A bullseye target with two children learning archery

Hi there, small business owners. We totally get why you’re asking how to market your company: you’re busy running it. You don’t have time to figure out marketing.

That’s why we’re here. Helping you market your small business is the reason that Dot Your I exists.

We know that when you search the internet for marketing help, you get articles filled with advice like “segment and refine your audience” (oh sure, you can do that this afternoon), and “promote yourself on social media” (okay, but how exactly? Plus social media isn’t the best place for overt promotion), and “build your reputation” (genius idea, surely you’ve never thought of it).

It’s exhausting, off-putting, and most of all, unhelpful.

We’re going to turn that around for you, starting today.

This post is the first in a series that provides actionable marketing tips that you can use right away to grow your small business and your relationships with customers – without consuming your time, resources, or budget.

Sound good? Great! We’re glad to have you with us. Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:

The “How Do I Market My Small Business” Blog Series Summary

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Goal Setting

The Trouble With Marketing Goals

Choosing the Marketing Goals for Your Small Business

The “How Do I Market My Small Business” Blog Series Summary

Again, this article is the first in a series for small business owners just like you.

In this series, we’ll provide guidance on a variety of activities and tools that you can use to market your business better, at minimum cost.

Throughout this series, we’ll be focusing on digital marketing (also known as “internet” or “online” marketing), because small businesses compete in a digital world, and we find that digital is where a lot of small businesses need marketing help.

That’s right, even if you have a physical community presence and foot traffic, consumer habits have changed forever:

The good news, small business owners, is that there’s no need to resist or despair of this digital world. It has distinct benefits for you. It enables you to compete alongside much larger organizations, and to showcase the advantages that you have over them.

We’ll get into all that a little later in our series, but for now, here’s a look at the whole series up front (plus the links for those that are published – the others are coming soon!):

  • Part 1: Set a Marketing Goal. You need to identify a destination for your business before you can point the marketing bus in that direction. (This is the article you’re reading right now.)
  • Part 2: Measure Your Marketing Goals. You don’t have time for a marketing hobby – which is what marketing is if you don’t measure the results you get.
  • Part 3: Intro to Google My Business. It’s a powerful – and free – marketing engine that helps small businesses gain visibility, credibility, and customers.
  • Part 4: Optimize Google My Business. This tool is expansive enough to warrant two blog posts. In this one we describe how to make the most of it once you get it all set up.
  • Part 5: Intro to Content. Content is a powerful but often misunderstood marketing tool. In this post we break it all down for you.
  • Part 6: Develop a Basic Content Plan. This enables you to regularly share information that your current and potential customers are looking for.
  • Part 7: Tune up Your Website. Make sure the back end (i.e., what’s under the hood) is fast and secure, and the front end (i.e., what users see) is clean and clear, to increase trust in your business.
  • Part 8: Deliver Superior Customer Care. You already know that exceptional service and happy customers are superb marketing tools. We’ll show you how to make them into effective digital marketing tools.

So that’s the lay of the land, small business owners, and we’re excited to take this journey with you!

Let’s get started on today’s topic: setting a marketing goal.

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Goal Setting


Don’t lie, you’re thinking about bailing on this “goal setting” business.

We know you’re a doer – you started a business, after all – and you’d prefer to get into the nitty-gritty of doing marketing right now.

But hold up for a quick second.

Have you considered that neglecting goal setting is a recipe for never gaining any real confidence in how to market your small business, and never gaining any real momentum when you try?

When we meet with small business clients, we hear a similar story over and over: they paid good money for an ad or a promotion or a piece of collateral because they figured they should, but they’re underwhelmed about their return on investment.

If this describes you – if you’re unsure of your marketing or skeptical of its results – it may be because you haven’t articulated a goal for it.

Marketers who do set goals are 376% more likely to report success. (More than three thousand marketers were surveyed for that 2019 study, and more than 70% of them are exactly like you – solopreneurs or part of a small business.)

When you define your marketing goals, here is what happens:

  • You give all your marketing activities purpose and context.
  • You stop throwing “marketing stuff” against a wall to see what sticks.
  • You give yourself more discernment about when your marketing is working and when it’s not.
  • You save time, money, and frustration.

So why isn’t goal setting for marketing more common? Or easier?


The Trouble With Marketing Goals

Let’s be real about marketing goals for a minute. At their core, they all point to profit growth.

So it’s okay to admit that you haven’t set any marketing goals because they seem so obvious.

Precisely because marketing goals seem so obvious, many small businesses (and large ones) don’t bother with them. Instead, they simply use a marketing approach of “we’re going to do some marketing.”

Who needs to explain why, right?

Well, if you have no “why,” you are left with only “whats.”

Here’s what we mean by that: if you have no marketing goal, you are left with only marketing chores, which may or may not complement each other or your business. It’s an approach that leads to random acts of marketing – an advertisement here and a promotion there – which in turn leads to random, short-term results rather than strategic, sustained ones.

In order for your marketing to actually help your business – consistently and over the long term – you need to attach it to goals that are more specific than just “growing profits.”

This is because there are a variety of levers you can pull to grow profits – and some of them have nothing to do with marketing. Cutting costs and increasing efficiency will grow your profits, but those are not marketing activities.

So which marketing levers should you pull? In other words, which marketing goals should you target?


Choosing the Marketing Goals for Your Small Business

Below we list some of the most common marketing goals that you can adopt as your own.

But first, a quick aside! We’re going to tell you in one sentence what marketing is, because we’ve learned that many small businesses think it’s advertising – a misconception that will hobble your marketing goals right out of the gate.

Different experts have different takes on this, but essentially, here’s how we can define marketing:

Marketing is the discipline of consistently reaching a target audience and communicating the value of your product or service so that you acquire customers who stay with you over time.

-Dot Your I

You implement successful marketing – so using our definition above, you reach an audience, communicate your value to them, and acquire long-term customers – by doing the following:

  1. Increasing awareness of and affinity for your brand.
  2. Building your thought leadership in your industry or area.
  3. Generating high-quality customer leads that turn into sales.
  4. Delighting customers to retain them and grow their value.

So the marketing goals for your business should include one or more of the above: to increase brand awareness, to build thought leadership, to generate high-quality leads, or to grow customer value.

For now, think about choosing just one of those marketing goals. Eventually, you’ll want to aim for all of them, but starting with just one allows you to use your limited resources wisely and avoid becoming overwhelmed.

For each marketing goal, following is a quick definition, plus some guidelines to help you decide if it’s a good goal for your business:

Increasing Brand Awareness

“Brand awareness” refers to how well prospective customers recognize your organization, product, or service. (In marketing we enjoy creating terms out of concepts that everybody already understands.😉)

If any of the following describe your business, then increasing brand awareness might be a good marketing goal for you:

  • Your business has recently launched.
  • You’re refreshing your brand with updated visuals (like your logo or signage) or a redesigned website.
  • You’re introducing new products or services.
  • You’re pivoting to new target audiences or industries.

Building Thought Leadership

Another academic-ish term for a familiar concept, “thought leadership” refers to the level of influence that your expertise allows you to have with customers, other industry experts, or governing bodies.

If any of the following describe your business, then building thought leadership might be a good marketing goal for you:

  • You offer a complex product that has a learning curve.
  • You provide services through skilled or specialized practitioners.
  • You compete with much larger or more longstanding businesses.
  • You have a long sales cycle in which clients compare proposals or consult multiple decision makers.

Generating Customer Leads

Most small business owners are familiar with lead generation as the practice of finding new customers. There’s actually a bit more complexity to lead generation. It encompasses multiple activities that need to work together: attracting best-fit prospective customers, engaging them, and convincing them to become actual customers.

If any of the following describe your business, then generating more leads might be a good marketing goal for you:

  • You need to grow revenue.
  • You set and maintain sales quotas.
  • You want to grow a subscriber list, a user community, or other network.
  • You’re looking to reach different types of consumers beyond your current customer base.

Delighting Customers

If you’re a business owner with a passion for what you do and genuine concern for the people you serve, of course you want to delight customers.

But in marketing, “customer delight” is yet another term, and a discipline of its own. It means not only serving customers, but intentionally creating interactions and experiences for them that evoke their enthusiasm and capture their loyalty.

If any of the following describe your business, then practicing customer delight might be a good marketing goal for you:

  • The field in which you compete is crowded, and customers have a lot of choices.
  • You offer a commodity product that is difficult to differentiate.
  • You offer a luxury product with a price that customers may need to justify.
  • You seek to build long-term relationships with customers.

Well, small business owners, that’s Part 1 of this series in the books.

In Part 2, we’ll dive a little deeper into each potential marketing goal and describe some ways that you can measure all of them.

For now, go forward and think about the marketing goal you’d like to set.

If you can, discuss it with some trusted colleagues, or contact us. We’d love to mull it over with you.

This post is part of our “DIY from DYI” (see what we did there?) collection, which features do-it-yourself marketing tactics for small business owners in Pittsburgh PA and everywhere.