Your Brief Guide to Using Goal Seek in Excel

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

One way to fill in those gaps is to use Goal Seek in Excel. The function is helpful when you know your desired result, but you’re not sure how to achieve it.

Maybe you want to improve your conversion rate to get more qualified leads, but don’t know how many people you need to attract. Or let’s say your marketing team is aiming for an audacious revenue goal and you want to know how many customers you want to bring in with an upcoming campaign. If you’re running a promotion, you probably need to figure out which discounts to apply so that you don’t suffer.

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Seeking the goal is the answer. Understanding how to apply this to your marketing or sales efforts can inform your strategy by allowing you to calculate the numbers needed to achieve your goals.

This post will explain how to use Goal Search so that you can start planning your next campaign or forecast for the upcoming quarter.

What is Goal Seek in Excel?

Goal Seek is a powerful Excel function for performing what-if analysis. Also known as sensitivity analysis, it helps you understand what can happen when you change one or more variables. Essentially, it is a way to perform the reverse calculation within an Excel spreadsheet.

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

What percentage of month-on-month growth do you need to double your reach by the end of the year?

How much can you spend on freelance design work without increasing your outsourcing budget?

How much revenue do you need to bring in to break even (and profit from) your upcoming email marketing campaign?

Finding answers to these questions can prevent unexpected results and missed goals. Instead of thinking “what-ifs” when creating a strategy, you can let go of the uncertainty and give yourself a roadmap to success.

Before you finalize a plan, let’s walk through the steps to analyze.

How to Use Goal Seek in Excel

Once your data is organized it is easy to set up a target search count.

In the following example, I want to evaluate the percentage of customers coming through different marketing channels. The goal is to bring in 50% of customers through marketing efforts by the end of the year.

I first populate the table using the average month-to-month (MoM) growth to see the June to December projections. I know I have an email campaign planned for early December, and I want to see how many subscribers I need to bring in to reach my 50% goal.

Using Goal Seek, I can tell that if my MOM growth remains the same, I need to attract at least 16 subscribers through my December email campaign. Yes, this is a simple example. But you can extend this to more complex endeavors, such as estimating the sales needed to meet revenue goals or calculating how much net income you’ll generate from a campaign.

Goal Seek Analysis in Excel

Let’s look at another example of goal search analysis. I want to bring in 130 new customers, but I don’t know how many visits I’ll need to reach my goal. Before doing target search analysis, I organize my data to find the average MoM visit-to-customer percentage.

Once you have filled in the missing variables using target search, you can explore the other variables. For example, I found that with 5055 visits, I would need 910 leads to reach my desired customers. Having these numbers can also help me decide if the marketing and sales efforts for the month are right to meet the goal.

Target seek function in excel

In business, uncertainty can lead to the collapse of even the most well thought out strategy. But you can control variables that are beyond your control with the target search function.

Seeing the business impact of a marketing campaign or new sales effort and being proactive can not only earn you respect within your company, but it can help you accomplish, and even exceed, your goals. You will be prepared when the unexpected happens. And you’ll know how to make informed decisions or turn strategy with your new what-if analysis skills.

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