Objectives & results – top 5 tips from an expert

Sarah Johnson, director of growth-marketing agency IndigoLeap, discusses the top 5 rules to setting the right objectives for your digital marketing activity.


2 min read

What objectives and results should you really be looking for from your digital marketing?

The term ‘digital marketing’ covers a range of online activities, all of which can be an excellent and cost effective way for you to get your products or services in front of your target audience. What’s more, with so many digital platforms offering accessible marketing options, and the wealth of ‘how to’ content online, you can often run these campaigns yourself. Which is good news for small businesses.

However, you have to make sure that your marketing budget is not being wasted and that your efforts are actually paying off! Therefore it is critical that you set clear objectives for any activity before you begin, and that you measure results as you go.

This is because, when you embark on any digital marketing activity, you will end up with a lot of data. Now we love data, it is the key to success in marketing - it’s how you will tell what activity is taking you closer to your objectives and what is not. However, on the flip, too much data can lead you to look at the wrong data and the wrong data can set you off course, leading to wasted budget, time and missed opportunities.

So how do you know what objectives to set and what results you should measure? In short, there is no “one size fits all” formula, as it will vary based on your business model, your marketing activity, and what you’re hoping to gain. However, there are a few rules that can help you set the right objectives for your activity and measure the right results.

1. Avoid vanity metrics

It can be tempting to focus on the numbers that look impressive. The biggest numbers such as website visits, social reach, total number of subscribers, total contacts, total sales, video views, social followers, etc. These numbers make you feel good, however they don’t actually tell you anything about the performance of your marketing.

They don’t tell you what to do next. It’s nice if lots of people saw your Facebook post or visited your site, but if no one converted into a lead or a sale then it is ultimately meaningless. Or if you got some new customers - great - but if we don’t know how much it cost to get them and whether they were profitable, then we don’t know whether that marketing was a success.

2. Stick to your business goals

Any digital marketing activity you do, should be aiming to help you achieve one or more of your key business goals in a profitable and sustainable way. Therefore, your marketing objectives and key results must be as closely related to this goal as possible. E.g. if your business goal is to gain more new customers, you should ultimately be judging marketing activity against how many actual paying customers it provided. But you then have to take this one step further, and assess how much it cost you to get these customers through this marketing (your CPA, Cost per Customer Acquisition).

It can sometimes be difficult to attribute end customers to one marketing effort (for example if you have a long sales cycle or lots of customer touchpoints). In this case, you aim for as close to a paying customer as possible. E.g. a qualified lead, an unqualified lead, an enquiry, a DM, etc. And work out how much it cost you to get this lead and whether that is profitable for you (if it cost you £50 in social ads to achieve a lead that may or may not convert into a customer that will be worth £20, you will want to change your approach).

3. Focus on what you GET, not what the user does

It can be tempting to count any interaction that a user has with your digital activity as a success - and it can certainly be useful to keep an eye on. However, when determining the results you really want to analyse, focus on interactions where a user gives you something tangible. E.g. where they have given you money (completed a purchase), or they have given you their contact details (filled in a form, sent an email or a direct message or given you a call). You can then work out what percentage of users gave you something tangible and how much it cost to do this.

4. Make comparisons

To really assess and then improve your marketing results, you will need to be able to compare your results against benchmarks. For example, how did your key measures do this month compared with last month? How does the CPA from Instagram ads compare with Facebook ads? How many new leads will we need to achieve this year, compared with last year? Your key results should let you determine what to do next, based on what’s happened before.


As a good test, use the SMART framework to assess any objective or key result you will be measuring. This framework helps you ensure that all objectives and results are clear and action-focused. (Read more on these in the DigitalBoost Digital Marketing Strategy - Entry Level Guide).

  • Specific – Does the objective pinpoint exactly what it is hoping to achieve? Does the measure give enough information to detail issues or opportunities?
  • Measurable – Can you actually measure this objective? Does this result give a specific metric.
  • Actionable – Will the objective change behaviour? Is the measure one we can act on?
  • Relevant – Is the objective relevant to the overarching business goal? Does this result measure what we are trying to achieve?
  • Time-driven – When must the objective be achieved by? Can the result be measured against different time periods?

In short, the objectives and results that you are looking for from your marketing activity are the ones that help you achieve your business goals. At any point with your marketing you have to be able to answer, “Has this been worthwhile? Should I do more or less of this activity?”. The only way to truly be able to answer this is to take it right down to your bottom line.

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