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Welcome to Push ROI’s series on how to create a marketing plan. In part one we will define goals and budgets. Defining budgets and goals are the first steps to being able to plan.

Budgets inventory the resources available to reach a goal. Goals on the other hand give a place to aim. To quote Zig Ziglar, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

Goals dictate actions, and actions dictate outcomes. Consider how you would train if you wanted to run a marathon versus if you wanted to powerlift. The goals are different, so too are the steps to reach them.

This article is based on the following video presentation.

The Anatomy Of A Goal

Before we get any further, let’s define what a goal is fundamentally. We’re going to use a framework called S.M.A.R.T, an acronym meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-related.

Their is no shortage of acronyms, and frameworks to define business goals, or help with long term planning, but as the anatomy of a goal S.M.A.R.T works well. For a longer explanation of S.M.A.R.T click here, but it will be expanded upon later in the presentation.

What’s The Goal?

When asked people often name big number goals:

  • Get 10,000,000 followers
  • Raise at a $300 million valuation
  • Earn $1 billion

Or general directional goals like:

  • Be famous
  • Gain recognition
  • More money

None of these goals are S.M.A.R.T. Most require consulting to define or distract from meaningful work. The above set of goals aren’t really in the ballpark of what should be focused on for most businesses.

Get 10M followers for example is almost never a goal serving any real business objective exceptions exist, but being a clout chaser isn’t a marketing strategy. Earning a billion is cool, but if current revenue is $30 the cart is miles in front of the horse. As for the $300M valuation raise, don’t worry about it when closing a $25k seed round at a $400k valuation.

The directional goals are not only short of being S.M.A.R.T., they have no meaning. On a scale of 10k TikTok followers to being George Clooney what is fame? Is recognition a Nobel Prize or your dad saying he’s proud of you? Have you considered therapy? It seems like you have a troubled relationship with your father, and need to stop seeking validation. A Nobel Prize should not be the more attainable goal is all I’m saying. Oh and…

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What Does More Money Mean?

The “More money” goal is the bane of my existence. In business context money usually means revenue, profit or margin, and while those three can all move in a positive trajectory together, any one may increase to the detriment of any two. More profit, but lower revenue for example.

No matter, revenue, profit, margin or any combination, ask the following questions to clarify.

  • Compared to what? In other words what is point A. If someone wants to increase revenue. What is current revenue?
  • By how much? Were are we aiming? We know point A. What is point B?
  • By when? What’s the transit time between point A and point B.
  • At What cost? The goal killing question, where everyone starts figuring out if the goal is achievable. Realizing costs is when most people change their goal.

Realizing costs changes goals incredibly quickly.

For example “double Revenue in 12 months” is a clear target. The goal has a point A, point B and a timeline. It’s a Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time-related goal. To see if it’s achievable and to figure out the cost start from the goal and backcast (more about backcasting later) for an example consider a brick and mortar business with one location.

To further define, the businesses one location is at about 90% max possible revenue, and is logistically unable to double sales. To double revenue the business will need a second location. Opening the second location will require funding, more staff, more managers, likely the businesses owner will earn less for a period of time and must give up control. That’s the point a lot of businesses change the goals.

Goal Setting Sets Reasonable Expectations

One of my favorite people interpersonally was one of Push ROI’s most difficult clients. The gentleman wouldn’t define goals or budgets. He felt goals were childish, and wouldn’t write down the amount of money he wanted other people to make him. Instead he was always going to push to earn more. The problems this creates are obvious. People are left with nothing to aim at, and are constantly demoralized because no matter what they do it is never enough.

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The reason he wouldn’t set budgets, was more rational, but didn’t work in reality. Because no external funding would ever be needed, as he could write checks to cover any amount of money conceivably required he felt budgeting was a waste of time. He became the bottle neck for every dollar spent, his mood determined budgets as acceptable or not, and fluctuated based on the weather.

Proper goal setting expected his business (a restaurant) looked something like this over the first 12 weeks. For other businesses it could be 12 months or even 12 years that this kind of phase projection would be useful.

  • Phase 1: Training staff.
  • Phase 2: Establishing a baseline, learning if the offerings can be simplified, and getting an idea of sales volume based on the location.
  • Phase 3: Outbound marketing with a launch budget sufficient to generate broad awareness among the population most likely to become customers.
  • Phase 4: Operational break even.

Expectations exist even without stating goals.

For the gentleman who wouldn’t write down goals, expectations clearly existed. Based on fragmented text messages, phone calls, and emails his expectations of the phases were something like this:

  • Phase 1: Market aggressively on social media before the construction at the location is finished to gain legions of fans willing to buy, whenever the business happens to finally open.
  • Phase 2: Operational break even the day the doors open.
  • Phase 3: Explosive growth causing a single restaurant location in a town of 115,000 people to earn $1.5-3 million a month.
  • Oh and: Staff don’t need training.

Bottom line unreasonable expectations, emotional decisions and poor communication create chaos. This was years ago, and by revenue was a small project for Push ROI, but the project was so extraordinarily frustrating that it changed the way we negotiate projects as an agency.

A More Reasonable Goal (Or Maybe Projection)

A one time dear friend turned entrepreneurial addict told me his businesses goal, or maybe projection was to,

“Earn [revenue of] $1-2 million a month within a year or two.”

Let’s examine that using smart S.M.A.R.T.

  • Specific: Not really. However, $1 million in revenue a month between 1 and 2 years would be a fine goal.
  • Measurable: We can measure revenue and time. The rewritten goal avoids a variability of 23 months and $56M.

  • Achievable: In theory, similar companies with experienced marketing, operations, and HR teams have managed to scale that quickly. Achieving the goal would require around $6 million in capital to fund aggressive expansion.

  • Relevant: The goal is relevant to the business, and not an unrelated side quest.

  • Time-related: The rewritten goal is appropriately time related.

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What Is Achievable?

To establish what is achievable use a combination of forecasting and backcasting.

  • Forecasting projects the most likely outcome of current efforts or plans with existing resources.
  • Backcasting estimates the resources needed to reach a desired outcome.

When crafting a marketing plan, both backcasting and forecasting are necessary. If backcasting says you need $6 Million to reach your goal and you don’t have the money, you must adjust the goal based on the forecast.

Forecasting, and Backcasting Take Research

Frameworks can tell you were to look, but they will only take you so far. No template is a substitute for spending time developing expertise, researching an industry, and the economy. But here are some frameworks to help anyone start researching.

  • Porter’s Five Forces
  • Comparable Company Analysis
  • Competitor Marketing Analysis
  • Competitor Marketing Matrix
  • P.E.S.T Analysis
  • S.W.O.T Analysis

Check out the deck or the video for more on each of these frameworks. As with most areas of research, also keep in mind that online search is your friend. You can use these and many other frameworks, build beautiful charts and lovely spreadsheets, but a marketing plan isn’t a template.

Success Requires Research

Forecasting or backcasting accurately depends on the data you trust. You can trust quality data, or you can go with assumptions. Assumptions are easy to make, easy to miss and destroy businesses.

Planning effectively and researching like a post doc don’t guarantee a business will succeed. Bad ideas make it due to luck. Good ideas fail because circumstances, and poor operations can punch a plan in the face pretty hard. But if you have to choose a path. S.M.A.R.T. goals, and defined budgets build off of research and planning is a better choice than wild assumptions.

Watch the video on YouTube and check out the deck.

Mason Pelt is the founder of Push ROI. First published in on October 3, 2022.