How to Set Objectives

February 28, 2019

Now that business has moved into the digital world we’re able to measure and predict things like never before. This makes a lot of marketers very uneasy.

Marketing’s long been given a hall pass when it comes to accountability. There’s a lot of things we do that, in the past, were impossible to measure. I remember sitting at my desk early in my career counting stacks of media clips to see how many times my employer was mentioned in the news. I took that stack and my freshly printed report to my CEO so I could prove that our branding budget was well spent. I doubt she truly understood the point I was trying to make, but more likely didn’t even know how to have a conversation about the pile of clippings that sat on her desk between her and me.

That’s not the case anymore.

Marketers need to be held accountable and if we aren’t, we need to create our own process for accountability. Because it won’t be long before everyone in an organization expects us to report in with concrete numbers, just like every other department.

Ssssssooooo…..what hold people back?

It’s not setting goals. In fact, I’d argue that setting goals may be one of the easier things marketers to do. But it’s also something that we’re terrible at. Why’s that? Because we don’t understand how to traverse the quagmire between the goals we set and the work it takes to make them happen.

Goals sound easier to hit when they’re in PowerPoint. But they’re much harder to pull-off in real life.

Big goals, little tactics

I’ve had goals since I was in third grade and wanted to run faster than Dee Maxon at recess. But I had no clue how to do it. I’ve had hundreds of goals since third grade, and I’m probably at about a 50% success rate – but my success rate is getting better fast.

Here’s the one thing I learned that made all the difference in whether or not I accomplished them. It’s something that Harvard psychologist and best-selling author Amy Cuddy says this the number one thing that keeps people from hitting their goals.

We don’t know how to get there.

That’s the difference between goals and objectives.

Goals create the big picture of where we hope to land down the line. This means you define the destination at which you want to arrive. Goals create your focus and help you know which tactics will take you there.

Objectives, on the other hand, are what you use to create the specific steps to get there. It’s all about the tactical plan that you’ll take to get to your destination.

Goals lead to objectives. Objectives lead to results. And results inform whether or not you’re going to make your goals.

The formula

Coming up with objectives to help us hit goals is a skill that every marketer needs to get better at. But we don’t want to fall into the trap of defaulting to the same things we’ve always done. If we can start with objectives that make us stand out in new and creative ways, that’s where the real money’s at.

Having an objective to work toward gives purpose and structure to the new ideas you come up with. The purpose of your objective statement is to decide what problem you want to solve, how it bubbles up to your goal, and then align people around the work that needs to get done – all while thinking just a little bit differently.

There are the three parts to the objective statement I use with teams.

1. We need new ideas to…

We need to clearly identify what part of our goal we’re working on. This gives a team focus and minimizes SOS (shiny object syndrome). Pick something that is big enough to make a difference but small enough to manage.

2. With these constraints…

Let’s face it, everything would be possible if the sky’s the limit. But we have to be realistic. What are the constraints we need to work within? Budget? Time? Power-hungry Charlie in accounting who vetoes everything? List at least two that you know you’ll need to work with.

3. So we can…

It doesn’t matter what area of marketing you work in, you have to understand what specific impact you expect to make that contributes to business goals – not just marketing goals. Here are some example objective statements…

We need new ideas to differentiate our customer experience, within the next 6 months and for a budget of $500,000 or less so we can decrease customer churn by 5% by the end of the year.

We need new ideas for how we conduct training over the next year with no budget increase, so we can improve employee skills and become more competitive.

Now it’s your turn. Fill in the blanks below and create your objective statement:

We need new ideas to _________________________________________________________,

With these constrains _________________________________________________________,

So we can ____________________________________________________________________.

About Carla Johnson

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Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.