Let’s talk about the ROI of marketing automation. Far too often, we marketers get challenged with this question by our CEOs or our clients.
In a McKinsey survey, 83% of global CEOs said marketing can be a major driver of a company’s growth. Yet, marketing leaders are always the first to get fired.
A Korn Ferry study says that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is 4.1 years only. The short tenure is believed to rise because the company is not aware of the change that the CMOs are tasked with leading.
The same is true when businesses cut off marketing agencies first to minimize the marketing budget. It doesn’t mean that there’s a shortage of marketers with an effective strategy, though.
More often than not, the problem lies in translating marketing initiatives into a language that the decision-makers would be interested in. 67% of the global marketing leaders are already using a marketing automation platform. However, it’s still challenging to convince the top management to continue (or even start) the adoption of marketing automation.
Here’s what usually holds them up.
Craig Hewitt, the founder of PodcastMotor, says that his number one marketing automation challenge is tracking the ROI of different channels in a workflow.
Sure they believe that automation brings massive benefits like eliminating routine tasks, increasing the flow of leads, and enhancing the customer experience. Yet proving that your marketing automation works is a different story.
Today we’ll help you formulate effective marketing automation objectives so that the next time you attend that meeting, you can show off how exceptional your marketing automation performance was — with numbers, graphs, and maybe even a dashboard to boot.
Set the overall goals
Before everything else, we need to get one thing clear: goals and objectives are different things. Both refer to the desired outcomes that we want to achieve. So we may have used them interchangeably. However, they’re not the same.
Most of us are like Staci, who once was confused between the two.
So let’s get this straight.
Goals vs. objectives
Goals describe where you want the company to be in the future, while objectives are specific and actionable targets that you need to achieve in a shorter time frame to reach your goals.
Here are some of the most common company goals:
- Boost revenues
- Increase lead generation
- Nurture leads
- Improve customer engagement
- Up marketing productivity
- Provide excellent customer service
- Become an industry leader
- Build your brand
Marketing automation objectives, on the other hand, are more specific:
- Improve monthly revenues by 15% next quarter
- Decrease the advertising costs by 10% within the next year
- Reduce the average sales cycle by half in the next 6 months
- Generate 20% more sales-qualified leads in the next email campaign
Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of goals vs. objectives.
|General||Intangible and usually an idea||Tangible and concrete|
|Specificity||General intention||Specific, clear, and precise|
|How to plan for it||Broad||Detailed|
|Timeframe to achieve it||Long-term||Medium- to short-term|
|Measurement||Difficult to measure as goals are often intangible||Easy as they can be accurately measured|
In short, goals give directions to your efforts. Objectives tell you how fast you’re approaching the destination. Goals motivate you to do things and to act on things. Objectives give you the satisfaction of achieving those things gradually.
Goals help you set priorities. Objectives give you assurance when making difficult decisions. Goals inspire and drive everyone in the company to do their best. Objectives help the team understand what is expected of them.
In summary, if you create goals without clear objectives, you run the risk of running expensive marketing automation projects that will not get you the return that you’re expecting. But you need to know how to set automation objectives effectively. It’s as important as setting the right goals.
How goals and objectives work together
Let’s dissect a marketing goal and its objective to understand the dynamics.
Marketing Automation Goal: Increase lead generation
Marketing Automation Objective: Generate 20% more sales-qualified leads in the next quarter
When the top management (or your client) says that they want to get more prospects in the sales pipeline, it’s your job to set realistic expectations by setting the objective. Objectives help the team understand what the required marketing tasks are.
Now, the next question is…
How do you get the whole team to work together to achieve this?
Use goals and objectives to align marketing and sales
The departments should create their strategy to support this objective and set their departmental objectives. For example:
- Blog team: Create 2 high-intent blog posts every month with inline opt-ins for the next quarter.
- Email marketing team: Launch a 30-day email nurture campaign to those leads that opted in.
- Social media team: Create 3 micro-content pieces for each blog post and redistribute them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram within 2 weeks of being published.
- Paid ads team: Reduce cost-per-click from $3.50 to $0.50 and increase the reach from 500 to 1000 people per week.
- Customer engagement team: Reach out to 30 sales-qualified leads that opted in every week.
- Sales representative: Hop on a call with 10 hot leads every week.
That’s how you get the sales and marketing teams to work together on one company goal.
Setting marketing automation objectives that (really) move the needle
For an objective to be effective, it has to be actionable. Objectives are concrete, tangible ideas that should be easily measured. Most marketers use the classic SMART criteria in creating these objectives.
You’re probably already familiar with this, but let’s do a recap.
SMART stands for:
- Specific — Objectives should be clear with specific metrics and deadlines that need to be met. For example, “Create 2 high-intent blog posts every month with inline opt-ins for the next quarter” is more specific than “create more blog posts.”
- Measurable — Your objectives need to be measurable to succeed. Identify the key performance indicator (KPI) that you need to track and assign an owner for each objective. They’ll be the ones responsible for ensuring that the objective is met.
- Attainable — Objectives, unlike goals, aren’t lofty. They’re realistically achievable. It may be challenging to achieve them, but it’s possible. You must know your marketing departments’ capabilities, your budget, and manpower. Don’t try to overshoot your objectives.
- Relevant — Objectives should be in line with your long-term goal. If achieving a said objective moves you a step closer to your goals, then keep it. Otherwise, scrap it.
- Time-bound — Your objective needs to have a deadline, and it should be a specific date. If there’s no pressure to achieve an objective in a timeframe, the team will keep putting it off, and it’s unlikely to be met.
Now that you know how to set objectives properly, you may find yourself overwhelmed with where to start.
Maybe you’d like to increase your leads-to-users conversion rate by 15% next quarter. Or convert 200 more newsletter subscribers into paying clients by next month. You might be thinking of doubling your free trials to paid customers in the next 6 months. At the same time, you’d like to save 30% of your team’s time by automating processes and integrating apps.
Don’t worry. We’ll help you sort through it.
9 tips for formulating effective objectives
Here are the following points to help you get started on planning your objectives:
- Before working on the objectives, go back to your existing marketing plan. Refine your goals with the stakeholders to get buy-in. Go through multiple rounds of discussion and make everyone feel involved.
- Don’t forget to highlight the trade-offs between different goals right from the start. For example, the team can compromise a small amount of marketing efficiency in exchange for a better and more personalized experience for the customers.
- Set your digital marketing strategy, polish your outbound and inbound marketing funnel, and identify base KPIs. You must have numbers to start with so you can accurately track your progress.
- Set up different objectives for different markets. The customer journeys could be different, so you have to establish desired outcomes for different users in different industries or geographical areas.
- Involve people responsible for attaining the objectives in the formulation process. Identifying which objectives to be prioritized should be a team activity (at least on the managerial level).
- Make sure that you relate your objectives directly to the overall goals of the company. Remember the SMART criteria. Marketers who do this are preferred — and they’re usually few.
- Check your organizational capabilities. Do you have the resources — enough content writers, budget, time, marketing automation tools, etc. — to achieve those marketing objectives?
- Assign measurable targets or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Get a single person to own each.
- Test, learn, and optimize. Setting objectives is not a one-time thing. You wouldn’t get everything right overnight. Top-performing companies always test track and apply what they’ve learned to achieve better results.
Measuring your marketing automation objectives
As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
The same holds for your marketing automation efforts, whether they’re email marketing campaigns, social media marketing, or content marketing. Again, you’ll have to be able to measure the variety of objectives that you have set.
It’s also important that your software platforms can give you data. Here are the 4 types of metrics that marketing usually tracks:
These metrics can tell you if you’re hitting your bottom line and making money at the end of the day. These are the metrics the owners, founders, and top management care about.
Here are the examples:
- Revenue generated
- Cost of ads spent (Facebook ads, Google Ads, etc)
- Close rate on marketing-sourced leads (Yep, Gleansight research reported that 71% of top performers also use the close rate on marketing-sourced leads as a value metric.)
Here’s an example from Copper.
In their sales dashboard, Copper track sales revenue, quota/goal progress, and remaining goals. The dashboard also serves as the leaderboard for the sales team.
Efficiency metrics tell you if the automation is indeed making a significant impact on your marketing KPIs. It may include the following:
- Costs per client acquisition
- Marketing-qualified leads through lead nurturing
- Sales-accepted leads
For example, in this SaaS metrics dashboard by Composio, you can see the total number of leads, PQLs, free trials, and qualified leads.
If you’re wondering if your audience, leads, or customers resonate with your messaging, you can take a look at your email response metrics. You can tell which pieces of relevant content, what kind of messaging, or which marketing hooks have gotten the attention of your market.
This category may include:
- Subscription and unsubscription rates
- Comments or shares on your social media
- Website and blog traffic
- Email open, click-through, and reply rates
At Encharge, we use these metrics to track and improve our trigger-based onboarding. If done right, an increase in onboarding has a significant impact on the company’s monthly recurring revenue.
Activity metrics involve the user behaviours that you need to track, so you’ll know if your marketing automation is bringing you positive results or not. Therefore, you should usually implement them at the start of the marketing automation.
These could be:
- Number of emails sent
- Behavioral triggers
The best automation objectives support your company goals
Showing stakeholders that your automation is indeed working depends not only on how well you’ve laid out your marketing strategies to them. It also depends on how well you can track and showcase its positive impact.
In the end, the marketing activities that are appreciated and rewarded can be traced back to the company’s most important goal: increasing revenues.
Do you want to keep your chair on the marketing table?
Then we encourage you to learn how to set effective marketing automation objectives that support your company’s goals. Plus, you’ll be more confident and even excited to deliver that marketing report next time. 🙂