Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

How to set (content) marketing goals that can actually be achieved!


February 1, 2017

Measuring results

The sky is the limit so, um, let’s set a goal of reaching the sky. This month. Exactly. Good luck with that one!

Setting unrealistic goals might be one of the latest marketing diseases out there:

  • This blog post will generate $5 million in revenue.
  • Everyone that comes to our website will convert.
  • Can we run this 6-month program in two days?

OMG, people. I get it. Life is full of pressures. I have them too. But let’s be realistic.

Chief marketing officers also didn’t rise to that rank in two days or even six months. Usually.

I used to suffer from this disease early on in my career, too. I was cured by two seasoned senior executives. They prescribed some common sense to me, and I try to stay on the prescription.

The first time, I set some highly aggressive (and unrealistic) goals of customer acquisition through blogging. Now, customers are acquired through blogging, but it’s not a one-month campaign.

A fantastic senior exec said this: “If at the end of this short time period, your and my jobs will depend on these goals, will we have jobs?”

“Likely not.”

“I prefer to keep my job. So maybe let’s set some realistic – yet good – goals?”

Not because it doesn’t work, but because the time frame is too condensed and the goal too optimistic.

Maybe this is also the reason many CMOs stay in jobs now relatively short time periods.

In another case, I had a board of directors push back and say that they are seeing progress and appreciate the movement, but that the goal likely was too aggressive. So that goal was changed, too!

Thanks to the smart people in my life!

Another time, I was again preparing an aggressive content marketing plan of implementation and results. I was forecasting some aggressive results in six months. I hadn’t learned my lesson, yet.

This time was different. The senior executive said: “Nice plan, but can we see results earlier?”

Nope. I was already highly optimistic with this forecast.

That was the end of that discussion, which was probably good.

So how do we actually set realistic (content) marketing goals? Here’s my list:

  • What is the goal?
  • Why is that the goal?
  • Define the goal. Be crystal clear and make sure people agree. It’s hard to reach a goal without knowing what it is.
  • Run this by somebody who has done this before and see if they think it’s possible.
  • Have an idea of how to actually reach it.
  • Go after it daily.
  • Measure it daily.
  • Adjust daily.

Unrealistic expectations + uncoordinated, urgent implementation = failure 


Realistic expectations + coordinated, urgent implementation AND daily adjustment = success 

The way to make it work is to educate executives on the current best practices and what actually works currently. Remember, many tactics might work today, but tomorrow they are outdated. Related read: Why many social media conference talks are useless

Then we need rapid implementation. That means to make a high-level strategy and go and start. And adjust on the fly toward that plan’s high-level goals.

I’ve seen months and months of planning. By the time the plan was done, the people who came up with it had moved on. Something about not showing results quickly enough. <Smacks forehead.>

I love goals and have goals, but let’s be realistic and then aggressively go after them.

Somebody asked me: “And what happens when we reach these goals quicker?”

Easy: Celebrate, set new goals and repeat. 

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Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

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