At some of the talks we give to business groups, we like to ask the audience a question: “What’s your marketing objective this year?” The only answer ever given is “increase sales.”

Sure. Yes. Of course.

When the CEO asks the marketing team what their objectives are, it’s easy to say “driving sales through the stratosphere,” and send a now-smiling CEO on her way. No one is going to argue with making “increased sales” a goal. (Except, apparently, one start-up ad agency in Ohio.)

But increasing sales isn’t a marketing objective. It’s an outcome.
In fact, it’s the outcome. When marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, customer service, and logistics all meet their objectives, sales go up. Every business is built to grow, and every part of that business is working towards that goal.

Marketing’s contribution is vital. It’s the part that can create, change or reinforce a consumer behavior. A good marketing objective should explain what behavior will be influenced and how that change connects to sales.

And to do that, you’re gonna need to do some math.

Think about it. The CEO is allocating her budget based on the overall business objective of increasing sales. The head of manufacturing has numbers that justify an ROI for that big-ass machine he wants. The head of logistics has numbers that explain why more warehouse space will increase efficiency. And then the marketing director shows up and asks for more money to get more Facebook likes.


Increasing Facebook likes might be worth investing in but a business case has to be made. And it can be. A marketing objective is connected to the business objectives the same way that a new machine is. It requires a little due diligence when it comes to understanding conversion rates and data, but the only way to get a respectable marketing budget is to use concrete language backed by numbers that the CEO respects.

Then there’s always the ace in the hole.

When the head of manufacturing projects the ROI of the new machine and the head of logistics projects the ROI of added warehouse space they are both counting on getting more customers.

And that is going to take some marketing.