An Introduction to Marketing Objectives

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A marketing objective is a goal that a company wants to achieve as part of its marketing strategy. Marketing objectives can be as general as increasing the number of total sales or as specific as doubling the number of inbound leads based in the UK from a certain landing page on the website.

Types of marketing objectives

While each business sets its own marketing objectives, most objectives fall into one of these categories:

  • Increasing visibility
  • Boosting reputation and status
  • Generating new leads
  • Nurturing and qualifying inbound leads
  • Driving sales from new customers
  • Driving sales from existing customers
  • or retaining existing customers

If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. I’ll walk you through what each of these categories means.

Increasing visibility

Visibility is all about the number of people whose attention you can get. The goal is to get seen and recognised as a brand – so when people come across your business, they’ll think “I’ve heard of that company before. They make [whatever you sell].”

Visibility is usually measured in terms of the number of (relevant) people that can reach. The size of your audience, like how many people see your marketing materials, and how many people recognise your brand, are two main indicators of visibility.

Boosting status and reputation

While visibility means getting your brand in front of a high number of people, the priority with status-driven objectives is that people have a favourable impression of your brand. You want people to feel comfortable with your business, so you focus on building trust and positive emotions in the people relevant to your business.

Unlike visibility, status and reputation is all about perception – which makes it rather difficult to measure objectively.

Generating new leads

A lead is a person or business who has shown clear interest in what you are selling through their previous behaviour. Leads may actively reach out to your company and share their contact details with you, or simply demonstrate interest in similar products from the competition. Objectives with a focus on lead generation usually seek to increase the number and quality of new contacts that a business has.

Businesses can generate new leads in different ways – and the responsibility for this objective may be shared between marketing and sales teams. A marketing team could, for example, have a goal of generating new leads through their website, while the sales team might want to generate new leads by buying lead lists or calling potential customers listed in their phone book.

Nurturing and qualifying inbound leads:

People who have shown interest in your product or service may not be ready to buy straight away. They can have questions and may need some time to think about your offer.

To help people decide if your offer is a good match for their needs, you may communicate with them and develop a deeper a relationship.

When you build this relationship with prospects, you are engaged in a process called ‘lead nurturing’. At this time, you and the prospect decide if the relationship is mutually beneficial and should developed further. The decision to move forward or abandon the relationship is what is known as ‘lead qualification’. When you qualify a lead, you essentially assess its value to your business and decide if the relationship is worth investing in. Leads can also qualify (or disqualify) themselves, and this is known as self-qualification.

Objectives around ‘nurturing and qualifying leads’ usually focus on moving the best prospects along the sales cycle, while filtering out those who wouldn’t be a good fit for the business.

Sales from new customers

New sales involve turning interested buyers (such as qualified leads) into paying customers. This category includes all marketing objectives where the focus is to sell to people who have not previously bought from the company.

New sales can be measured by the number of units bought or the total revenue generated from sales to new customers.

Sales from existing customers

Sales from existing customers include repurchases of a previously-bought product as well as the sale of products that the same customer is buying for the first time.

While sales from new and existing customers look identical on paper, a business can have separate objectives for each type of customer.This is because the business already has relationships with its customers, which it can use to make selling the same or another product easier than a new sale would be.

Objectives for sales from existing customers can focus on revenue (e.g. number of upsells, or average lifetime value of a customer) or on the rate of repurchases and recommendations. 

Retaining existing customers

Retention is all about making sure that customers stay with your company and continue purchasing your solution. Retaining existing customers is a common marketing objective for businesses that want a high level of repeat sales, particularly those with a subscription-based offer.

Retention can be measured in terms of the number of customers who keep buying from and using the products that the company has to offer.

Why do these objectives matter?

You may be wondering why all of these objectives matter. After all, the primary goal of a business is to sell and provide value – so why even worry about visibility and status, when they don’t have an immediate impact on sales? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just cold call, email or otherwise reach out to prospects?

The answer is: yes and no.

In the early stages of a business, getting sales quickly is essential to maintain positive cash flow and keep the company going. As soon as you stop selling, money stops coming in and you can’t scale or invest in your product or business.

But once that initial ‘cash flow’ problem is solved and the business is starting to grow, there are a few good reasons to also pursue other marketing objectives:

Reason 1: Sales growth is limited by the size of your known, available market

When you are cold-calling or e-mailing prospects, the number of sales you can make is limited by the number of people or businesses you can reach. To e-mail someone, you need to have their e-mail address in your database and their permission to send them a message. The same goes for telephone sales.

While you can buy lead lists or directories with addresses, the only people on these lists are those who have shown interest in your product, service or industry and shared their personal data with the creator of the list. This means you will only ever reach potential buyers that are already visible in the market.

Other marketing objectives like visibility and status can help you tap into the ‘hidden market’, and connect with people who are already looking for resources and information, but have not yet shown immediate buying intent.

These people would be hard for you to find or sell to directly, but over time, they may develop a stronger interest in your offer and becoming a paying customer of your business.

Reason 2: Sales can be harder to scale than other marketing objectives

As we’ve seen, the number of contacts you have limits how many people you can sell to. But even when your pool of potential customers is large enough, you may have other constraints, such as:

  • The number of sales people on your team – and how many contacts they can jointly manage
  • The cost of customer communications – e.g. pre-sales meetings, software, etc.

While you can hire additional people or invest in more scalable solutions for managing the sales process, you may reach a point where the marginal value of driving sales becomes LOWER than the marginal value you get from pursuing other marketing objectives that translate to more, and easier sales later down the line.

Then, it becomes easier and more cost-effective to focus on other marketing objectives (like visibility and status) as a way to start acquiring new customers.

Reason 3: It is easier to sell to when you have marketing support

Marketing can make a sales person’s job much easier. It builds awareness and trust and helps to develop a relationship with prospective buyers.

And as any good sales person knows, it much easier and faster to sell when:

  • People know, trust and like your brand
  • You have their contact data
  • You know their preferences and you can make them a targeted offer.

Marketing objectives like visibility, status, lead generation and nurturing work towards building that an early relationship that is valuable for both the business and the customer – and ultimately speeds up, scales and reduces cost in the sales process.

How long does it take from each marketing objective to sale?

How fast you can move to a sale will depend on your product, price and industry, as well as the individual customer. Generally, the time to sale increases with:

  • The cost of your product
  • The commitment required on both sides (e.g. contract period, time cost)
  • and the perceived risks associated with the purchase

At the individual level, the frequency and type of interactions with a potential customer is a good predictor of the time to sale. For example, a person who has just read a newspaper article about your company is less likely to buy, than one who has come to the shop floor and is actively asking for a specific product.

When deciding on marketing objectives, it is helpful to keep the rough time frame to purchase in mind. Objectives around visibility and status will not lead usually lead to immediate sales, but can fit in a long-term marketing strategy focusses on customer acquisition. Meanwhile, lead nurturing objectives may look to convert a certain number of leads in a relatively short amount of time (typically anywhere from 7 days to a year).

ObjectiveBuildsRelationship with …Time to sale
Lead generationDesireLeadLong-Medium
Lead nurturingTrust, desireProspectMedium
New salesDesire, valueProspectShort
Existing salesDesire, valueCustomerShort
RetentionDesire, valueCustomerShortest
The link between marketing objectives and time to sale

Which type of marketing objective should you focus on right now?

All marketing objectives are interrelated – meaning if you improve one, you have a positive effect on the outcomes of all others. But a bad performance against an objective can also drag your entire marketing down.

So, you can essentially think of six types of objectives as interrelated web of supporters and detractors – where any improvement leads to the improvement of the whole system.

Interactions between marketing objectives: supporting and detracting forces

The good news here is: even if you focus on the objective with the least marginal value, you can see some good results. That said, your main priority should be the area that offers the most potential for sales, at the lowest time and resource investment.

In practice, this often means that should:

  • capitalise on your businesses’ main strength
  • OR remove its main barrier to sales.

Case study: Marketing objectives in a software vendor

Suppose you are a software vendor who has successfully generated most of its leads through email and content marketing. You want to grow the business and double sales in the next year.

Your best assets are your strong LinkedIn presence, and the company blog and email newsletter, which jointly create around 30 inbound leads each month. Out of these leads, however, only 1 in 60 become a paying customer in the next 2-3 years, as you are in an industry with a very long sales cycle.


It looks like your biggest weakness is the lack of conversions from inbound leads to paying customers. This might be due to:

  • Low quality of inbound leads
  • Poor lead nurturing
  • Poor quality sales calls

So, you at this point you could do any of the following to increase sales:

  • Improve the quality of your inbound leads by increasing visibility and status with the ‘right’ audience
  • Nurture your leads with more personalised content improve conversion rates and reduce the length of your sales cycle.
  • Improve the quality of sales calls to get more customers to commit to the sale

… or increase the number of inbound leads – so the quality doesn’t matter much and you’ll still have enough customers.

Not sure which to pick? Start with the easiest first, give it some time and if you don’t see results, move to the next easiest option, until you have fixed the problem.

Which option is easiest? The one that plays to your or your team’s strengths, is fastest to implement and requires least budget. (In this company, this meant nurturing leads with more personalised content, but the answer may be different for each business).

How can you tell whether you are accomplishing each of your marketing objectives?

Objectives are only useful if they help you and your company focus on specific marketing activities and work as a feedback mechanism that tells you if those activities are effective. The best marketing objectives are specific and incorporate metrics that indicate whether your marketing activities are contributing to the desired result.

A company that wants to increase the visibility of its brand might, for example, measure how many people it reached using each of its marketing channels. They would then define one or more metrics for each channel and use that as a way of evaluating channel performance and effectiveness.

You can find possible marketing metrics for each of the objectives in the table below.

VisibilityStatusLead generationLead nurturingNew salesSales from existing customersRetention
Impressions on social media postsNumber of social media followersTotal number of leads generatedNumber of leads requesting a sales callTotal number of new sales in a given timeTotal number of sales from existing customersAverage length of paid customer relationship
Page views on your websiteNumber of articles from reputable media outlets that your business was featured inLeads generated by source (marketing channel)Engagement rate with marketing materialsTotal sales revenue in a given timeRepurchasing rateAverage number of products bought
Number of devices a TV or radio ad was broadcast toNumber of testimonials from existing customersPercentage of inbound leadsShare of leads opting out of further communicationTotal number of refunds requestedTotal revenue from repeat customersNumber of customers lost in a given time
Foot traffic by your booth at an eventNumber of awards and prizes wonAverage estimated value of leads generatedShare of leads asking for follow-up informationTotal number of refunds grantedAverage life-time value of a customerNumber of customers lost relative to total customers
Brand name recognition rate in a population surveyPublic endorsement by a certain percentage of high-status individuals in your line of businessPercentage of leads that was qualifiedRatio of active to passive leads in a given time period* Number of referrals from existing customersNumber of customers lost due to specific causes

*Passive leads are unresponsive, not engaged in interactions, and neither progressing to sale nor opting out of the sales cycle

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