Marketing Growth: Setting Realistic Targets for your Business

Explore key considerations when setting and adjusting your targets, and how they contribute to marketing growth with insights from Axon Garside.

Picture of Lawrence Chapman Lawrence Chapman

Published: 07 May 2024

13 minutes read

Marketing Growth: Setting Realistic Targets for your Business

In life, we want to be the best we can be.

Magic trumps mediocrity. Excellence ousts the ordinary.

The same can be said for business; we enter our respective industries with aspirations of reaching the top of the tree, with marketing growth a target for many marketing teams.

Companies continue to write success stories in which marketing plays a key role.

However, such triumphs don’t manifest by chance. You need to adopt a rigorous approach to setting high, yet attainable goals to support your strategy, particularly given the competitive nature of the business landscape.

This article will answer key marketing growth questions, including:

  • Why marketing growth is important
  • How to translate commercial goals into marketing KPIs
  • How to allocate marketing budget effectively
  • When to review your marketing targets
  • How to use data to set marketing goals


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Why marketing growth is important

Marketing growth isn’t a nice to have. It isn’t a luxury.

It’s a key ingredient to the success and sustainability of your business.

It has to be factored into your overall business strategy and measured through appropriate metrics such as return on investment (ROI), customer acquisition costs, and organic traffic growth.

However, some companies make the mistake of overlooking its importance.

In the Career & Salary Survey 2024, 46.5% of respondents said marketing is viewed as a cost, as opposed to an investment, with a further 15.2% of marketers indicating marketing isn’t understood at all outside of their department.

Somewhat surprising, given marketing’s role in increasing revenue, market share, brand awareness, and customer engagement.

So, with the importance of marketing thrust into the spotlight, how do you translate commercial goals into marketing KPIs?


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How to translate commercial goals into marketing KPIs

Translating commercial goals into marketing objectives and KPIs is no piece of cake. But as the saying goes, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

For many B2B businesses, commercial growth targets balance several revenue goals. You’ll be targeting growth through:

  • New business revenue (via sales and marketing)
  • Retained/renewal revenue (via services/customer success)
  • Up/cross-sell revenue (via all of the above)

On top of this, you’ll no doubt have specific growth targets for different service/solution types, market sectors/verticals, and account/customer sizes (from small to enterprise or key accounts).

Long story short, chances are you’re targeting growth through numerous channels and strategies. This makes setting clear marketing objectives difficult.

Well, you can thank your lucky stars, because we’re gonna make things a helluva lot easier for you with our ‘inverted funnel’ approach.


Setting marketing goals using an inverted funnel

Let’s break it down into steps using a simple example.

Firstly, you need to ask a few questions:

  1. How much revenue are you expecting to contribute to marketing this year?
  2. Is marketing just responsible for the generation of new leads, or a combination of lead generation and growth from existing contacts and customers?
  3. Is marketing just going to generate new smaller accounts, just key accounts, or a combination of all account types?


Answering these questions will put some meat on the figurative bones and help you attribute percentages of your growth goals to marketing.

In this example, you’ve decided that:

  • Your growth goal is to increase revenue by £1 million
  • You expect 60% of this increased revenue to come through new business
  • You expect marketing to generate half of new business leads - the rest will come through sales, referrals and events.
  • Therefore, you are looking to attribute £300,000 of new revenue to marketing.


Voila. This is your overall marketing revenue goal.

But the hard work doesn’t stop there. Now we need KPIs to measure against.

Marketers will typically want to know how many sessions they need to drive and how many contacts they need to create. This can be done by reverse-engineering a funnel, but to do this, you need to know a bit of key information:

  • Average deal size: how many pieces of business you have to close to reach your revenue target
  • Your close rate: how many opportunities it takes for you to win a deal)
  • MQL to opportunity rate: how many MQLs you need to generate one sales-accepted opportunity that enters your sales pipeline
  • Contact or lead to MQL rate: how many contacts it takes to generate a decent-looking MQL
  • Your session-to-contact rate: how many web visitors does it take to generate a contact?


With this in mind, you can reverse-engineer a funnel (if you don’t have these numbers, you can use the conversion percentages below as benchmarks). That'll give you something like this:

  • Your marketing revenue goal for the year is £300,000
  • Your average deal size is £50,000
  • This means the number of deals you need is 6
  • You have an opportunity close rate of 33.3%
  • This means the number of opportunities you need is 18 (to close 6 deals)
  • You have an MQL to opportunity rate of 20%
  • This means the number of MQLs you need is 90 (to create 18 opportunities)
  • Your contact to MQL rate is 25%
  • This means the number of contacts needed is 360 (to create 90 MQLs)
  • Finally, your overall website session-to-contact rate is 2%
  • Last, but not least, this means the number of website sessions needed is 18,000 (to create 360 contacts).

Once we flip this around, it gives us a rudimentary marketing funnel: 

Marketing Growth Funnel

From this funnel, you can then do two things:

  1. Choose the metric that is most important to you and set a SMART goal around it
  2. Use the numbers in the funnel to create a series of KPIs to measure.

As you’re setting marketing goals, we could pick ‘MQLs’ as the SMART goal, as that’s the thing marketing can influence.

So you’d set the following goal:

Our SMART goal is to generate 90 new MQLs by the end of the financial year.

The job then is to measure your performance against this overall SMART goal and use the other numbers as KPIs.

You won’t achieve the exact numbers in this model - some conversion rates will be higher and lower than others.

But tracking them as KPIs allows you to see which areas are falling short of the goal, and therefore make sure marketers are spending time wisely on activities that will make a difference.


How to allocate marketing budget effectively

Oftentimes, companies spend money in the wrong places because their marketing campaigns and strategies are ill-prepared and haven’t been built on concrete findings from meticulous analysis.

If you jump into the deep end with your eyes closed, we guarantee you’ll squander precious resources on marketing channels and methods that aren’t suitable for your target persona.

With this in mind, here’s how to identify where to allocate your marketing budget effectively.


1. Define business objectives

Start by clearly defining your business goals. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, boost sales, enhance customer retention, or enter new markets? Your marketing goals should align with these broader business objectives.


2. Review historical data

Analyse past marketing efforts to understand what has worked and what hasn't. Look at the performance of different channels and campaigns in terms of generating leads, sales, and engagement. This review should include:

  • Sales growth
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Conversion rates
  • Engagement metrics on different platforms

3. Assess marketing channel performance

Evaluate each marketing channel's effectiveness. This involves:

  • Digital channels: analyse metrics from Google Analytics, social media insights, and digital advertising platforms to understand traffic, conversions, and engagement.
  • Traditional media: review reach and response rates from TV, radio, print, and outdoor advertising.
  • Direct marketing: look at response rates and ROI from email campaigns and direct mail.
  • Events and sponsorships: assess brand engagement and lead generation from trade shows, webinars, or community events.


4. Customer segmentation and targeting

Segment your customer base using demographic, psychographic, and behavioural data to identify the most profitable segments. Allocate more budget to channels that effectively reach and engage these key segments.


5. Competitor benchmarking

Understand your competitors' marketing strategies and budget allocations. Use tools like SEMrush for digital marketing analysis and Nielsen reports for traditional media. This helps to identify any competitive advantages or gaps in your marketing strategy.


6. Calculate the expected ROI

For each channel, calculate the expected ROI based on historical data and predictive analytics. Use formulas like:

ROI = (Gain from Investment - Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment.

Consider both direct financial returns and other strategic benefits, such as increased market share or improved brand recognition.


7. Consider market trends and consumer behaviour

Stay informed about emerging marketing trends and shifts in consumer behaviour. For instance, the increasing importance of social media influencers or changes in consumer privacy concerns can impact where you should allocate your budget.


8. Create a test-and-learn environment

Allocate a portion of your budget to test new channels or strategies. This could involve piloting new digital marketing platforms, experimenting with different messaging, or trying innovative campaign tactics. Monitor performance and scale up successful experiments.


9. Use tools and technologies

HubSpot can be used to help you improve your decision-making via:

  • Marketing automation: automate campaigns and measure their performance.
  • Data analytics: visualise and analyse data across channels.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): track customer interactions and ROI.


10. Develop a flexible budget strategy

Prepare for flexibility in your budgeting to swiftly respond to performance data and market changes.

This means regularly reviewing marketing spend and adjusting allocations as needed.


11. Stakeholder collaboration

Collaborate with stakeholders across the business to ensure marketing objectives and budget allocations align with overall business strategies and goals.


12. Continuous review and optimisation

Regularly review the performance of marketing spend against set KPIs and adjust the strategy as necessary. This ongoing optimisation should focus on enhancing ROI and achieving business objectives.

By meticulously analysing data, calculating ROI, testing new approaches, and staying adaptable to market changes, you can strategically allocate your marketing budget to maximise business outcomes.


When to review your marketing targets

Adjusting marketing targets is crucial for staying relevant and effective in an ever-changing business environment.

Several specific situations and signals indicate when it's appropriate to revisit and potentially revise your marketing targets:


1. Change in business objectives

If your overarching business goals or strategy shift—perhaps due to new product launches, entering new markets, or changes in company direction—it's essential to realign your marketing targets to support these new objectives.


2. Market dynamics

Changes in the market such as new competitors, regulatory changes, technological advancements, or shifts in consumer behaviour can impact the effectiveness of your current marketing strategy. When such changes occur, it's important to adjust your targets to remain competitive and relevant.


3. Performance against current targets

Regularly review your progress against existing targets. If you consistently miss or exceed these targets, it might indicate that they are either too ambitious or too conservative. Adjusting these targets to more realistic levels can help maintain team motivation and improve strategic focus.


4. Availability of new data and insights

As new data becomes available or new analytics tools are adopted, you might gain insights that were previously obscured. This new information can reveal opportunities or challenges that necessitate a revision of your marketing targets to better leverage or address them.


5. Changes in budget or resources

Increases or decreases in your marketing budget due to economic factors or company financial performance can require adjustments to your targets. More resources might allow for more ambitious targets, whereas budget cuts might necessitate a more focused strategy on high-ROI activities.


6. Technological innovations

The adoption of new marketing technologies or platforms can enhance your marketing capabilities. For example, new tools for data analysis, customer relationship management, or automated marketing could improve efficiencies and effectiveness, prompting a reassessment of your targets.


7. Customer feedback and market research

Feedback from customers and findings from ongoing market research can indicate whether your marketing efforts are resonating with your audience. If feedback is generally negative or suggests misalignment with customer expectations or needs, it's crucial to adjust your targets and strategies accordingly.


8. Regulatory changes

New regulations or changes in compliance requirements, especially in sectors like health, finance, and data privacy, can impact how you market your products or services. Adapting your marketing targets to stay compliant while still being effective is essential.


9. External economic factors

Economic downturns, shifts in consumer spending power, and other macroeconomic factors can influence market dynamics significantly. In such cases, it may be necessary to adjust marketing targets to reflect the new economic reality.


H3: 10. Innovative competitor strategies

If competitors launch new marketing strategies or innovative products that strongly resonate with the market, it might be necessary to rethink your strategies and targets to maintain competitiveness.

To effectively implement these adjustments, maintain a flexible planning process and ensure regular communication across all levels of your organization. This includes:

  • Regular reviews: schedule regular (monthly or quarterly) review sessions of marketing performance against targets.
  • Feedback loops: establish feedback mechanisms from customers, sales teams, and other stakeholders to inform decision-making.
  • Analytics and reporting: use advanced analytics to continuously monitor performance and gain insights that inform target adjustments.

Adjusting marketing targets isn't just about responding to failures or shortcomings; it's about proactive management and ensuring that your marketing efforts are as effective and aligned with your business strategy as possible.


How to use data to set marketing goals

​​1. Data collection

Gather quantitative and qualitative data from internal and external sources. Internally, this includes sales data, CRM records, website analytics, and past marketing campaign performance.

Externally, consider market research reports, industry benchmarks, and competitor data. Utilise tools like Google Analytics for web data, social media analytics for engagement metrics, and sales databases for revenue and customer transaction data.


2. Data analysis

Utilise statistical tools and software to analyse the collected data. Identify trends, correlations, and patterns.

For instance, use regression analysis to determine how changes in marketing spending correlate with sales or a time-series analysis to predict future trends based on past performance. Analytical tools like Tableau, SAS, or even Excel can be employed for deeper insights.


3. Set SMART goals

Refine the insights from your data into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. For example:

  • Specific: increase website traffic by targeting specific demographics identified in your data.
  • Measurable: aim for a 25% increase in traffic as measured by Google Analytics.
  • Achievable: ensure the target is realistic given past trends and available resources.
  • Relevant: align the goal with broader business objectives, like increasing market share.
  • Time-bound: set a deadline, e.g., achieve the target within six months.


​​4. Segmentation and targeting

Deeply analyse customer data to segment the market more precisely. Use demographic, psychographic, and behavioural data to identify high-value segments. Apply machine learning techniques for predictive modelling and to uncover hidden patterns in customer behaviour that traditional analysis might miss.


​​5. Benchmarking

Regularly assess how your company's performance stacks up against industry standards or key competitors. Use resources like IBISWorld for industry data or competitive intelligence platforms like SEMrush for digital marketing benchmarks. Setting targets relative to these benchmarks ensures they are both ambitious and realistic.


​​6. Resource allocation

Allocate resources based on data-driven ROI calculations. Use historical data to identify marketing channels with the highest return on investment and prioritise spending on these channels. For instance, if paid search advertising consistently shows a higher ROI compared to other channels, increase its budget proportionately.


7. Continuous monitoring and adjustment

Implement a dynamic dashboard using tools like Google Data Studio or Microsoft Power BI to monitor real-time data against your targets. Set up alerts for deviations from expected performance, allowing for rapid response and strategy adjustments. Regularly scheduled reviews should be institutionalised to ensure continuous improvement.


​​8. Predictive modelling

Use advanced statistical models and AI algorithms to predict future market trends and consumer behaviour. Tools like Python’s Scikit-learn for machine learning can help forecast sales growth based on external variables such as economic conditions and internal data like seasonal sales patterns.


​​9. Feedback and learning

Create a loop of feedback and learning by regularly collecting and analysing data on the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

HubSpot provides insights such as NPS scoring that can help you gauge customer satisfaction and uncover areas for improvement. Continuously refine your models and strategies based on this feedback to enhance the precision of your marketing targets.

By expanding each of these steps into a more comprehensive and data-centric approach, you can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your marketing strategy and ensure your targets are not only well-defined but also grounded in solid data-driven insights.


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