Clear goals are absolutely essential for business – and almost anything else in life, too.
Goals are those big picture outcomes that keep you pushing in the right direction. When goals are vague or nonexistent, you won’t be able to achieve them ... or you won’t realize it even if you do.
When the time comes to set marketing goals, the marketing manager is the quarterback.
In coordination with senior leadership, he or she is the one to communicate not only a vision for marketing goals, but how to reach them. You can think of goals as residing at the top; objectives are the smaller monthly or weekly milestones, and processes happen from day to day.
But what happens when a marketing manager tries to set marketing goals that won’t pan out in practice?
Communication is the key. Sometimes, though, it’s easier said than done.
Many companies have cultures that encourage and reward communication.
Others ... not so much.
No matter what kind of company you work in, however, it’s important to consider the best approach for making your voice heard when need arises. Your feedback could be the gateway to saving time, money, and energy – by keeping your team focused on strategic goals that move you forward.
Here’s how to act on a disagreement about marketing goals.
1. First, Check Your Assumptions
Raising objections to a manager’s effort to set marketing goals can cause friction, and that can easily veer into conflict. Before you delve deeper into the issue, give yourself a quick breather.
Review what’s actually being proposed. If possible, give yourself a day to sit with it. You may find that it makes more sense than it did initially – and that there’s nothing to be worried about.
Be particularly strict with yourself if you notice you’re objecting to something you, personally, find difficult or distasteful. It’s easy to fall prey to cognitive biases without even noticing it. By doing a little background reading, you can start to update your skills and feel more prepared.
If you’ve checked it out and you’re sure it’s not just you, press on.
2. Crystallize Your Concerns
If a particular marketing goal sets off an alarm in your mind, figure out the reason why.
Odds are good there’s a mismatch between what the goal suggests and what you believe is actually attainable. Marketing managers are people, too: It’s possible they’ll overestimate or underestimate their teams, but you have to make your concern crystal clear.
- Is the goal something your team has the skills, headcount, and resources to deliver?
- Has the goal been set out according to a reasonable timeframe – not too soon or late?
- Are there clear metrics associated with the goal that you can measure ... and impact?
- Are there any missing steps – that is, is there an obvious path from here to your goal?
3. Ask Clarifying Questions
When disagreements come up in business, a good rule of thumb is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. Ask clarifying questions about the goal to find out what the underlying thought processes are. This can help managers see any gaps and act on them proactively.
Respectfully asking questions in a group setting can help the entire team, too.
Chances are, others also have the concerns you do. By talking things through, you have the chance to foster some consensus. You might even discover you’re excited about the goal once you hear more.
4. Understand the Metrics
What happens when goals aren’t reached? The spotlight usually falls on the team.
Any time leaders set marketing goals, they have a responsibility to figure out how those goals will be measured. If team members can’t consult those measurements at will, then they’re in the dark about their progress – and can’t make vital mid-course corrections.
Even if no other questions bear fruit, you should strive to understand the metrics, how the relevant data will be collected, and how teams will communicate around those figures. If these stepping stones are missing, it’s time to kick things up a notch.
5. Develop and Act on a Case
When worse comes to worst, a data-driven case is your biggest asset.
In a lot of ways, making a case to your manager is like developing marketing content:
- You need to know your audience well – your manager’s priorities and preferences.
- You need to have a clear conversion action – an alternative goal or other outcome.
- You need to incorporate hard research data and social proof to boost your proposal.
What happens if, after everything, your manager doesn’t back an alternative play?
Everyone is on the same side in marketing, but it’s also crucial to pick your battles. Even if you find yourself with a rough road ahead, always give it your best shot!