The Importance of Setting Goals and Objectives Before Writing

Goal Setting With Target, Objectives And Planning Concept

“Clarity of vision is the key to achieving your objectives.”  — Tom Steye

The first step to take before writing your next sales promotion — even before you do any research or interviews — is to set your goals and objectives.

Normally, you’ll have multiple objectives when you’re writing promotional copy. Your goals could be to increase sales, generate revenue, educate consumers on a new product, increase name recognition, strengthen a relationship with vendors, overcome some bad press or negative comments about the product, or any combination of these.

Clearly defining your copy’s purpose before you start can make the difference between average copy that addresses one objective and phenomenal copy that addresses multiple ones.

If you don’t take the time to write them down before beginning the project, you can easily focus too much effort on one objective, which may not necessarily be the most important one. Or you could unconsciously bounce back and forth between objectives, thereby confusing your reader.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine a university is planning a direct-mail promotion. The dean of admissions wants to increase enrollments — that’s one objective. The university president wants to increase name recognition and build relationships with high school administrators — that’s another objective. The board of directors wants to generate revenue immediately — a third objective. And teachers wish to educate prospective students on what they do and what curriculums they have to offer. So four major objectives in all.

Here are some specific steps to take to make sure you clearly identify your objectives and follow through on meeting them:

  1. Ask everyone involved with your copy — the business owner, marketing director, graphic artist, whoever — “What do you hope to gain from this piece?” Write down their answers. Even if you think you know what they’re going to say, don’t assume anything.

  2. Analyze the way the identified objectives interrelate. Is it possible to meet everyone’s objectives and still create an effective, polished sales piece? If not, what do you drop or modify? (Hint: It’s a good idea to keep the objective of the person signing your check at or near the top of the list!) Or another way to look at this is, can you create two promotions, each focused on different objectives or audience needs? If your client says yes, you’ll potentially double your project fee.

  3. If you’re writing an article and not a sales piece, what are the requirements of the publication? What do its readers want? Read some back issues of the publication so you get a feel for the tone and voice of the articles the publication runs.

A good guideline to adopt in setting any objective is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. Let’s take a look at how this can be applied to writing copy.

SPECIFIC — A specific objective covers at least one of the five W’s — who, what, where, when, and why — and usually more than one.

Ask yourself… Who does this copy target? What do I want them to learn? Where is it going to be published? When will it run? Why am I doing this? A general objective for a direct-mail piece or landing page is to “increase sales.” A specific goal is to “increase sales by getting 50 new leads per month.”

MEASURABLE — Measurable objectives allow you to be sure when you’ve accomplished what you set out to.

You can easily measure the specific objective of getting 50 new leads, for example. But it’s more difficult to measure an objective like educating your target audience about a new product. You may need to use follow-up phone calls or other evaluation methods to see if the objective was met.

ACTION-ORIENTED — If your objective is to get 50 new leads a month, what action will you take to meet this objective? What will you do to ensure that you meet the marketing director’s needs with your copy? Who will you interview to make sure you cover all your bases? What research will you need to do and where will you do it?

REALISTIC — Setting realistic objectives means creating objectives you’re willing and able to work on. If you don’t have enough time or the necessary resources to complete the project, your objective probably can’t be met and you need to revise it.

TIME-SENSITIVE — Set a deadline to finish the project and to accomplish major milestone steps along the way. For instance, set dates to complete your research, to write the lead, to complete your first draft, to edit and rewrite, and to submit.

Setting objectives before you begin writing is crucial. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting, knowing who you’re writing for and what they need to get from the copy is your key to success, and the first step you need to take.

We’ll stop there for today and pick it up again next time.

Until then…

Good health and good writing!

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John Torre

I reside in North Brunswick, NJ, with my wife, Lynn, and daughters Kasey, Jaclyn, and Shelly. We also have a 110 pound, lovable Rottie named Leo that keeps us on our toes! When we're not hard at work we enjoy spending weekends at our bungalow down the Jersey shore, or take extended trips to Walt Disney World as members of the Disney Vacation Club. For kicks, I draw on my dominant "right-brain" and play guitar in classic rock and blues bands, act for local plays and independent productions, and enjoy writing creative fiction. I'm a published author in short fiction and stage plays and a graduate of a local community college's Commercial Writer's Certificate Program. After graduating from the program I was selected as an instructor and taught "Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror" writing for 8 years. I enjoy many fine relationships I made with my students to this day.

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