundamental elements—the techniques you develop—should be used to build your campaigns. You must keep in mind accomplishing your topline objectives, qualitative goals, and quantifiable measurements of achievement while developing your strategy, or you run the danger of falling short on what matters most.

Here’s another example of a marketing strategy within the marketing goals pyramid.

Goal pyramid example 2

The topline objective for this example is to create awareness for the company. To achieve the objective, the brand needs to build a #1 thought leadership blog in the industry. The metric of success for becoming a #1 thought leadership blog would be 100,000 blog visitors. A total of 51 high-quality posts is needed to achieve and ladder up to the blog visitors. The marketing strategy aligning with the production of high-quality posts would be a content strategy. Specifically, writing a book and using the chapters of the book as blog posts. At a campaign level, this could be a book launch as an example.

As you can see, the marketing strategy serves as the link between the goals and campaign initiatives. Having a clear understanding of your marketing strategy makes creating campaigns simpler and gives your team the “how.” Include this best practice in your subsequent planning cycle if you are not already doing so.

Key considerations when creating a marketing strategy.

Here are the key considerations to think about when creating a marketing strategy.

  1. Who is the target audience
  2. Copy and message
  3. How many campaign(s) are needed
  4. Decide on the key marketing channels
  5. Marketing cadence
  6. Total allocated budget
  7. Campaign timeframe
  8. Owner of the campaign for accountability

Success metrics for your marketing plan

Goals are ultimately only useful if you can effectively measure them. Even though we have made great strides, measurements today still fall short of the perfection we all want. Measuring qualitative objectives can be challenging. Due to this, we’ve included a list of several below along with the most effective metrics for performance. As shown in the Goals Pyramid figure, the qualitative goals are organized according to the topline objectives they support.

Here’s a table to show how you can measure success for certain sales related goals.

Sales GoalMeasurements of success
Acquire new customersCount # of new customers
Reduce customer churn% of customers that stay vs those that leave
Increase revenueCount overall revenue growth over prior period
Upsell/Cross-sell customersCount marketing-sourced upsell/cross-sells
Create marketing-sourced revenueCount the revenue originated by marketing
Create marketing-influenced revenueCount the revenue influenced by marketing
Create marketing-sourced opportunitiesCount # of opportunities created by marketing
Generate marketing-sourced leadsCount # of leads created by marketing
Grow a contact databaseCount # of contacts
Grow a new sales channelCount indirect channel revenue
Reduce sales cycle timeAverage time of all deals from lead to close
Grow market share through competitive replacement% determined by survey or reported revenue
Expand into new markets (by geo, demo, industry, size)Count # of customers
Retain customersCustomer retention %
Success metric for sales-related objectives

Here’s a table of how you can measure specific awareness goals. Content was originally from The Next CMO eBook.

Awareness GoalMeasurements of success
Improve awarenessCount impressions, articles, social mentions, etc.
Increase web trafficCount the # of visitors on your website
Launch a new initiativeCount # of mentions, social shares, web visitors
Launch a new product or solutionCount # of mentions, social shares, web visitors
Educate external audiencesDownloads/Views of content/video views
Generate social followersCount the # of followers
Get more news coverage (PR)Count the # of articles
Grow share of voice% of impressions/articles you generate vs competition
Create more speaking opportunitiesCount the # of opportunities and the attendance
Build an industry analyst programCount the # of mentions by analysts
Grow content marketing programCount the # of pieces of content
Success metrics for awareness goals

For various perception related goals, here are some examples of how you can measure it.

Perception GoalMeasurements of success
Increase customer satisfactionTarget score, NPS, Survey
Increase customer evangelismCount the # of case studies, speaking opportunities, etc.
Rebrand or re-positionPositive feedback from focus groups or survey
Refine/change messagingMeasure online or email click-through rates
Optimize pricing against the competition# of customer wins against the competition
Segment the customer baseTrack interest in segmented content (page traffic in selected pages on the website)
Launch partner programCount # of partners that joined
Launch new product/service/community/companyUsing survey
Become a thought leaderCount the number of content views.
Success metric for perception-related goals


Plans for marketing, campaigns, budget management, and performance evaluation all depend heavily on goals. If you give every marketing activity a goal, you’ll not only be able to defend your time and financial commitment but also be able to monitor your progress. We’ve also written in-depth about the core elements of a marketing plan which we encourage you to go through. If you’re a B2B marketer, you might also find this article about B2B marketing strategy useful.

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