Defining and documenting your content marketing goals is essentially asking yourself why you are embarking on this mission. It’s the “what’s the point?” It’s also solidifying what you will measure success by. It’s also Step 1 in creating a winning content marketing strategy.
In an ideal world, your content marketing goals are tightly coupled with your overall business objectives. That may include things like: increase sales, win a greater market share, or increase profits.
Content marketing is the vehicle by which you can work towards achieving some of those broader goals. So in mapping backwards from those broader goals, you can pinpoint what your specific content marketing goals should look like.
Content Marketing Goals 101 – Pick Your Target
People leverage content marketing to accomplish a variety of objectives. These includes things like:
- Increase awareness. Get in front of the right people at the right time (prospects, editors, partners, etc.)
- Position company/executives as thought leaders. Show that you are experts that have a deep understanding of relevant industry issues.
- Increase engagement and inquiries. Prompt your target audience to engage with your company and actively seek you out for industry insights.
- Generate leads. Increase hand-raising behavior among target audience.
- Move leads down the funnel. Nurture and progress leads further down the funnel and closer to a conversion.
- Support sales. Provide sales enablement collateral to help sales better achieve their objectives and close deals.
- Retain clients/customers. keep current customers excited and engaged with the product and brand.
Once you have your goals nailed down, you should outline the metrics that matter to you and other internal stakeholders. Depending on what you selected from above (which isn’t an exhaustive list), you’ll need to consider different metrics that matter. This may include:
- Web Traffic
- Time on Page
- Likes, Followers, Retweets, Fans, Subscribers
- Qualified Leads
- Media Mentions
- Referral Links
- CTA Click-through-rates (CTR)
- Keyword Rankings
- Post Engagement (Comments, Likes, Shares)
- Social Shares
- Cross-sell/upsell Conversion Rates
Get internal teams to agree upon the metrics that matter most. This is probably something you will want to revisit early and often once you launch your content marketing program. As you begin to track campaign performance, you may want to adjust and tweak expectations.
After you figure out which metrics to measure, you should focus on exactly how to set specific targets tied to each metric.
You may be familiar with the SMART methodology. Essentially, it’s a way to keep your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Within this framework, you’re able to set goals that are clear, reasonable, and actionable.
Let’s dig a little deeper to understand what each part of SMART means.
Specific: It’s probably poor form to define a part of an acronym with another acronym, but the first thing that comes to mind here is K.I.S.S. (keep it short, stupid). You want your goals to be well-defined, but also concise and crisp. Think of it as an elevator pitch for your goals.
Bad goal: “To create great content”
Better goal: “To increase awareness of the brand across earned and owned channels”
Best goal: “To increase traffic by 20% and aim for a 10% increase in inbound qualified leads”
Measurable: Let’s look at the “bad” and “better” goals from the example above. Neither of those are measurable in a meaningful way. Sure, you can write a popular blog posts and officially meet your goal of creating great content and increasing awareness, but you won’t be able to track progress over time. And tracking progress over time is important for several reasons. For one, you may have not been ambitious enough in your initial goal-setting. You may hit a 20% increase in traffic by Q2 and need to re-evaluate long-term goals. On the other hand, the opposite could be true – you could be entirely off-pace to hitting your goals and need to set more reasonable ones.
Attainable: This one is important. As we noted, it’s entirely possible to miss the mark with your initial goals. You may shoot too high or too low, but it shouldn’t be by much. When setting attainable goals, historical analytics data can be very helpful. Look at your trends over time; if your goal is to boost lead generation and you’ve consistently generated 20 leads per month, then aiming for a 25 leads per month isn’t out-of-line. Aiming for 50 leads per month, however, could be a long-shot. Again, it’s ok to slightly undershoot and revisit goals monthly to realign. When you set extreme goals that are unreasonable, it ends up hurting morale and discouraging people from trying to attain even more sensible goals.
Relevant: You have to ask yourself if the goals you’re setting are worthwhile and make sense in the grand scheme of things. These goals also need to align with the realities of your business and all the other moving pieces. For example, if we jump back to the example above, increased leads could be a good goal if you have a strong sales team capable of closing those qualified leads. If, however, you are short on sales people, generating more qualified leads isn’t really going to be effective because you’ll be short on people who can close. Instead, the first goal should be to increase your sales force by X%.
Time-bound: All goals should have a timeframe attached to them. This is especially true with complex marketing plans or business models where things may be tiered, phased, or have contingencies. In the previous example, setting a timeframe around the goal of increasing the sales force allows you to start planning for the next goal in sequence: generating more qualified leads. In this way, you can have cascading goals that trigger each other.
Following the framework above should provide a solid foundation to set, measure, and adjust content marketing goals. Don’t forget to step back and look at the big picture from time to time, too. Are your content marketing goals powering your overall business objectives? If not, it may be time to pivot.
This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it project, either. Goals and progress should be monitored regularly and will often require adjustments. Data doesn’t lie; if something isn’t working, adjust accordingly. On the other hand, be sure to give each tactic or initiative enough time to fly or flounder. It’s a fluid process, and as you continue to test, tweak, and gather data, the successful path ahead should become more clear.