Objectives, Measurement and Program Planning

Five Helpful Hints to Jumpstart Your ’11 Marcom Success

This is “Annual Plan” season for many companies and so the next few blogs will focus on the brand and marketing communications planning process.  Hopefully, we will start a dialog that creates a catalog of marketing communications planning best practices.

Sadly, many programs are doomed from the gate.  The problem lies with the program’s objectives.  Well-stated objectives are the across-the-board, #1 key to success because they provide the foundation for measuring and evaluating the entire Marketing Communications Program. 

What does a well-stated objective look like?  Objectives must be SMART … simple, measurable, achievable and posses and element of time. 

Here’s some tips to make sure your objectives are SMART and really drive next year’s marketing communications success. 

1. Simple — Make sure you have only one objective per objective.  I know this statement is redundant, but too many times I’ve seen the word “and” in an objective (i.e.; increase awareness and leads.)  You can only measure one item at a time. And if you are going to increase awareness, awareness of what? a product, a product positioning? In all cases, a more tightly defined objective is simpler.

2 Measurable — How are you going to measure awareness? Is this a bench mark? Is this an absolute number? Is this a competitive comparison? State the measurement metric as part of the objective.

3. Achievable — This is a judgement call.  Err on the side of caution.  Think small.  Most organizations have limited budgets. Money indeed buys mind-share and awareness, for example, builds over time.  Be credible.  It is better to under promise and over achieve. 

4. Realistic – Define objectives that are germane to marketing communications.  By itself, marketing communications can not increase sales, or market share, or margins.  An objective “helping to” achieve any of the above suddenly becomes unmeasurable.   Revisit the classic hierarchy of effects — Awareness, Interest, Evaluation, Trial, Purchase, and Reassurance.  These are relationship-building behaviors that marketing communications can impact.  Align your objectives with one of these behaviors.

One side note to all of the b2b types: “Leads” (he unholy grail of B2B marketing) communications, are an element of evaluation. You have to generate awareness and interest before you generate leads.

5. Timeliness — Over what period of time are you going to accomplish this objective?  Limited budgets often require a flighting strategy.  Few can support a single initiative over a 12 month period. So when are you going to measure improvement in awareness?

Finally, well-stated SMART objectives determine how to evaluate and measure the program’s success.  Measurement is built in.  There are no difficult questions of “measuring value” after the fact.  Anticipation of value, effectiveness, and ROI are all baked into the proposition upfront.  Most importantly, getting management’s sign-off on return on investment (ROI) and key performance indicators (KPI) up front as part of the program’s objectives contributes significantly to a much more productive, fruitful and positive discussion of the program’s value at the end of next year.

So what are some of your ideas?  Take some time and share your objective-setting and program evaluation best practices. We’ll publish them here.

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About businesspracticum

Chuck Byers is the Managing Director of Business Practicum & Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara University
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