Are You Focusing On The Wrong Goals?

There are many intermediate goals along the way to your desired result. These intermediate steps are not, however, the end goal, but too often they get treated as if they are.

  • Just because someone follows your tweets, it doesn’t mean they pay attention to anything you say.
  • Just because someone clicks a link to your site, it doesn’t mean they have any interest in what you’re offering.
  • Just because someone subscribed to your blog, it doesn’t mean they ever read your posts.

More people visiting your site probably means more sales, but it doesn’t have to. A sale does not automatically follow from a visit. In order to become a sale or a lead a visitor needs to go through a variety of intermediate steps. All those steps are important, but they aren’t the end goal.

Crossroads are not the Final Destination

Spaziergang am 19.Mai 2009
photo credit: Last Hero

You need to understand the difference between your end goal and the intermediate points along the path. Those points are like crossroads and people arriving at them have several options to choose.

If you treat intermediate goals as end goals you allow people to go whichever way they want. If you see them as crossroads you can build signs to lead people further down your path.

  • Ranking #1 for a query is meaningless unless the query is one that people actually type into a search engine and those people are potentially going to be interested in your site.
  • Submitting content to a social voting site is meaningless unless the community of the site is likely to be interested in the content.
  • Placing an ad in a magazine is meaningless unless your market reads that magazine.

Understand what you are trying to achieve and understand how every step in the process contributes to your end goals. Focus your efforts on what leads people down the path you want them to take instead of focusing on intermediate points that allow people to leave your path altogether.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

11 comments

  1. Business owners sometimes make the mistake of choosing business goals that are pointless. For instance, one person I know once set a business goal to hand out one hundred business cards a month. Well he did, but so what? If his intention in setting this business goal was to bring in more business, we all know that the way to do that is to establish relationships with people, and you don’t accomplish that by just handing someone a card. Small business is one of the first sectors to struggle when the economy slows, and small business owners weren’t getting installment loans from the government like Wall Street did. (You’ll note that small business owners can’t afford to send Senators on golf trips, can they?) The Bankers of America, and their president Camden Fine, have noted that small business loans have come a lot more from community banks. A disconnect has been growing between the landed Wall Street international megabanks and community level banks across America, and Washington is heading towards needing to do credit repair with small business owners and entrepreneurs.

    • I’ve seen the advice to hand out ‘x’ business cards in a month. It’s pointless unless those people might actually be interested in your business.

      One advantage small business does have is the ability to quickly adapt. Larger companies are more dependent on economic conditions I think, because they are slow to react. At least we small businesses can make quick changes that can help us keep going in an economic downturn.

  2. This reminds me of a client discussion I had recently, where I outlined the seductive dangers of SEO. We can get so caught up in chasing that #1 slot that we lose sight of the business case for what we do. As you say, what good is expending resources to get top billing for a keyword that never gets searched, or one that doesn’t convert. We need to try to think more like entrepreneurs and less like geeks.

    • True. It can be easy to get caught in looking at something and giving it more importance than it deserves. Like you say the #1 spot isn’t useful by itself. It needs to be something people will search for that will lead to a qualified lead.

      [blockquote]We need to try to think more like entrepreneurs and less like geeks[/blockquote]

      But we’re such geeks. It’s hard for us to change :)

  3. You bring up a lot of good points Steven.

    So often, folks get so caught up in the “means” they forget the “end”.
    Especially the SEO types. They get so focused on getting visitors, by any means possible, while ignoring if they are the right visitors.

    Sometimes though, I think many get caught up because it’s easier to do the mindless busywork than it is to sit down and think about what the real goals are.

    just my $0.02 anyway

    • Thanks Paul. Some of the motivation for this post was all the questions we get at WT asking about how to increase PR and things like that.

      You might be right about it being easier to do the busywork. I think it also comes from people wanting to know what that one big thing is that will really improve their situation. So at one time the key to ranking was PageRank and you’d see a lot of advice for how to improve your PR. Then it was anchor text so you’d see advice on how to get the anchor text you want.

      But the people who wrote those original posts did understand the big picture so when PR was no long “the” thing they still understood what to do. Those who come in after only seeing all the advice to raise their PR never stepped back to understand what the PR was trying to achieve so they get lost in the tactic.

  4. I think achieving complex and difficult goals requires: focus, long-term diligence and effort. Success in any field requires forgoing excuses and justifications for poor performance or lack of adequate planning; in short, success requires emotional maturity. The measure of belief that people have in their ability to achieve a personal goal also affects that achievement.

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