Projections aren’t goals

Every project needs a clearly defined goal to have any chance of succeeding. Once the goal is set you may know which way to go, but projections will determine how you get there.

Start by setting ambitious goals

Goals are meant to be ambitious. Instead of reminding yourself that ‘low expectations lead to no disappointment’, go with the ‘aim for the moon and land among the stars’ saying. Also, it may be time to surround yourself with more high-achievers.

My latest goal was to publish my first book. I thought that setting a goal around sales would take away from the accomplishment of creating the book. Then the marketer in me reminded the hippie in me that it’s about your intentions. More book sales mean more people enjoying the book. It means covering printing costs and funding future projects. It even means increasing donations and awareness to important causes.

When setting a goal for your project you want to be ambitious yet realistic. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold over 107 million copies. That’s a great long-term goal for an author, but not a realistic one for my three month timeline. Especially for a book of illustrations. Researching similar illustration books, and focusing on their early sales, is a better route.

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Estimate projections based on data

Projections are estimates of how many book sales you expect to generate with various sales and marketing strategies. Best case scenario, you have you own historical data to improve the accuracy of your projections. I don’t. Even though I have nearly decade of marketing consulting to inform my calculations, my experience with self-published books is limited. Along with online research, it’s a good idea to chat with others and learn from their success (and mistakes). This will also help you to breakdown a channel like press into the relevant publications for your audience.

If you’ve heard of quant based marketing, you’re already familiar with working your way backwards. However, this method won’t work unless you understand that projections aren’t goals. Unlike goals, projections aren’t aspirations. You can’t fudge the numbers when the total is lower than your goal. If the numbers don’t add up, you need to keep on researching new strategies to find better ways to reach your goal.

How to use projections to achieve goals

Goals are successfully achieved when you pick strategies based on projections rather than bias. A common trap is picking your favourite strategies despite their low projections. Whether you’re prioritizing your enjoyment or skill, you can’t hope to magically stumble on a tactic that outperforms the projection. The projections are all based on proper execution. Finding the right tactics for each strategy is a given, and your expertise will only ensure there’s less of a difference between the estimate and actual outcome.

You can’t ignore high projections either. It doesn’t matter that podcast ads have a greater reach, or that Instagram ads have a higher conversion rate. The only important metric is the total number of book sales each platform drives. As long as you’re within your budget and timeline, the cost shouldn’t deter you. An expensive strategy that delivers quick results is better slogging away for months with lower returns. This way your time can be better spent on planning a future project to maintain momentum.

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Projections can only try to reduce failure

As much data as you may have, projections are still only estimates. A projection doesn’t know that your content marketing strategy will fail because your domain will be down. This reinforces how crucial it is to select the best strategies to mitigate risk. You may miss your target, but you’re still much closer than if you had started with low performing strategies.

Taking the time to make projections can also minimize your losses by making it easy to adapt. If your original content marketing strategy fails, you can repurpose your content. Projections will help you decide if switching to guest blogging is an easy out, or if it will actually be worth it.

Experience fuels future success

Measuring your success if important, even if there is none. Reflecting on how effective you were will help you avoid mistakes and improve the odds of your future success. Once the project is done, you’ll also be able to compare your initial projections with real results. Understanding the cause of the variance, is the key to becoming better at making increasingly accurate projections in the future. You may discover that you can aim even higher, and feel confident about setting bigger goals.


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