The way you go about setting goals is all wrong.
You may not even be aware of it. And the kicker is that it’s not even your fault. You have faulty wiring. (Don’t worry, we all do.)
You’re conditioned to attach expectations, as unrealistic as they may be, to any goal you set for your business. Even worse, your knowledge bias renders you clueless to your own faults. You’re taught that setting goals is a venerable investment of time. It’s a sign of ambition and a prelude to success.
But what happens when your expectations are what’s keeping you from your business goals?
Below is an all-too-common tale of a (fictional) company that waits too long to adjust its marketing strategy to align with its goals.
The Story of Prospect Pete
Pete needs more customers.
As marketing manager of a B2B software, he’s been under pressure from his CEO to increase sales by the end of the year. After a disappointing first quarter and a slow start to Q2, Pete’s boss is willing to give him a little time to turn it around.
“To make up for this slow first half, we’re going to need big numbers in Q4, Pete,” says Craig the CEO. “Our growth has slowed. I need you to triple sales starting in October. Let’s end the year strong and set ourselves up for a big 2015.”
At that point, the marketing team was generating about 20 new leads every month. And of those 20, five converted into customers. At this conversion rate, Pete and his team needed to generate around 60 leads a month to triple sales and get 15 new customers every month from October onward.
Because their persona engages heavily online, Pete knew they’d finally need to restructure their online presence in order to drive the volume of website visitors necessary to fill the top of the sales funnel with more quality prospects and generate more conversions.
Luckily, Pete had been keeping up with several industry-leading marketing blogs and is pretty well-versed in the techniques necessary to drive more business online. He knows from reading these blogs that they’ll need to start publishing more content, and that it takes time (usually around three months) to start gaining traction.
Pete tells his boss that he recommends they invest in a marketing software like HubSpot to really transform their overall presence. After briefing him on the software, Pete’s boss says, “Well, since it’s only April, and we’ll only need three months to get up and going, let’s hold off on that expense until July.”
Pete reluctantly agrees.
Unfortunately for Pete, his interpretation of his findings has him way off base, and as a result, his understanding of the timetable necessary to achieve the company’s goals is all wrong. He’s set himself, and the company, up for failure.
Where it All Went Wrong
Pete’s first mistake is a common one for companies who are evaluating a software for the first time.
He earmarked three months to start gaining traction from inbound practices, but he neglected to consider their six month sales process. Sure, they may start generating the traffic and leads they need by October, but by the time these prospects turn into actual business it’ll be too late.
So in reality, if he needs to triple sales starting in Q4, they needed to be generating a higher volume of traffic and leads right now here in April. They’re already behind. Even worse, they’re putting off the investment of a marketing software until July, meaning they won’t see any increase in revenue until early 2015.
This won’t end well for Pete.
Committing to inbound marketing requires a significant change to the way you market your business, particularly if you need to see s significant change in your lead flow. Not only do you need to take into account the length of your sales process, but also the time it will take for your team to create the assets needed to drive more awareness to your website.
Blog posts. Premium content offers. A new website. Integrating everything with a software like HubSpot. This all takes time to implement, and more importantly, for search engines like Google to index in order to start generating more traffic and leads.
What to Do Instead
Finding yourself in a similar — extraordinarily tough — situation? You need to have the tough conversation with your boss about managing the expectations. He needs to know that if your company is serious about implementing a new software like HubSpot and significantly changing the way you market your business, then his goals and time frame for achieving them is unrealistic.
There needs to be more urgency at the C-Level in order to set yourself up for success. You need to take action now, as you’re already behind your revenue target.
If you have goals to hit by the end of Q4, not only should you be gearing up with marketing software and inbound practices in Q2, but you should be making your decisions in Q1 in order to get started in time to have everything in place for the start of March.
You’re probably thinking, “Right. So I tell my boss he’s wrong and next thing you know, I’m packing up my desk in a cardboard box.”
Well, you’d be surprised. As I said, this is a common tale, and most times when a marketing manager has this kind of conversation with their CEO, he concedes due to the fact that he doesn’t know enough about online marketing. He knows this.
The important thing to remember when evaluating a software or an agency is not when you need leads or revenue, but rather how long your sales cycle is. By using your sales process as a barometer, you’ll ensure a more accurate time frame for achieving your goals.
Traffic and leads don’t pay the bills. In order to set yourself and company up for success, it’s critical you have the things in place necessary to achieve your business goals at the right time.
This article originally appeared on Impact Branding and Design’s blog. Impact is a HubSpot Partner Agency located in Wallingford, CT.