Setting Advertising Goals in 2021 (and Achieving Them)

setting advertising goals

Setting advertising goals (and achieving them!) can be a powerful tool for supercharging your marketing and provide a quick hot for traffic, leads, and customers. Paid advertising can also be a colossal waste of time and money if not approached properly.

Without proper goals in place, advertising becomes a hit-or-miss strategy with little to no foundation to lean upon. Goals help you to make strategic advertising decisions. They also will motivate you towards success, no matter what you hope to achieve.

Here’s are steps toward setting advertising goals (and achieving them) for your paid advertising goals for 2021 and beyond.

Setting Advertising Goals Reasonably

Focus on an incremental lift.

Every year, I get a handful of wedding professionals who contact me in March, terrified they are going out of business. Their numbers are low. Very low. As low as they’ve ever seen. If they don’t get bookings immediately, their business will fail. They’ll end up working as a barista at Starbucks. Can I help with ads?

Before diving into panic advertising, I ask a simple question. What are your year-over-year numbers like? Typically, the answer reveals a situation not nearly as dire.

This assessment does two things:

1) It allows calmer heads to prevail so we can make good marketing decisions.

2) It allows us to set reasonable goals and sustainable advertising plans.

Based on your volume, you may want to set a goal of anywhere from 5 percent to 100 percent (or more) for a year-over-year lift. In general, the smaller the volume, the greater the percentage gain. For example, if you had ten high-ticket clients last year, setting a modest 20 percent gain may be reasonable. If you had two, setting a 500 percent goal may be appropriate. The point is: you’re looking at your own numbers rather than relying on emotion or random goals on the internet.  

Don’t just think about your Ideal Client Avatar (ICA). Think about the entire buyer’s journey when setting advertising goals.

You may have done one or more Ideal Client Avatar (ICA) exercises. You may also have heard of the customer journey. Chances are, both proved to be academic exercises to this point. Yet, media buyers and advertising specialists routinely look to the buyer’s journey to map out their ads for success. Here’s how:

Map out each and every step.

Say someone sees your ad. What happens next? What steps would an ICA have to take to get from seeing your ad to purchasing from you? Do they fall all over themselves getting to your website after seeing one ad? Probably not. The “marketing rule of seven” suggests that a potential customer must see your brand at least seven times before it registers with them. Therefore, your ads exist in a larger ecosystem. This could include organic social media, search engine optimization, email marketing, content marketing and directory listings.

In general, a basic path people take on a buyer’s journey are:

Awareness: When a potential client becomes aware of a problem or desire. At this stage, they know they have a need or desire, but they aren’t sure what the solution is.

Consideration: When a potential client researches different options and solutions. In the consideration phase, they could be searching for information—such as how-tos and checklists. On the other hand, they may be researching and reviewing service providers to help.

Decision: At this stage, the potential client may be looking at your portfolio, browsing items in your shop or filling out a contact form.

The importance of the steps of the buyer’s journey

By mapping out all of the steps, you can decide where your ads will be most effective and the expectations you have for each. For example, say you are a graphic designer and you are attempting to target other creative entrepreneurs who are redesigning their website. You know that they have questions about which platform to choose, whether they should go with a template or custom design and concerns about how difficult it will be to do small updates on their own.

With that knowledge, in your customer journey map, you may have different ads targeting each stage of the buyer’s journey in order to get exposure and position yourself as the best solution to their problem or desire.

Select the proper objective for the ad you’re serving.

Many people fall into the trap of running cheaper traffic or engagement ads when they really want leads and sales. Just like Santa knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good. Facebook knows if you are likely to click to engage but not click, click but not stay and Facebook knows who is likely to convert or not. Thus, selecting the right objective is key.

While you’ll ultimately want to offer ads that target potential customers throughout the buyer’s journey, start with conversion ads. This helps get money in the door and picks the lowest hanging fruit in the market: those customers ready to buy or book.

A Case for Conversion Ads in Setting Advertising Goals

I also like to start with conversion ads because warming people up with your ads often requires additional assets, such as blog posts, lead magnets, marketing email auto-responders. In the absence of all that (and given that most of my clients have little more than a website and an inquiry form), I like to simply start with conversion ads and see where it takes them.

Once your conversion ads are up and running, build out a more robust advertising funnel for warming up cold audiences. This helps you get on the path to reaching your goals more quickly and efficiently.

Optimizing And Fixing Problems

Most problems in marketing and advertising can be fixed by closely examining the buyer’s journey looking for any issues or gaps in your sales and marketing mix.

Here’s a pro tip: Sometimes, a lack of inquiries and sales has nothing to do with your ads. A dear friend and colleague of mine is fond of saying that marketing and advertising is not a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. It’s a relay race. Think of each piece as a runner and your potential clients as the baton.

Your social media should be able to drive engagement and website traffic. Your website should be able to drive engagement and inquiries and sales. Your email marketing should be able to drive sales and repeat business. In a relay race, you could have a super-fast runner in one segment and a super-slow one in another.

In order to determine your strongest and weakest performing “runners,” go back to the customer buying journey and evaluate each step for its ability to either deepen the relationship between your brand and your potential client or help that person take the next logical step toward making a booking or buying decision with you.

Assessing the Buyer’s Journey with Conversions

For example, do your social media ads drive at least one percent of the people you reach to your website? If so, great! You have a strong runner.

When they hit your landing page, are they converting? No? OK, then you may have great ads but a weak website that fails to convert leads.

By evaluating each segment of your funnel for its ability to “pass the baton,” you can easily find and fix problems with your marketing and/or advertising. To measure success along the way, answer the following questions for each step:

  • How can I measure deepening of relationships?
  • How can I gracefully move people to the next logical step in the journey?
  • What are the benchmarks towards my goals and how will I measure them each step of the way?

By taking the time to evaluate your own business’ past successes, map out the customer journey and set reasonable expectations for your ads, you can go farther faster with your ad dollars in 2021.

While it may seem like a slow start in the beginning, those incremental gains from setting advertising goals will add up fast and could allow you to have your best year yet in 2021.


Christie Osborne

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that bring in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA, and the ABC Conference.