On Monday, I answered your #1 question about online marketing based on our end of the year survey.  It you’re on a quest to find that one, absolute best online marketing tactic, then do yourself a favor and read my last post.  It’ll save you from one of the biggest mistakes in online marketing.

Today, I want to talk about a topic that should be fresh on everyone’s minds: Planning.  ‘Tis the season to be planning right? Now is the time to create your 2014 marketing plan.  If you have writer’s block, holidayitis, or can’t seem to focus from all the eggnog and Hot Toddys, then this 4-step process will help you kick start your planning session.


1. Define Your 2014 Goals

The most critical step in the planning process is to define your goals.  Not just any goals though… SMART goals.  SMART is a mnemonic that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  Every goal must meet those 5 criteria so let’s walk through each one.


Too often I hear business owners set goals like “more leads” and “more sales.”  That’s not a real goal! How many more leads?  Exactly how much growth would you be happy with in 2014? How many more phone calls would you like to receive each month?  If you already set your goals, then review them to make sure they are specific.


Your goals must be measurable so you know if you’re moving closer or further away from achieving them.  With online marketing, you can use Google Analytics to measure many of your goals.


It’s fun to set lofty goals and dream big, but make sure they are achievable within the next year.  Goals should excite and motivate you and your team year after year, not demoralize.


Does your goal even matter?  If you achieve it, then how does that goal impact your bottom line?  Ranking #1 in Google for “new york city pediatric dentist” is specific, measurable, and probably achievable, but it’s not relevant for a dentist that doesn’t work with children.


Since we’re working on your 2014 goals, the absolute deadline is December 31, 2014.  Some goals can and should be completed sooner so set the most appropriate date.  It’s amazing how something as simple as setting a deadline can make all the difference in the world when it comes to accomplishing your goals.


2. Work Backwards to Define KPIs & Monthly Goals

OK, at this point you have your goals set.  Let’s say your goal is to generate $1,000,000 in sales by December 31, 2014.  That could be a SMART goal for a business that did less than a million in 2013.

The next step is to work backwards from the day in the future when you hit your goal.  This step will highlight the key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to track in your business each month to hit your ultimate goal.

Start by putting yourself in December 31, 2014 and write down what that month looked like.  How many sales did you do in December, 2014 in order to hit your total goal?  For example, to generate $1MM in sales, you need $83,333 per month over the entire year.  This is a simplified example, and in your case you probably will assume a growth rate month over month so that you’re generating more sales in December versus January.

To generate $83,333/month, then how many sales did you make?  If your average customer value is $500, then that’s 167 sales/month.  How many leads do you need in order to make 167 sales?  If your sales conversion rate is 10%, then that’s 1,670 leads.  How many website visitors do you need to generate 1,670 leads?  You’ll need to look at your historical website analytics to figure this one out.  If your visitor to lead conversion rate is also 10%, then you need 16,700 visitors per month.

See how we just worked backwards to determine the important online marketing KPIs?  Now we know our monthly website visitor goal is about 16,700 in order to hit our sales goal of $1MM.


3. Get Real

The third step is to reality check your goals based on the KPIs you found in step 2.  Is it realistic for you to generate over 16,000 website visitors using your traffic tactics?  Are your conversion rates attainable based on historical data or similar businesses?

To answer the questions at this point, you’ll need to do some research and probably talk to an expert. The most important question to answer is whether or not there is enough online traffic to hit your goals.  For example, if you find using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool there are 100,000 searches for your product or service in Google, then could you get 16,000 visitors from Google SEO and AdWords advertising?

16% of all searches may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that a 2% click through rate is pretty good in Google AdWords.  Unless you’re an expert in search engine marketing (SEM), I recommend talking to someone who is to see if your goals are realistic. Same goes for other website traffic tactics like display advertising, email, partnerships, and social media.

If you find out your goals are actually unrealistic, then go back to step #1 above and revise them.  Better to find this out now before you invest an entire year chasing an unattainable dream.


4. Assign Responsibilities

The final step should be quick and easy.  Determine who on your team is going to be responsible for implementing and measuring progress each month.  If you have big growth plans, then keep in mind it’s possible you’ll need to hire, or outsource to hit your goals.


Get Started Now

Set aside at least 2-hours to go through these steps in the next week or so.  If you get stuck or would like more help, then make sure you’re free on January 10, 2014 at noon Eastern time.  I’ll be hosting an online marketing plan webinar training where we’ll work together to create your 2014 online marketing plan.  Click here if you want to attend and I’ll follow up with all the details soon.