As the owner of a new small business, you’ve probably done a fair amount of work on marketing as part of your business plan. You’ve done your research on different marketing channels, and into your audience, and you’ve set out a number of targets for things such as Likes on Facebook, visits to your website, sign ups to your e-newsletter and so on.

External goals

These targets are all external goals – ultimately, they relate to things which you can influence, but you can’t control. You can, and should, make detailed plans and predict what’s going to influence future outcomes, and work towards them, but ultimately, the key determinants are other people’s decisions.

This quite often means that it’s entirely down to chance whether or not you hit that first set of targets. It might just be that one contact shared your post so lots of people saw it, but you don’t actually know how many of those people were really interested anyway. Maybe you’ve had a lot of views but they haven’t translated into more comments, or enquiries in the way that you predicted.

When your audience is still small, things that work well one time might not work well a second time. Focusing entirely on external goals can lead you to get distracted, or to chase after the whims of what turn out to be only a few individuals who may not really represent your audience.

As a new business therefore, you need to smart plan to avoid these pitfalls, stay motivated, and stick to the messages you really want to send out.

Internal goals

A good marketing plan for a new business or a freelance should also include some internal goals. These are things which you or your employees are responsible for doing, so you have a high level of control over their achievement.

It’s a good idea to balance the numbers so you have roughly the same number of internal and external goals, which overlap and feed into each other. The internal ones usually represents things you want to do to influence the external ones. Setting both types of goals means you can achieve a level of success even if factors outside of your control make things more difficult.

For example, if you set the goal of increasing traffic to your blog – that’s external. So you add to it the internal goal that you will publish a new blog post every week. New content drives traffic, so the goals feed into each other. Even if your traffic doesn’t increase as much as you hoped, you still met your goal of blogging every week.

As a second example, your plan might be to become a thought-leader in your specialism. You could set the external goal of having a certain number of re-tweets by other professionals in your field. It’s always the case that some tweets are more popular than others, and it may take a while before you become noticed amongst your peers, if you’re new to the game. If you stick only with the external goal, there’s a chance you may get distracted by topics or hashtags which get slightly more interest, and before you know it, you’re tweeting a lot of cute cat pictures just to get attention. However, if you pair this with an internal goal, then you can stay focused on what you’re really trying to achieve. Your internal goal might be to write a blog post every three weeks with your own analysis of a recent event or piece of research. You might not get as much attention as quickly, but you stay on the path towards the right end result.