Lean Marketing 101: Setting Goals Ross | January 18th, 2011

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Lean Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses and Startups. That post resonated with small business owners and entrepreneurs looking for inexpensive ways to market their businesses. Many asked if we could share more lean marketing strategies and tips.

Today’s post starts a new series in the crowdSPRING Blog – Lean Marketing 101 – focusing on lean marketing for startups and small businesses. Over the next year, we’ll write about all aspects of lean marketing, including best practices, useful resources, measurement – anything and everything that you’ll want to know to effectively and affordably market your small business or startup.

But before we dive into lean marketing strategies and tactics over the coming weeks, let’s discuss setting clear goals.

Why should you set clear goals?

It’s not unusual for small business owners and entrepreneurs to focus on strategies and tactics at the expense of also setting appropriate goals. Often, this happens when you see someone else successfully executing a strategy or tactic – and you try to duplicate their success by doing the same thing.

A small business that doesn’t set clear long-term goals is doomed to fail.

Most small businesses – even successful small businesses – fail to grow because the owners don’t take the time to set meaningful goals. I’ve talked to thousands of small business owners. Most want to work for themselves and operate a business that will provide them and their families a good standard of living. But those aren’t the goals I’m talking about. Most small business owners fail to set quarterly or yearly goals for their businesses. They simply operate the business, focusing on day to day activities, without establishing what they hope to accomplish within a certain amount of time. While your overall goal can be to make a ton of money and find enough free time to enjoy other activities, you should establish operating goals for your business.

Broad, long-term goals are important, but they rarely help you to evaluate the success or failure of focused strategies and tactics. For example, when we evaluated several years ago whether to participate on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, we established five goals:

  • find new customer prospects
  • build a community on each social network
  • build brand awareness about crowdSPRING
  • manage the perception of our brand
  • provide customer service

We evaluated the success of our strategies and tactics in light of those five goals (we should have been more precise in our goal for how many new customer prospects we wanted to find). As you’ll notice, not all of our goals were quantitative. Most were qualitative – and that’s OK. As Mike wrote in an earlier post about strategic marketing for startups and small business:

Goals can be quantitative (drive x visitors to the site over y period of time) or they can be qualitative (build a community of entrepreneur-customers), but they must be clearly defined and they must, at least in part, be measurable. How can a marketer measure progress against a stated goal unless they have some yardstick to use for comparison, whether that is indeed the number of visitors or the level of customer engagement as determined by repeat visits or content generated and uploaded.

Let’s take a quick look at ways that a hypothetical small business can set clear marketing goals.

Let’s assume the business sells gift baskets, has a small but loyal customer base, and wants to experiment with Facebook (by participating and spending $25 per day on hyper-local advertising). The small business could set the following goals for the first sixty days of its Facebook marketing efforts:

  • get 50 new small customers
  • get 3 new larger customers (who order multiple gift-baskets)
  • build brand awareness

At the conclusion of the 60 day campaign, the business can evaluate the success or failure of that campaign by looking at the analytics and the important measurements. Did 50 or more new customers who were referred by Facebook order gift baskets? Did 3 or more new larger customers referred by Facebook place orders? Did the amount of email or messages from non-customers (referred by Facebook) asking questions about gift baskets increase over that month?

As you can see, the answer to each question is either a YES or NO. You either found 50 new customers through the Facebook campaign or you did not. You either found 3 new large customers or you did not. You either received more non-customer inquiries or you did not.

Now look at your own business and the marketing strategies and tactics that you’re executing. Have you set clear goals for those strategies? If not, set aside some time this week and set clear goals – specifying exactly what you hope to accomplish and in what time-frame.

Do you have other suggestions about setting clear goals? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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