The following is a reprise of an article I wrote for Forbes previously, but I wanted to share it here as well. 

More and more, marketers are being tasked with delivering not just activities but measurable results. But how can you put a target on something that isn’t always definable?

If marketing’s role is to help the brand sell, it seems sensible that your campaigns should be measured by the purchases made after your consumer was exposed to your ad. Maybe you could include time-honored tactics like a limited time offer or discount to boost quick results. Simple, clean and easy to measure, right?

Except it’s not so easy when the challenges holding back your consumer from buying are more significant than any discount can solve. This is when you need to be more strategic in your marketing and set goals for the challenges your brand is trying to overcome.

How To Set Goals For Early-Stage Awareness And Consideration Marketing

If your marketing needs to be more strategic, then your goals and objectives need to be as well. Start by thinking about the entire buyer journey. How can you connect and engage with them at each step of the way? Your ultimate goal is still the sale, but your immediate objectives should be moving the buyer one step further on a connected journey.

Let’s consider the following scenarios and how you can construct the right goals for each.

Your product is new.

The hurdle here is to help buyers understand what the new product category solves and how it’s better than what they’re using today. This is all about educating the consumer and marketplace and getting them to ask themselves how they could implement your solution.

At this stage, your campaign goals should focus on content introduction and consumer search. Do this by measuring:

  • Brand and solution web searches that result in impressions and clicks to your website
  • Visitor engagement and page views of “solution content,” like relevant blog articles and case studies within your website

To track this information over time, leverage your web analytics along with tools like Google Search Console or paid SEO tools like Moz, SEM Rush or SpyFu.

Your solution is complex.

The key to getting buyers moving forward in a complex sale is to help them understand how your solution can be implemented effectively and efficiently. It’s all about breaking down the barriers of inertia.

This means your primary objectives should focus on content consumption, especially of the “how-to” variety. Do this by setting goals around:

  • Gated or ungated content downloads from your website including e-books, case studies and whitepapers
  • User engagement with any decision applications like ROI calculator or product build-your-own specification tools

Your web analytics should help your tracking here. If you use marketing automation, they can also be helpful in monitoring your most engaged visitors. Additionally, you should consider including some type of retargeting in your campaign for visitors who demonstrate a level of interest. This can be done through programmatic display, paid social or even paid search channels.

Your sale cycle is long.

Getting your brand or product on the buyer’s consideration list takes a lot of work, but staying on that list may be even harder. Buyers never operate on sales and marketing’s timetables. Trying to force them to act before they are ready causes the buyer to reject the offer and you to lose the sale. Instead, brands that have a long sales cycle need to stay engaged over time.

Tracking how successful you are at maintaining prospect engagement over time should be a prime objective at this stage. Do this by tracking goals like:

  • Returning visits by targeted prospects to your website
  • Views of your product- and pricing-related pages
  • Demo requests or direct contact inquiries

Again, your web analytics will be a valuable resource, but also look to leverage other data sources like your CRM and form submissions.

All marketing should monitor the big picture of helping the brand sell. It should also optimize goals based on challenges the brand needs to overcome. It’s important to determine which stage in the buyer’s cycle you are looking to impact. If you set your goals before you finalize the tactics, you will have a better chance of success.