It’s the time of year when businesses like to ask for your objectives for the year. How they do this varies from organisation to organisation. Sometimes it’s a tick-box exercise run by the HR team. Sometimes there’s a protracted exercise to ensure that objectives cascade down or up the business hierarchy so that your goals are a sub-set of your line manager’s and your team take a sub-set of your’s. Sometimes it’s a bit more informal with goals scribbled on the back of a beer-mat during the latest team social.
This demand for objectives seems to be catching on outside of business as well. When I booked a venue for a big family reunion at the weekend, the venue organisers asked me for my objectives. My gym trainer asked me on Friday about my goals for the next session. I even received an e-mail last night from WordPress asking me what goals I have for my blog this year.
And I do think that when it comes to B2B marketing, having objectives is pretty important. I’ve worked for organisations where I’ve introduced marketing planning and objective-setting processes myself where there were none before. A good marketing objective-setting process needs to tie marketing back to business goals and integrate marketing team work with that of other departments in the organisation. A healthy business is made up of functions with different agendas but interdependent goals. A good objective will be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, targeted and timed so forcing the marketer to really focus in on what needs to be done and why.
But objective-setting in marketing is a balancing act.
Let’s consider the process of annual objective-setting first. This assumes that you are already aware of all of the things in society, in the market, or in your business that could affect what your objective is, its priority, its measurability and achievability now. But you don’t. Just six months ago, who could have predicted the impact of Extinction Rebellion on public perceptions? Who would have said that the UK would be taking part in European elections tomorrow? Change and uncertainty are part of life. As marketers, our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to take them on board and work with them. So be prepared to adjust your objectives as you go.
Objectives bring a healthy focus for a marketing team, but they can also have an unhealthy impact on your team’s culture. Objectives suggest an acceptable outcome, but we need to be careful that this does not lead to fear of failure in your team. Fear of failure discourages innovation and creativity. Because it’s okay to fail. You’ll never transform or change your business for the better without failing regularly. And that’s fine. And your team need to know that’s fine too. Try stuff out. Learn. I think it’s important to foster a sense of trust in the marketing team around you that it’s fine to try new things and repeat those that work.
Be wary of setting too many objectives. Objectives can be restricting as well as focusing. You need to give space for the unexpected, for learning, for creating.
Finally don’t confuse the inputs and outputs with the marketing objective. For example, creating a better, easier and more efficient process for developing advertising might be a useful activity but the objective is to sell your product.
So, thank you WordPress, I will set some goals for my blog. I want to write a blog that B2B marketers want to read. I think that means writing about great B2B marketing, story-telling, branding, and digital and great B2B marketing teams. Where greatness delivers strong commercial outcomes for business. But I reserve the right to change that if circumstances dictate. And I may sometimes fail.
Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.
Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club (www.businessmarketingclub.org.uk) - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders (https://www.hottopics.ht/34199/top-100-b2b-european-marketing-leaders-2019/). He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at www.DaveStevensNow.com.