Goals and objectives – two terms we use often in discussion and developing strategic plans for clients. And two terms that can often be seen as interchangeable, especially when the discussion turns to measuring the relative impact and success of that plan.
There are very clear differences between the two terms, however, and understanding that distinction can be critically important – specifically when it comes time to answer the most important question pertaining to a strategic plan – “How do we know if this is working?”
Generally speaking, a plan’s objective is a more-defined, more measurable expression of its goals. “Lose weight and get healthier” are goals; “Lose 15 pounds by the end of the year and lower my blood pressure by 15 percent” are objectives. In marketing terms, “Increase traffic to our website” is a goal; “Drive a 15 percent increase in traffic to our home page and 25 percent increase in traffic to our key product pages” are objectives.
Knowing better the difference between goals and objectives, it becomes easier to set the objectives for your plan. “How do we measure this?” is a question we get asked a lot, and the answer we give each time is at the same time the best and the worst one: “It depends.”
It depends because, like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two plans are alike. The same is true of a plan’s metrics – what you want to measure, how you want to define success, depends on not only the plan, but your products, services and key audiences as well.
That being said, there are some common metrics – both qualitative and quantitative – that can help you start thinking about ways to determine success for a campaign or strategic plan:
How widely known is your product, your service, your brand? How does that compare with key competitors? What was it before plan implementation? What is it now?
What do those who do know about you think about you? Is it good, bad, indifferent? Again, how has it changed since we began our campaign?
This isn’t just face-to-face or in-person feedback, either; are you getting comments via email or social media from people seeing your campaign?
Quantitative Site traffic.
Is the incoming traffic to your site – especially key pages or sections – higher now than it was before? This is especially important to monitor during times of heightened campaign activity.
Facebook likes, comments and shares. Twitter followers, retweets and replies. Instagram followers, likes and comments. Blog traffic and comments. All are examples of social data that can be measured before, during and after a campaign. And all – depending on which platforms you use – are data that should be increasing as campaign engagement increases.
Awareness and perception.
This can be quantitative just as much as qualitative. Perform a benchmark brand awareness and perception study prior to your campaign, and another one after. What changed? What didn’t? What improved? What didn’t?
Leads / Data capture / Sales.
This is why we’re all here, after all. Do you have forms or mechanisms in place to capture inbound info on your site and qualify leads? Are there ways to tie – directly or indirectly – a campaign to sales? If not, think long and hard about how you can make it happen.
These are just a few common areas of measurement, and may or may not be what’s best for measuring the relative success of your campaign or strategic plan. Defining your plan’s goals and objectives – and knowing the difference between those two – is a crucial part of the planning process.
Otherwise, the answer to, “How do we know if this is working?” isn’t, “It depends.” It’s “We have no idea.”