Too often I speak with CMOs who are unsure how their marketing efforts align with their company's businesses goals. I relate this to a general vagueness that is left over from days when marketing wasn't measurable and the key buzzword was branding. Moreover, not all companies have smart goals, resulting in a general confusion when it comes down to creating an actionable marketing strategy that marketing can control, manage and evaluate.
In this post, I'll break down how to clarify and translate business goals to marketing actions, hopefully helping you to focus on what truly matters to your company, therefore making the most of your marketing efforts. Let’s get started.
Break down your business goals
Start off by making sure you have a clear understanding of the vision and business goals of your company. Make sure there are no discrepancies between how you envision the company goals, versus how the rest of management does.
The best way to do that is the good old SMART goals method i.e setting clear goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound. As this is not a general business strategy post, I will not go into much detail on this point, yet I will mention that smart goals are a great method yet should be used carefully. You do not want to enter a state of mind that locks you down to only attempting achievable things. Combine smart goals with stretch goals and always remember the latter. A company that does not shoot for the stars, doesn't stand a chance of getting there (If the subject of combining practical goals with stretch goals interests you, I strongly recommend reading Charles Duhigg's bestseller "Smarter faster better", specifically the chapter about GE and how legendary CEO Jack Welch paired the two back in the 80s).
Let's take an example of a SaaS company's smart goal to "grow the number of core customers who buy a yearly subscription by 10% within the next year". If the company has 10,000 core customers with a yearly subscription, this would mean they would need to add 1,000 new yearly subscribers within a time frame of 12 months (in order to simplify the example I'm not taking into consideration natural churn rates).
Now let's dive in and figure out how to turn business goals such as the above to marketing actions.
Identify where in the funnel you have a problem (top, middle, bottom)
Consider this standard conversion path:
At the top of the funnel the goal is to attract strangers and turn them into visitors on your website.
Things to consider:
- Are you generating enough traffic?
- Are you happy with the number of monthly visitors on your website?
The middle of the funnel focuses on converting visitors to leads. Check your current conversion rates from visitors to leads.
The bottom of the funnel focuses on converting leads to customers. If you have a high volume of leads but your conversion rates are low, focus on fixing that part of the funnel.
In the SaaS company example, let's take into consideration an standard visitor to lead conversion rate of 2%, and a standard industry average lead to customer conversion rate of 5%.
In order to grow the number of core customers who buy a yearly subscription by 10% within a year, they would need 1,000,000 visitors a 2% conversion from visitor to lead = 20,000 leads a 5% conversion from lead to customer = 1,000 customers.
Based on the company's current number of visitors, and current conversion rates, they can identify where in the funnel action is most required in order to achieve the business goal.
Of course, there could be a problem on all stages. That is legitimate and requires action on all fronts.
Once you identify where your problem is, you can proceed to taking actions that will cure it.
Top of the funnel marketing actions:
In order to attract strangers to visit your website, map out who your buyer personas are. Buyer personas are fictional representation of your ideal customers. Research and be crystal clear on who you are aiming to turn into customers.
Next, figure out how you plans to attract them to your website. Possible methods:
- PPC – target your buyer personas with relevant messaging
- Blogging – educate and add value with content that is relevantand helpful to your buyer personas
- SEO – optimize your website to show up in SERPs when your buyer personas search for relevant terms
- Social media – engage in social media and leverage it to attract your buyer personas
Note that at the top of the funnel it's usually too early to be trying to sell. It's important to first build trust. Figure out what your buyer persona's challenges and pain points are and see how you can help them learn more in context with their stage of the buyer's journey.
In the SaaS example, one of their buyer personas could be a CTO at a startup company. One of the CTO's main challenges would be dealing with time to market issues and scalability. The company can try to tap into that and leverage this challenge so that when the CTO is interested in dealing with the problem, she will find end up on the company websites via any of the methods above, and learn how to deal with her issue.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't target your buyer personas and turn them from strangers to visitors at a stage where they have a strong intent to buy. The SaaS company should make sure they are easy to find when prospects are searching for the direct solution that they are offering. The idea is to not come on to strongly, not to be interruptive and to make sure you are combining the right message at the right time. The right time should be measured from your prospect's perspective, not yours.
Middle of the funnel marketing actions:
If you identify your problem in converting visitors to leads, i.e. you have enough visitors on your website, yet they don't progress down the funnel, evaluate the following:
- Is your traffic random or relevant? This ties back to the top of the funnel. Who are your efforts targeting?
- Are you taking action to convert the visitors or are you relaying on chance or strong intent that your prospects may not have at this stage of the funnel?
Possible methods to cure this problem:
- Revisit your top of the funnel and make sure you are attracting the right visitors
- Use content offers, landing pages, forms, calls to actions and gated content to convert the visitors
In the SaaS company example, it would be a good idea to invite visitors to download an eBook or other content offer in exchange for filling out a form and providing their email thus turning them into a lead.
Bottom of the funnel marketing actions:
If you have plenty of leads, yet your conversion rates are low, the bottom of the funnel needs attending. There could be numerous reasons for this to happen:
- Your targeting isn't focused enough and therefore you are capturing irrelevant leads
- Your sales team is pitching to them when they are not yet ready to buy
- Your sales team is pitching to them at the right timing with respect to their readiness to buy, however, they are not yet ready to buy from you – they don't trust you yet
If when speaking with your leads your sales team's feedback is that the leads are irrelevant, revisit the top and middle of the funnel (stop it, sales aren't your enemy, collaborate with them and make love not war).
Otherwise, if sales are struggling with readiness issues, the secret lies in lead nurturing. The bottom of the funnel is the stage to nurture your leads, gain their trust, and only approach them once you identify that they are ready to buy, and from you.
- Email workflows – stay in touch with your leads and keep adding value and educating them. Send them relevant content and build their trust. Do this using triggered automated actions based on a lead's behavior. Most email marketing platforms provide this function (mailchimp, aweber etc)
- Lead scoring - rank your leads in accordance with their current engagement with your company and relevancy to your company. Possible criteria: job position, company size, number of forms the lead filled out, number of emails they opened, number of CTAs they clicked on, the nature of the content they read on your website (a strong indication of their level of readiness) and so on.
In the SaaS example, a good way to push a prospect down the buyer's journey would be to send the CTO and automatic email with an eBook right after she fills out a form requesting the content. Then, proceeding to sending a series of emails inviting her to read educative blog posts. Then further on, depending on her engagement and lead score, to send her an email inviting her to a free evaluation call with one of the company experts. Using lead scoring and evaluating her engagement, sales would be able to pitch to her in correlation with her relevancy to the company, state of readiness and intent. This could save lots of time that the company may currently be wasting as a result of sales reaching out to irrelevant leads.
In order to turn business goals to marketing action, make sure:
- the goals are clear (smart goals)
- you understand who you are targeting
- identify what stage of the funnel is currently standing between you and reaching the goals
- take relevant action
Pro tip: retaining a customer is cheaper than acquiring a new one. Make sure to nurture customers using by continuing to add value and engaging with them. Strive to make your customers your greatest promoters.