[This is part seven of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]
Without being clear on the details of what success looks like for your organization, you will have a hard time knowing how you are doing. It would be like going on a trip without planning your route. Just knowing what your destination is won’t help you see that you missed a turn. You need to know what your route is. As you help your organization move towards its long-term destination, you need mile-markers. Like, where will you be one year from now?
The next question in the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree is, “What will be different for your organization one year from now if your marketing is successful?”
It is tempting to think that the answer to this is obvious. You want things to be better. You want more money. Or public awareness. Or maybe, you want more volunteers. But, with a vague answer like that, how will you know if you are a little off target? And, more importantly, how will you know when to throw the party when you succeed?
Here’s a handy acronym to help you think through what’s needed for a clear marketing objective:
You need a SMART marketing objective.
There are quite a few versions of what those letters stand for. I’ll talk about what I mean by them as well as embracing a bit of the controversy.
Simple: Now, if you have seen the SMART acronym before, you may already be disagreeing with me. “The S stands for Specific,” you say. I’ll admit, I’m in the minority camp here, but this whole list is about making sure you are specific so that feels like a waste of a perfectly good letter to me. I’ve also seen organizations get into the trap of starting to talk about how they are going to do something too soon. Saying that it should be specific tends to get people focused on “How?” questions like who is going to lead which committee. That comes later.
Measureable: The controversy on this one is that you need what you need whether you can measure it or not. Some things are hard to measure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive toward them. I think this is a valid concern, but when I say something is measurable, that doesn’t mean I necessarily already have a plan on how to do so. Measuring is hard which is why I’m going to have a lot to say about it before we finish the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree. Let’s say you are trying to address donor retention by improving the esteem they hold for your organization. If your objective is a 10% increase in esteem, you could know whether or not you hit the mark or by how much you’re off. First, you’ll end up needing to figure out an appropriate survey or indicator, but it is possible to measure that. So, that is a measureable objective. Granted, you’ve just made your job a bit more complicated, but if that is what you need, that is what you need. Don’t head off in the wrong direction just because it is an easy direction to measure. But, if your objective doesn’t seem measureable at all, you need to be more specific about what you are trying to do.
Achievable: This one is about being realistic. Missing the mark is a morale buster. Also, if you and your team know you are probably not going to make it, your motivation can be sapped before you even begin. This doesn’t mean it can’t be a stretch if a stretch is what is truly needed. Stretch goals get an unfair bad rap. When you stretch your body, you make small shifts in your range over time by pushing calmly and just slightly beyond the comfortable. Yet, “stretch” has become a euphemism for extreme risks and wild, unattainable promises. Stretching is good, but we aren’t trying to dislocate any joints here.
Relevant: Your objective should clearly relate to the mission and be in line with the broader strategic direction or your organization. Everyone should know why this is important.
Time-bound: We’ve given you a head start on this one by asking you to define where you want to be “one year from now.” You may be in a situation where a one year time-frame doesn’t work for your project. Maybe it’s a six month project. That’s fine, just make sure you have some sort of time limit or measurements will be meaningless. If your time-frame is longer than a year, set an intermediate goal to help you stay on track.
Marketing Objective for Chirp:
As an example, let’s turn to Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.)
Last week, we talked about Chirp’s plan. They want to conduct experiments on their teaching methods so that they can set appropriate, research-based standards. To ensure methods will work across a variety of bird subcultures, they need to bring in students from a broader range of flocks.
We will increase recruitment for the next school year, doubling the number of students in the school from 15 to 30 and tripling the number of distinct flocks represented from 3 to 9.
It is SMART?
- It is simple. They state clearly what they want to achieve, but don’t go into unnecessary detail.
- It is easily measureable.
- Though it will certainly be a stretch, since they are small and in a growth phase, those growth rates should be achievable.
- It is relevant to immediate research needs, which in turn is relevant to the long term growth strategy. It also supports the general educational mission of the organization.
- The time-frame is defined. In this case, it is a little less than a year because they need a fresh batch of students before the school year begins.
Now that we know what our destination and route are, it is time to invite people along on this road trip. Next week, we will start on the “Who?” section of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree.