objective based marketing header laptop on table

The Realignment of Company & Marketing Objectives

Objective-based marketing attempts to resolve the discrepancy between marketing objectives, a derivative of company objectives, and marketing efforts. We must first understand the problem before we can explore the principles of objective-based marketing.

What is The Problem?

When planning a road trip one of the most important factors to consider is the destination – it will dictate the mode of transportation, trip duration, and other important factors for planning. Often times marketing teams forget this simple fact, opting instead to let the latest trends or talking heads on popular YouTube Channels dictate their strategies. However, by utilizing an objective-based marketing approach, marketing teams can ensure that their efforts are in alignment with sales and overarching company objectives.

92% of all marketing effort is wasted in small-to-medium-sized businesses (referred to as SMBs in this report). That much-wasted effort seems hard to believe, but when you combine the following statistics, it becomes very real. In 2019, a poll of 1000 marketers conducted by Rakuten Marketing, found that SMBs waste an average of 26% of their budgets on ineffective channels and strategies1. Another study by The Harvard Business Review shows that most internal marketing departments followed the Pareto Principle fairly closely. 70% of efforts were directed toward non-revenue generating activity, while 25% of the total effort was directed toward developing leads and new business.

Company Objectives Differ Greatly Among Small and Large Companies

Companies earning $50M in revenue have different objectives than SMBs. These larger businesses have steady and predictable revenue streams from month-to-month, as well as business relationships that tend to stabilize numbers and enjoy the benefits of an established brand. For larger businesses, it is important to plan long-term, work toward new partnerships with other large organizations, and strive for public relations and community involvement. In addition, these companies strive to make their workplace a desirable place of employment with a strong focus and effort regarding talent acquisition and retention.

For companies with fewer than 20 employees, these lofty goals often take a backseat to new customer acquisition, increasing efficiency in the procurement of materials and production operations, and servicing the current client base.

So, why are marketing departments unable to compensate for the differences in company objectives and efforts?

planes flying in unison

The Education System Sets up Marketers for a Rough Start

The average graduate with a marketing degree spends $10,5602, 4 years, and 120 credit hours3 on their education. Most universities teach students real-world applications of marketing strategies using case studies.

The problem is, often, students will read case studies of large companies such as Coca-Cola, Best Buy, Toyota, Toys R Us, and so on. However, less than 17.5% of students end up working for Fortune 500 multinational companies4, and the ones that do will not be able to make important strategic decisions for quite some time. Most college curriculums are successful in teaching the underlying conventions of marketing to eager young minds. These basic and essential principles have been developed for over 100 years5, and are essential to a marketer’s understanding of modern marketing principles.

Digital marketing currently makes up 46% of marketing budgets for SMBs6, yet college curriculums struggle to incorporate these tactics into their teachings. This is understandable as the principles of digital marketing change and evolve faster than the education system can learn, adopt, implement into the current curriculum, and teach to students. On average, the tactics that a marketing student can be taught are at best 5 years old, which generally leads to failure in the world of digital marketing.

Even the best universities struggle to prepare students for the current climate in marketing, especially when it comes to small businesses and digital marketing. Due to the salary expectations of an established and successful marketing director, VP, or executive – most SMBs are more inclined to recruit younger and less expensive marketing teams. These recent graduates generally have limited practical experience and rely upon their education and current marketing “buzz words” essential for big businesses and misalignment for SMBs.

creative idea lightbulb

The Cost of Labor, Time, and Opportunity is Sometimes Lost on Smaller Businesses

A $5000 monthly ad budget may seem like a large investment for most businesses under $10M in annual revenue. However, that is the average cost of one entry-level marketer in 2023.

The opportunity cost of pursuing long-term goals, such as building a social media following and brand awareness, is a lack of time and/or budget to pursue revenue-generating activities such as advertising or direct response marketing.

Small business owners generally feel safer hiring full-time employees to handle their marketing needs, rather than paying for much-needed advertising. Although, the costs and the activities these employees generally spend their time on (Facebook, event marketing, newsletters, etc.) cannot be directly tied back to revenue. Why? 

Many times, small business owners are taken advantage of by media companies, local publications, and even marketing agencies that do not take an objective-based marketing approach. After being “burned” by these investments once or twice, company owners feel more secure managing an internal team they can monitor and direct. Who can blame them? So often, these company owners, and the companies who unfortunately failed them, had every benevolent and genuine intention. However, their efforts were not aligned with the company’s objectives.

The balance between revenue-generating short-term activities and long-term efforts such as building brand awareness and market presence differs for growing companies, small businesses, and corporate giants.

So, What is Objective-Based Marketing? 

Objective-based marketing is an approach to marketing that works backward from the company objectives to align marketing efforts accordingly. Whether the company is a $500M corporate giant or a start-up, this will ensure maximum efficiency and efficacy from their marketing investments.

1. Team Alignment:

When a company takes an objective-based approach to marketing, it will gain insight into the current team breakdown and will have a better understanding of areas in need of additional personnel.

If the company’s primary goal is to increase brand awareness and publicity, it stands to reason that the marketing team will have a strong PR leader and copywriter(s) on staff. Conversely, if none of the company goals include new customer or client acquisition, there should be few, if any, search marketers on the team.

For a smaller company whose primary goal is to acquire new customers, locally gain market share, and improve its branding, advertising and design needs must be emphasized. Does the current marketing team align with this? Project-based needs and specific skilled activities are where marketing agencies can be better utilized as a part of an overall marketing plan.

2. Allocating budgets:

Marketing teams can begin to establish budgets for marketing channels, labor, advertising efforts, etc. by examining the company objectives and determining how marketing objectives impact them,  The statement “that is too much money” is less likely to enter the conversation when there is an established overall budget and marketing objectives are defined. This instead becomes replaced by “I think we should allocate more of the budget to ____” which is generally a more productive conversation.

     a. Fluid budgets:

When company objectives are reached it is logical that the company will become more successful and profitable. When marketing efforts are aligned with company objectives, it is more likely that the company will choose to reinvest in marketing and advertising budgets that have a positive, measurable, and trackable outcome.

    b. Measurable ROI

Whether the company objectives are revenue-based or not, clearly defined objectives with measurable KPIs (key performance indicators) will result in measurable ROI for marketing efforts. Whether the goal is $2M in new business revenue or a 20% increase in employee retention, the results can be clear, measurable, and objective for marketing teams.

The objective-based marketing approach also works for budgeting software, tools, and licenses. By eliminating unnecessary tools and licenses, and conversely adding software to enhance the marketing team’s efforts toward marketing objectives, the company will gain efficiency and ROI.

Objective-Based Marketing Defined

Objective Based Marketing is a pragmatic and objective approach to marketing. In essence, objective-based marketing removes the statements “but we have to” and “it’s important to always” and replaces them with “this contributes to our goal of ____.”

1. Objective Based Marketing unifies efforts among sales, marketing, recruitment, and operations.

2. Objective-based marketing can always be altered. New objectives and initiatives will always enter the equation. Perhaps the company would like to participate in a community event or the CEO decides to sponsor a local speaking event. Marketing teams can support these decisions as they have become newly established objectives.

Objective-based marketing benefits:

a. Prevents “If you build it, they will come” mentality

Frequently, marketers will try to reproduce things from brands on social media and other sources because they seem innovative and interesting to work on. This is not an entirely bad practice, and it encourages marketers to develop additional skills. However, if the activities cannot be tied to a company or marketing objective, they are by definition, wasted effort. Marketing directors or company leaders must monitor these efforts to ensure that they fall in line with, and at least support, marketing objectives.

b. Prevents “That’s so cool, let’s do it” mentality

Let’s face it, some marketing projects are just “cool”. Taking an objective-based marketing approach doesn’t mean new interesting projects cannot be undertaken; the new idea or tactic needs to be applied to an effort in line with current or future marketing objectives. When taking this approach, innovation and creativity are encouraged, but only if they align with company objectives. These marketing projects can be easily managed with a little extra thought.

c. Prevents dogmatic thinking such as “It is imperative to brands that _______.”

No, it isn’t. There is no universal rule that determines what a company must do to be successful in marketing. There may be a few universal no-nos, which is a topic for another discussion, but rarely has there ever been one sweeping generalization that applies to all companies and their marketing approach.

Objective Based Marketing has been practiced by great marketers and marketing leaders for a long time. Now is the time to start promoting this approach as a way for marketing teams to succeed.


  1. Shirley, S. (2019, August 26). Where businesses waste the most money on marketing. LinkedIn. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/where-businesses-waste-most-money-marketing-stephanie-shirley/?trk=related_artice_Where+Businesses+Waste+the+Most+Money+on+Marketing_article-card_title 
  2. Bouchrika, I. (2022, October 12). Marketing degree guide: 2022 costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities. Research.com. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://research.com/degrees/marketing-degree#:~:text=If%20you%20intend%20to%20study,out%2Dof%2Dstate%20students. 
  3. How many credits for a bachelor’s degree in marketing? Bestaccreditedcolleges.org. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://bestaccreditedcolleges.org/articles/careers-and-education/how-many-credits-for-a-bachelor-s-degree-in-marketing.html 
  4. Donnelly, G. (2021, June 9). Only 3% of fortune 500 companies Share Full Diversity Data. Fortune. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://fortune.com/2017/06/07/fortune-500-diversity/ 
  5. Parab, N. (2021, August 12). A brief history of modern marketing. Medium. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://medium.com/@npsmile786/a-brief-history-of-modern-marketing-51818901a5c2 
  6. Anderson, M. (2022, March 3). SMBS spend an average 46% of marketing budget on ‘Digital’. Search Engine Land. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://searchengineland.com/smbs-spend-an-average-46-of-marketing-budget-on-digital-177502