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Episode 09: Goal Setting for SMEs

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In this episode of The SME Growth Podcast, Dave Parry and Richard Buckle discuss the importance of SMEs setting themselves achievable goals for their business. By setting goals, it helps to drive your business forward as well as giving tangible milestones to measure business success upon. This podcast takes goal setting further than just SMART goals, the importance of metrics to measure success and highlight the differences between knowing your marketing is successful vs your business being successful. Goals whilst may seem basic, are a hugely important practice for SMEs to ensure they know are maximising growth and giving tangible milestones to measure themselves against.

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Please note: Whilst all transcripts are double checked for accuracy, they are transcribed via Otter.AI so may contain errors.

David Parry 02:33

Okay, welcome back. This is Dave Parry from Wellmeadow and you're listening to The SME Growth Podcast. We all want to grow our businesses. And so we're here to discuss a few ideas for getting more leads, and then converting them to customers. And today with me, I've got Richard Buckle. Hi Rich.

Richard Buckle 02:58

Hello. 

David Parry 02:59

And we're here to talk about goals. Not the Football World Cup.

Richard Buckle 03:08

Because that's topical at the moment. Why are they important for marketing is what we want to look at today and go through that. So there's a couple of reasons why goals are important. I suppose these generally apply, but if we contextualise it for marketing, then we want to see, having a goal gives you something to aim at, gives you some focus. If you've got team around you, you want to try and pull everyone in the same direction. Something to focus your efforts on, give you some clarity as to what exactly it is that you're trying to achieve. Things like alignment. So if you've got multiple people working in different ways, so imagine a sales and marketing team, you kind of want to have some sort of an alignment and a goal.

David Parry 03:56

It's kind of a way of saying what the priorities are because by having a goal in one area and not in another, saying that's that's what the organisation is valuing.

Richard Buckle 04:06

And I think another another important point of having goals is it's a way of measuring progress. So without having some sort of target, how do you know whether you succeeded or not? So it's almost a way of how do we define success?

David Parry 04:21

I mean, it all sounds a bit obvious, doesn't it? We all sort of know, goals are, you know, we talked about in business all the time, you should have goals? And if you haven't got any, you know, what's the point, but I don't suppose people have looked into the research on it, and maybe they just take it as read. But there is a lot of research out there that says having clear goals and what that means that really does improve your chances of succeeding at the thing you're trying to do.

Richard Buckle 04:45

Well, and it's the sort of thing that we all do. It's one of those things that we do all the time is it's a bit like when we talked about buyer journeys, we all go through them, but we maybe don't know that we're doing it. We all have goals. I mean, everyone's got New Year's resolutions. So we all go through a process of having goals, everyone's got something they want to achieve in their life, however big or small it is. But maybe we don't always break it down or think about it in a way that actually helps us achieve it.

David Parry 05:15

But when you don't, if you didn't make them explicit, if you didn't put a name on them, then are they really a goal? If it's sort of something that after you've done it, you say that was my goal? Well, that's kind of cheating a bit, isn't it? It only really works. If you put a name on it, you know, write it down and put it on a fridge magnet, or whatever.

Richard Buckle 05:31

It's accountability as well, isn't it? 

David Parry 05:34

To yourself. 

Richard Buckle 05:34

Yeah. So if you've put yourself out there to say, and I remember years ago, we had to, you know, stand up and give our goals that ace or something every year for what you want to do it and that, that that whole process of actually verbalising something, writing it down, tell your friends gives a level of accountability, but it also changes your behaviour. So that's another

David Parry 05:59

You ramp up the moral jeopardy of failure, don't you? If you don't tell anybody, then you can just pretend they never existed. You publicise it put in the paper. So that I think the biggest thing I find from goals, yeah, all those things, for sure. That's really important. But I have this tremendous sense of achievement if I can tick a goal off, even micro goals. Let's say you got a lot on in one day.. And you think, Oh, I can't just get through it. And remember, I'm gonna write a list of 10 things I've got to get done. Every single tick on that list gives you a little boost

Richard Buckle 06:28

Just a little dopamine hit.

David Parry 06:32

Okay. So yes, so goals are important. So reinforcing that point, but it's not a myth. 

Richard Buckle 06:39

So I think we could talk about, well, how do we define goals?

David Parry 06:44

I know you're going. I think this might be a very smart thing,

Richard Buckle 06:49

I think this might be a very smart answer. So if you have ever been in business, you will probably know what SMART goals are. So we really don't want to labour the point on that. 

David Parry 06:58

But it's a good checklist.

Richard Buckle 07:00

It's a good checklist. It is common sense, to be perfectly honest. But you know, common sense, isn't that common and all of that type of

David Parry 07:08

Sometimes you need to be reminded, and maybe you think you've got a good goal, and you've missed one of the five or something. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time bound. We've got this little worksheet, haven't we, which we use with clients, which you can get on our resources page of the website. And that's got nice little tick boxes in it just for the five letters of SMART. You don't need to have that, do you? But actually, it makes it nice and explicit. Yeah, it allows people to rally around a more defined goal.

Richard Buckle 07:36

I think is one of those things like yes, SMART goals are, it is a little bit. I don't know what you call it cliche, it's a bit like putting the word strategy at the end of another word, it just makes it feel important for some reason or innovative or something. So I probably need to check our website covered in those words. But But yeah, I think it's still important to have some, I think the main important thing is to have something that is clear, concise, written down, that you're going to be held accountable to that's, that's got some kind of objective there that you're working towards that. So if SMART goals help you do that, if writing it on the wall, helps you whatever it is that works for you. Some of this is contextualised.

David Parry 08:26

Okay, let's talk through them the various stages from a marketing concept of where we might look to have goals. I think the important thing to note at the beginning, is that goals in each of these areas aren't equally weighted. By choosing where you have your goals and how stretching they are. You're deciding where to put your effort should mean people achieve their goals. But it's still worth going through the various stages to work out to go here or am I already there? 

Richard Buckle 08:53

And this this will be contextualised for every every business went to every business will be different stages, some may be looking to get loads of customers, some may have loads of email addresses, and therefore looking to nurture what they've already got.

David Parry 09:06

It refers back to our growth generator, doesn't it? We've got that on our homepage, even we talked about that the various stages that a journey that a prospect goes through. And at the very, very beginning, you've got complete strangers out there that maybe don't even know that you exist and no awareness. So you start with awareness and then you may have a goal around increasing that. And you can measure the success of that because they may then actually interact with you in some way social come on your website respond to whatever. 

Richard Buckle 09:33

So controversial statement. Survey in 2021. By HubSpot said that out of 1000 Global marketers 48% said their primary goal when running a campaign was to increase brand awareness. Agree or disagree?

David Parry 09:49

Discuss. Is an essay question. Well, I'm gonna have to be careful not to be rude here, I think but I understand why people might say that and I've come across marketing departments across the land where that is definitely the key measure of marketing success. But as you know, we've got a bit of a mantra here at Wellmeadow that says marketing is about lead generation, not rocket science. We are not the colouring department, we have to focus on things that help the organisation get new customers. Now, awareness is a good element of that. But it's not the be all and end all. 

Richard Buckle 10:26

Yeah, I think people do have to, obviously, be aware of your business in order to interact with it.

David Parry 10:34

The right people not just, yeah, we know business with a million views on their TikTok, which is great for awareness. But if they're not in your market,

Richard Buckle 10:43

So this is back to again, like, who's your buyer persona, isn't it? And are you raising awareness within the right group of people? It can cost a lot of money to educate the world as we found out? Awareness is important but it's got to be targeted, isn't it? That's, that's the kind of stuff. So if you have got a brand awareness goal, make sure it's targeted, just having a huge amount of people following me on TikTok or something.

David Parry 11:14

Yeah, yeah. Facebook followers count. I think we've heard the phrase vanity metrics before. That's that's the watchword and you got to guard against come up with a number that's easier to achieve, but doesn't actually get you to the end. 

Richard Buckle 11:26

But if you did want to measure it, then you could look at things like, obviously social media reach, SEO? You know, do you come up as your you know, does your company name come up in SEO Search.

David Parry 11:41

Search Console, or SEM Rush is the number of impressions that your website has, has managed to achieve as a result of a search phrase? Not not whether it's been clicked on or not just is it being shown even that's a start, so they can be important. But I think the guarding word on that is not to be too much of a slave to it. Unless that really you thought through and decided that is the key gap in your marketing. 

Richard Buckle 12:04

And I also think, as well just, you know, putting my cynics hat on, which may surprise you...

David Parry 12:10

Have you got any others, any other hats?

Richard Buckle 12:14

A logo isn't a brand. We'll leave it at that.

David Parry 12:19

Yeah, a there's a podcast in that one. 

Richard Buckle 12:22

So okay, so you've made some people aware of your business, the right people, hopefully. So another potential measure that you might have is, can you get them on your website?

David Parry 12:32

Yep. So you've at least got strangers, you don't know who they are. But they clicking on something, clicking on it and got some eyeballs for, how long is it how many seconds between going on the website, and then the back arrow being clicked, you know, a couple of seconds. So you've at least got them to that stage, you got a chance to say something to that, that audience. So that's another good one, that that could be still a vanity metric if you're not careful. But I think this is more robust of a measure, you do need to have assuming that the right type of people, and there coming here for the right reasons and you haven't paid for traffic. 

Richard Buckle 13:07

I think you've got to look at the measures around the. So if your goal is to get more people on your website, that's actually quite an easy goal to achieve. Because you can you can cheat at that and you can so I suppose this is important.

David Parry 13:21

You can pay for it.

Richard Buckle 13:22

If you've got a business, and you're not in charge of actually running your marketing or you're not it's not something you're keeping an eye on? Yeah, if you get reports given to you that says, hey, we've had like 10,000 people on the website this month, and you think, Oh, that's great. And you want to dig into that, because it's the behaviours of what they're doing on the website, that's important. 

David Parry 13:42

Yeah, and have some sort of measure of engagement, even if it's just long they've been on the website for or the number of pageviews, or ideally doing something a bit more interactive, downloading an asset, perhaps entering their email address somewhere to get something or clicking on the find out more or meet us. It was the measure of success. And every web page should have an objective for what you want the user to do. So how many of those objectives have been met? Have they clicked those call to action buttons and navigated deeper and deeper in? So if you're the business owner, and you're being told he's great, our web visitor traffic has gone up by 50%. Ever since I took over, boss. Great, but ask that supplementary question. Has the next measure along the train has that one, that one's gone up as well? If not, you just front in padding really?

Richard Buckle 14:27

Well, the scary thing, back to my trusty 2021 HubSpot survey of 1000 markterers 54% of marketers surveyed said that web traffic is the most important metric when measuring the effectiveness of their content marketing. So that's, you know,

David Parry 14:44

Slightly more than the percentage that said that brand awareness.

Richard Buckle 14:47

It could well be for your business that web traffic is is the measure but yeah, be careful.

David Parry 14:53

As long as it then leads to the next thing. So you got to imagine the series of goals, each with their own measure that one leads to another. And if there's a break in the chain, any point, yeah, then it's not worth it.

Richard Buckle 15:05

Bringing in a Fleetwood Mac reference there

David Parry 15:07

Break the chain? Yeah. Which apparently he's talking about the five members of the band don't break the chain, because that's the five of them, didn't know that before

Richard Buckle 15:16

Sure, my Dad told me about it.

David Parry 15:20

Moving on. So that's the web traffic bit. Awareness. Yes, maybe. Web traffic, more likely to be yes. But as long as it leads on to to the next thing, if like 

Richard Buckle 15:31

One thing we hear a lot of people say what they want is more leads. The goal is to get more leads.

David Parry 15:36

That's what we always say about marketing generally, isn't it? It's a lead generation department. Now, if your webs doing its job, somehow it gets more leads

Richard Buckle 15:44

Scarily, back to my survey. Good value survey this, 27% of marketers said that getting leads was the most important. Now that is, seems counterintuitive to me.

David Parry 16:00

Well, that's that's one to watch for. And if you're if either if you're in charge of the business, the marketing department sorry, or of the business as a whole, ask your marketing function generally, is that something that they are regarding as their primary goal? Yeah, get me more leads. So if I had a situation where marketing or sales or different departments and I was in charge of sales, I'd be saying that to my marketing colleague, like you bring me good quality leads, I'll take it from there. Just like the salespeople, say, I'll get them into orders and then the maybe the production departments or you get me good quality customers, I'll take it from there. 

Richard Buckle 16:33

Interesting sidenote, they're just thinking about it. Who is it that setting these goals as well, isn't it? So this is, you know, we're looking at the survey and seeing well, if you've got a marketing team, are they setting their own goals in isolation and looking at brand awareness and web visits, when actually the rest of the business is there, what we need is, is leads.

David Parry 16:52

Surely this is the job of a leader, you know, different sense of lead the business, the owner, manager, or certainly the MD, they have to make sure that there's almost a service level agreement here between each link in the chain. And, you know, I've often used the metaphor of the passing on the baton in a relay race. But if marketing is the start of the process, maybe your product design or something further upstream, but marketing, bring the leads in, then sales, convert leads to customers, production, convert those customers to invoices and financing, convert invoices to cash, and it's a bit of a circle. So if the business owner knows what the end result needs to be, I need a certain amount of profit or, or maybe cash flow, you can work backwards. Yeah. And it should be almost then obvious that you need x number of leads per month, because with all the ratios of conversion thereafter, we know what that turns into in profit.

Richard Buckle 17:42

In terms of measuring lead value, we've done some work with clients to actually try and put some figures on this haven't we

David Parry 17:52

Our famous GMA flag. So this is a neat little device we came up with Generated by Marketing Activity is our GMA, and we set a flag up on each of the contacts, the companies and the deals within the CRM pipeline, didn't we, and there were rules for when that flag was allowed to be set, or indeed, when it was blocked from being set. So if there's some other reason why a person, a company or a deal, may well trigger those conditions. But we know really, that they're there for other reasons. And you can't allow that to be counted as GMA, generated from market activity. Once you've got that flag set, it's been quite interesting to run a report every month of how many quotes have we produced from those leads? What's the value of those quotes, though, we can definitely say is as a result of what the marketing department have done, Which I suppose leads then on to another goal, isn't it? What is the value of you may have another value of quotes or value of sales, that type of thing? I think, in that chain of goals that we've talked about, yeah, awareness upfront, web traffic, maybe, leads because they're doing something. The crystallisation of a lead, getting close to being a customer is the quote, unquote, value, how many quotes? What's the value? And then some of those will be converted, by winning them into customers.

Richard Buckle 19:07

And I think from a marketing point of view, to be able to look at the return on investment of what's been generated, isn't it? So if we're talking about marketing's job is to, is to bring the leads in and sales job is to convert those leads from a marketing point of view? You want to put some numbers on that? Rather than it just, you know, looking at return on investment on me, I suppose return on investment on actual sales is, is probably the more important metric. But it's also interesting to know, how are the marketing efforts? You know, are we are we wasting loads? Are we getting a huge amount of value of quotes in but we're not converting them?

David Parry 19:36

We never win them. You said about getting traffic to website easy to do in a way it could also be easy to get lots of quotes, if your marketing gives the illusion that you're going to be a cheaper, better mousetrap. And then when the quote goes out, it doesn't. You'll produce loads of quotes from people with high expectations you don't meet and you just don't win the work. So it's got to be realistic. And each of these stages have got a percentage attrition, if you like to go through to the next stage. So not all quotes end up being orders, just like not all leads end up producing quotes, and not all web visitors end up being leads. Yeah, so you've got to know what those percentages are on your way through.

Richard Buckle 20:17

So I suppose then another, you know, getting down to the nuts and bolts of it really, a marketing goal could well be to increase the revenue, isn't it? I mean, that may not be they may have when it's moving into sales, they may lose some of that handle on that

David Parry 20:34

Marketing and sales goal is to increase revenue, or at least to bring in the required amount of the appropriate orders at the right time. It's no good saying I've hit my yearly target of order intake in January, and I'm not gonna have anything from February, December, you're gonna have a lot of upset customers. So I've always defined that for the sales team, they've got to bring in the right orders at the right value at the right time. And therefore marketing to satisfy that have to bring in the right quality of lead that need quotes at the right time in the right quantity, and, and so on.

Richard Buckle 21:06

Do you think marketing departments may be get increased revenue as a goal forced upon them?

David Parry 21:15

In my experience, I think marketing departments and risk of upsetting any marketers listening, they get off the hook a bit lightly, because they're allowed to hide behind the fact that it is hard to measure. It's a flippin hard job to do and very hard to get it right. But if you don't get the sales, then it's easy to say, well, that's the sales departments fault, because they can't convert very well. Well, maybe they haven't got enough leads of the right quality to convert in the first place. So I think if you were to be a very focused, target driven, goal driven business owner, you'd be asking your sales department to get the ordering take in, for sure. But you'd also be asking your marketing department to get a certain number of lead value opportunities every month as well.

Richard Buckle 22:01

And so if your goal was tend to increase revenue, what sort of measures? Would we be looking at things like, average order value, per customer? Frequency? 

David Parry 22:11

Exactly. If we're going down to the whole share of wallet thing, you could look at the frequency of purchase the average value, you know, the lifetime value of a customer can be made up of multiplying those things together, just like upstream, what's the cost of acquisition, those two numbers are really the the beyond that's the litmus test is, the cost of acquisition is lower than the lifetime value of the customer, then it's worth doing more of it. And that's, that's an interesting point for marketing departments as well, because you can use that to justify investing more in marketing, right up until the point where the cost of acquisition of the next customer matches the lifetime value, then there's no point doing it. But up until that point is we're doing more and more. So and it always amazes me that companies may have a really effective way of bringing in new leads. But they don't double it. Or do more of it. Yeah, you know, say, Oh, we do this Google ads campaign, we spend 1000 pounds a month on that. And that brings us a certain number. That's great, why don't you spend 2000 pounds a month?

Richard Buckle 23:08

Yeah, find a saturation point.

David Parry 23:09

Where's that? Where's the curve? start flattening off? So yeah, that's interesting.

Richard Buckle 23:17

So another goal that you might have for marketing might be brand engagement. So this is slightly different to brand awareness in that people already know about you, you're not educating them about your brand. It's how does your business or your brand engage with its existing customers, suppliers? network of people?

David Parry 23:38

Yeah, I think it's important to distinguish between brand awareness and brand engagement. So awareness is the front end of the pipeline, which leads people then to find out about you, brand engagement are people who may or probably are already customers, or have been very close to being customers, maybe they've been introducer, or some some other partner in the process. And they are helping you with your marketing then either by being an advocate and giving you referrals or speaking about you nicely in the pub, or doing that thing called earned media, which is the reviews online or reposting social content. So they're lending the weight of their brand, by promoting what you've done,

Richard Buckle 24:15

Sort of giving you some of their trust, I suppose, isn't them they are, that's almost the currency of

David Parry 24:20

Definitely a high trust level, because they're lending their audience to you for a period of time saying, look at all these people I know. There's other other company over here, you know, I rate them. So that's the brand engagement as opposed to brand awareness.

Richard Buckle 24:34

And there's different ways of measuring that. So you could look at net promoter scores or doing surveys.

David Parry 24:41

Yeah, or the referral rates, a bit like marketing. What really matters is getting leads. What matters from your advocates and your highly engaged brand engagement people? It's how many referrals how many referrals have you got?

Richard Buckle 24:54

And then finally, maybe a marketing goal, which is slightly different, because all the ones we've discussed so far have been more externally focused. But some of the things that we're coming across at the moment are more, they're marketing goals that are internally focused. So there's not a lot of point of having a great set of marketing messages that if no one in your business understands them or, or even knows about them even

David Parry 25:20

You could have a big disconnect. And, and your business owner once who said, I don't need a marketing department, because everyone in the organisation is in marketing, we all in some way or another impact the customer's view of us, even if we don't meet them, yeah, we make the product or deliver the service that gives the customer that opinion of us. So I get that everyone's got to be involved. They've got to know what your marketing messages are because if they're saying something different to what the marketing department are pushing out, we're gonna have a really big problem 

Richard Buckle 25:50

And I think as well, there's there's, I don't know, there's a reasonable amount of cognitive dissonance, I think sometimes between business owners thinking that everybody has that view of the business. Now, there are some businesses where it's, you know, you took a stick of rock, isn't it, you cut them in half, and that's the brand and the brand values and, and all of that, but I think more often than not, there is an aspiration, that everybody is doing marketing, you know, what do you say to people, when you're in the pub with your friends? How do you describe the business that you're in, is a pretty good indicator as to whether or not

David Parry 26:27

I think the biggest challenge of the SMEs we've come across on this is where the business is making a component, part or service that goes into something much, much bigger. And it's then hard to get the message across to the people in in the client that's making the component to get them as excited. As the salespeople will be and certainly as the customer is about their products. So imagine if you're making, you know, part for the space, space rocket, you know, a SpaceX product, if you're making, you know, a nut and bolt or something, it's very hard to get your employees get so excited about helping to put man on the moon type mission stuff.

Richard Buckle 27:01

Or Mars

David Parry 27:02

Or Mars, the moons old tat. Whereas if you're making the rocket, then it's a lot easier to get people excited about that. So you've got to somehow make sure that the internal people know the consequences, the importance to your customer of this nut and bolt.

Richard Buckle 27:17

And this ties into things like your values and things, isn't it your vision, all of that type of

David Parry 27:24

Yeah, your purpose? Well, there's a whole new podcast focused on that.

Richard Buckle 27:28

I think one of the measures then so making sure that you've got the externally focused goals aligned properly to where your business is at. But also, making sure that internally, everyone is saying consistent messaging, understanding what the marketing messages are is an important goal in and of itself. If you don't get that right, you're going to end up with a disconnect.

David Parry 27:49

Yeah, that's good. So why don't we just quickly summarise then that chain of the goals, we should at least consider having them starts with awareness and health warnings around it. But it could be appropriate that could lead to web traffic or some other form of engagement at the early stage, but then hopefully generates leads, leads, generate quotes or ask for quotes, quotes can turn into customers, customers can turned into engaged ambassadors, advocates, and then there's the internal aspect of that itself. And you may have goals in all of those areas. But ideally, you've got you've prioritised somewhere that some goals

Richard Buckle 28:20

They'll be a weighting. And then just a quick point, I suppose with all of those goals, how do you actually measure progress on them, so there'll be a whole lot of data flying in? That's modern marketing, data driven. So some form of data visualisation is often helpful in terms of actually tracking and measuring goals. So there's lots of different ways we can do that. Have you had any experience,

David Parry 28:45

The dashboard software out there now is absolutely incredible. And you can certainly make boring data maybe look look very visually attractive. And whilst that can be accused of being eyecandy, it does work. It does drive engagement makes, if you have a well presented dashboard, or even just a well presented graph in Excel, it can make a world of difference between whether that generates the right debate and changes behaviour, as opposed to an almost impenetrable graph or table of numbers. So yeah, it's really important to present the data well, if you're trying to get other people to engage in it

Richard Buckle 29:17

sounds like we could do a whole podcast on data visualisation, 

David Parry 29:20

I think, yeah. Okay, up for that, put that on the list. Good. Well, that's probably about all we've got time for, isn't it? So you've been listening to The SME Growth Podcasts on goals this week. Please subscribe to our podcast or give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts from, and perhaps more importantly, tell your business friends all about it, send them an email with the link. Next week, we'll be doing our podcast on vision, what is vision in a strategic sense, and it's the start of a new series of podcasts, where we're talking about the vision and strategy and implementation of business goals. So until then, goodbye

Further resources

We have a great SMART goals canvas if you wanted to use this method available here.

Interested in the HubSpot survey referenced in the episode? Have a look at The HubSpot Blog's 2023 Marketing Strategy & Trends Report for more marketing statistics.

The HubSpot Blog's 2023 Marketing Strategy & Trends Report: Data from 1,200+ Global Marketers