Goal-setting is one of the most important skills anyone can develop. It’s just as important for managing your life as it is for managing your business. In fact, creating goals in both these situations can be very similar.
Unfortunately, no one teaches you how to create a goal – until now.
Clarifying your goal is the first step to getting anywhere. If your goal doesn’t lend itself to the right actions and attitude, you are likely to fail. Pursuing the wrong goals is usually a waste of time, money, and effort.
So, how do you build a goal that will be robust and resilient in the face of challenges?
Luckily, there is a way: The SMART Goal.
Back in 1981, management consultant George T. Doran had the SMART Goal brainstorm while working for the Washington Water Power Company. His idea quickly developed into a paper and much more, leaving the legacy of goal planning we all benefit from today.
Doran’s ideas are simple, yet effective – every marketer and business owner should know them.
Let’s review what makes a SMART Goal:
What exactly do you want to achieve? This is the beginning of any goal, and it’s also where most people make the biggest mistakes. It’s easy to say “I want to be rich,” but that leaves you not knowing exactly when you’ve reached your goal or what steps you need to take. “I want to make a million dollars” is slightly closer to the mark, but still leaves much of the canvas blank.
In online marketing, people at all levels often start with the idea “I want traffic.” After consulting your site’s analytics, you might conclude you want to raise your traffic by 1,000 visitors a month within the quarter. This is much more specific. It provides a timeframe and an end goal. Plus, it lends itself to the specific actions you can take to move toward your goal each week.
When you take a scientific approach to marketing, it provides a huge advantage in measuring your goals. In the example above, you’ll always know when you’re moving toward your new traffic goals because you can check traffic figures on a weekly basis. You can also use channel attribution to learn which sites are most likely to drive traffic, helping you prioritize.
In modern online marketing, all goals are by their nature measurable ones. Remember, though, that goals that may seem vitally important are often just steps on the way to an even bigger goal. For example, Web traffic is a crucial first ingredient in your online strategy. However, once you have the traffic, you’ll need to ensure you are getting conversions and sales.
Is the goal attainable? In the long run, any goal that anyone has ever achieved in the past is attainable – in theory. In reality, though, each goal comes with its own opportunity costs, not to mention direct costs in time and money. While a goal might seem like an excellent idea, it needs to be understood in the context of what you’ll have to give up to secure it.
In the example above, an increase of 1,000 unique visitors a month within three months may seem like a reasonable goal for many businesses. Still, you should dig deeper. What are the other projects that might be delayed when personnel are focusing on traffic? Will there be any new product releases or industry events that will demand the support of those personnel?
Knowing whether a goal is attainable requires you to look at the big picture. You can’t predict everything that might happen, but you should understand the ways in which things can go wrong and what it would mean if they did. Thinking attainable also means recognizing when a goal has become too costly to keep pursuing along the same lines.
Relevance encourages you to dig deeper and determine how important the goal is in the grand scheme of things. Since most business goals ultimately pertain to bottom-line revenue, it might seem like all possible goals are “relevant.”
But, under time and budget constraints, some are sure to be more efficient than others!
Relevance is an issue that many companies in the manufacturing sector have confronted lately. Up until recently, it was essential for any manufacturing brand worth anything to have a strong presence at a number of annual industry events.
These events were costly and time-intensive, but tended to pay dividends in sales.
Now, the transformation – and fragmentation – of manufacturing has changed the game. Face-to-face deal-making is no longer as important as it once was. Still, it took years for many firms to shift their resources from the annual events calendar to inbound marketing.
Changing market conditions can leave you with “self-evident” goals that make no sense. When you zoom in on relevance, you have the chance to make sure you are really focused on the right outcomes for your enterprise at a given moment.
Timely refers – not surprisingly – to the timeframe you want to achieve your goal in. You might have given some thought to timing from the very outset of your goal, as in our example above. If you didn’t, though, this last step prompts you to really ground your goal in context.
In their day to day lives, people are often tempted to be vague about the timing of their goals. Every January, millions of Americans resolve to lose weight ... but it’s often the case they’ll say “by the end of this year.” That’s simply too long and vague for most effective goals.
Businesses have the advantage of their own internal timing based on the quarterly calendar. Still, you shouldn’t get too attached to quarterly thinking. Any good project manager knows that a “sprint” of two weeks or a month can achieve great things that might otherwise wait indefinitely.
Naturally, there’s a balance to be sought. The larger your goal and the faster you want to achieve it, the more resources you’ll have to allocate – changing the equation on what’s attainable. When you’ve worked out this last step, it’s a good idea to revisit and double-check the others.
A SMART Goal Helps Businesses to Achieve More with Inbound Marketing
In the days of mail order catalogs, it might have been tough to design a marketing campaign that truly fit into the SMART system in every way. Since the dawn of the Internet Age, however, things have changed fast. A profusion of data means every good goal can be a SMART Goal.
It may take a while for an organization to get used to thinking in SMART terms. Still, you have every advantage when you set out to do it. Most importantly, you can track and evaluate your goals using modern analytics – seeing exactly where you stand every step of the way.
SMART goals can be used at every level of a business, but they’re particularly useful for the marketing, advertising, and sales teams. When these groups come together in SMART ways, their efforts drive growth and serve as an engine of accomplishment for the whole company.
It's never too late to set a SMART goal, so get started with our SMART Goals template today.