Setting the Proper Expectations for Marketing

A key lesson we all learn in life is how to set expectations. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson most of us only receive when our expectations are so out of whack that we suffer a crushing disappointment that comes at a cost.

Several marketers sell an outsourced program, but their #1 failure is to correctly set expectations for an owner and ensure that they are understood and agreed upon by all parties.

Here’s why and how you can get your marketing expectations back on track.

Consequences of Improper Expectations

Before we discuss how to set marketing expectations, we first have to understand why improperly setting them can lead to some significant shortfalls.

Improperly set expectations can have far-reaching effects. They can lead you to evaluate your campaigns wrongly, distributing too many different forms of content that confuse your audience, and, perhaps most importantly, doubt your marketing team. Setting proper expectations allows you to weather the inevitable storms and setbacks your marketing content is likely to have.

Let’s take a look at an example of how poorly set expectations might play out.

You are hosting an event for the first time, and you’d like to turn it into an ongoing series, a reasonable expectation. For the first one, you set your desired attendance at ten attendees. For the second, you double it, going up to 20. Then increasing seems to make sense, so the third goes up to 40 attendees, I think you get the point.

This example presents a few flaws in thinking. There is no mention of the tactics you’d use to get people to attend, such as email, social, or paid advertising, but let’s assume that from the very beginning, you are using all the promotion tools available to you.

So the question becomes, what exactly are you going to do differently to increase your audience every time? The only new tactic introduced here is the general word of mouth, which requires your audience to do the work for you — not a reliable method on which to build a robust set of expectations.

So setting more realistic expectations in this example would be to expect at least one new lead. They may or may not turn into a customer, but if you close one opportunity, odds are the new client probably pays for the event.

If you correctly calibrate your expectations and they end up being true, you’re likely to feel much better about the work you did. You’ll feel accomplished and successful. You should never discount how big of a boost this can provide you and your team moving forward.

Set Expectations that Work

Now the key here is to figure out how to set realistic expectations. It will vary depending on what form your marketing content will take, be it a blog post, video or marketing an event, but the key here is first to determine what you need to consider a marketing effort a success; is it a client conversion, lead generation or just broadened awareness of your business?

There are three different areas you can tune your expectations for:

1) Timeline

Whenever planning a marketing campaign, you need to allow time to let multiple, repeated attempts connect with your audience. Going back to the event example above, the expectation of doubling attendees for the first four events was clearly out of whack. Beyond just calling for a dramatic increase in attendees, it failed to plan beyond those four events or what goal would generate an outcome other than attendance.

Instead, the timeline should have extended to at least a year, with the expectation that halfway through the year, you can adequately evaluate, adjust and determine how many people are likely to attend each event.

Then, the expectations can be built gradually, from receiving positive feedback to maybe one or two returning attendees to a new customer to averaging a new lead each event and so on.

2) New Business

After you’ve set your timeline, figure out how many new engagements for your sales team could realistically potentially generate and set your expectations accordingly. Look at where you’re marketing (social, email, direct mail), who you’re marketing to, and data from past experiences. Just because you’re starting up something new doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly discovered gold, and new customers will start flying in.

3) Building Awareness

Once you’ve nailed down your goals for new leads or customers, you expect to get out of a marketing campaign. Then you can start thinking about attendees and clicks in an “awareness” bucket. Learning to set your expectations for how your marketing efforts will help expand the reach of your business’s brand.

Maybe someone doesn’t become a customer, but they tell a friend to attend your event, for example. Similarly, someone could share a blog post on social media, forward on an offer email or contact you for information. All of this builds awareness of your brand.

By continuing to push information out, you can view these clicks and shares as what they are – signifiers that your information is resonating and helping you to recalibrate your lead expectations.

Even if your marketing only reaches a handful of people, having it be high value and well put together, the content will set a precedent of quality that you can rely on down the road.

Setting Down Roots

With all of these suggestions, you’ve probably noticed two things standing out. One is that setting expectations requires you to lower the number of people you anticipate will attend/download/click on your marketing content, and two, it’s essential to play the long game.

The truth is no one piece of content is going to put your business suddenly over the top, flush with new business. You need to set incremental steps and continue to build and cultivate a brand that consumers can trust.

Setting expectations allow you to make improvements where needed and focus on your audience. You’ll feel better and do better work. Who doesn’t want that?

One last note, make sure to understand that marketing is different than sales. Two very different components and approaches a powerful combination when they work together.

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