Successful marketers make informed decisions quickly using a combination of instinct and data analysis. They know the end goal and figure out what it takes to get there.

One way to fill these gaps is to use goal research in Excel. The function is useful when you know the desired result, but you don’t know how to achieve it.

Maybe you want improve your conversion rate to get more qualified leads, but you don’t know how many people you need to attract. Or let’s say your marketing team is aiming for a bold revenue goal and you want to know how many customers you need to attract with an upcoming campaign. If you are running a promotion, you will probably need to figure out what discount to apply so you don’t end up with a loss.

The search for purpose is the answer. Understanding how to apply it to your marketing or sales efforts can inform your strategy by allowing you to calculate the numbers needed to meet your goals.

This article will explain how to use Goal Seek so you can start planning your next campaign or making projections for the upcoming quarter.

What is Goal Finder in Excel?

Goal Seek is a powerful Excel function for performing what-if analysis. Also called sensitivity analysis, it helps you understand what can happen when you change one or more variables. Essentially, it’s a way to do a reverse calculation in an Excel spreadsheet.

Imagine that you are creating a marketing strategy for the next six months. You can use the Excel Goal Seek function to determine the following unknowns.

  • What percentage of monthly growth do you need to double your reach by the end of the year?
  • How much can you spend on freelance design work without going over your outsourcing budget?
  • How much revenue do you need to break even (and profit) from your next email marketing campaign?

Finding answers to these questions can avoid unexpected results and missed goals. Instead of asking yourself “what if” when developing a strategy, you can take the guesswork out of it and give yourself a roadmap to success.

Before finalizing plans, let’s go over the steps for performing an analysis.

How to use goal search in Excel

Setting up a goal search calculation is simple once your data is organized.

In the following example, I want to gauge the percentage of customers entering through different marketing channels. The goal is to attract 50% of customers through marketing efforts by the end of the year.

I first complete the table using the Average Month-to-Month Growth (MoM) to see the projections from June to December. I know I have an email campaign slated for early December and I want to see how many customers I should attract to reach my 50% goal.

Step 1: Select the cell with the output you want to change (i.e.% of Marketing Customers).

Step 2: Under the Data tab, select Simulation analysis, then Goal search.

How to use goal searchImage source

Step 3: A pop-up window will appear. Make sure the cell from step 1 appears in Define the cell.

Step 4: Write the desired value in Assess.

Step 5: In the By changing cell box, select the cell you want to modify to achieve the desired result.

How to calculate using goal searchImage source

Step 6: Click Okay to see the calculation of the goal search. The new number will appear in the cell in step 5, not in the pop-up box.

a goal-seeking statusImage source

Step 7: If everything looks good and you want to keep the calculation, click Okay again.

Using Goal Seek I can say that if my MoM growth stays the same, I need to attract at least 16 clients through my December email campaign. Yes, this is a simple example. But you can extend it to much more complicated efforts, like projecting the sales needed to meet revenue goals or calculating the net income you’ll earn from a campaign.

Analyzing Goals Finder in Excel

Let’s look at another example of goal research analysis. I want to attract 130 new customers, but I don’t know how many visits I will need to reach my goal. Before doing the Goal Seek analysis, I organize my data to find the average percentage of MoM customer visits.

Step 1: Select the cell with the output you want to change (in this case, the customer goal).

Step 2: Under the Data tab, select Simulation analysis, then Goal search.

Step 3: In the pop-up window, make sure the cell from step 1 appears in Define the cell.

goal-seeking analysisImage source

Step 4: Type in the number you want to type in Assess (My goal is 130 clients).

How to change a cell boxImage source

Step 5: Select the cell you want to edit in the By changing cell case (mine is for planned visits).

Step 6: Click Okay to see the analysis of the goal search. (Now I know that in order to have 130 clients, I have to attract 5055 visits).

An example of goal search statusImage source

Once you have filled in the missing variable using Goal Seek, you can find other variables. For example, I found that with 5,055 visits, I would need 910 prospects to reach the number of customers I wanted. Having these numbers can also help me judge if the marketing and sales efforts for the month are on track to meet the goal.

Goal finder function in Excel

In business, uncertainty can lead to the downfall of the most thoughtful strategy. But you can take control of variables that seem out of your control with the Goal Seek feature.

Being proactive and judging the business impact of a marketing campaign or new sales effort can not only gain respect within your business, but it can help you meet or even exceed your goals. You’ll be ready when the unexpected happens. And you’ll know how to make informed decisions or refine strategy with your newfound simulation analysis skills.

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