All right, let's do a check-in. How are your New Year's resolutions? Are you still working toward those goals? Have you completed any of them?
I know ... same.
Maybe you aren't a New Year's resolutions person. But have you ever tried to report on a campaign and not been able to tell if it was successful or not? We've all been there—typically because we didn’t plan as well as we could have.
Effective planning, especially when it comes to reaching goals, is not just important; it's indispensable. Much like a road map, a well-crafted plan provides a clear path from where you are to where you want to be. It outlines the actions needed, the resources required, and the milestones to be achieved along the way. Without it, one might find themselves wandering aimlessly, making slow and haphazard progress—if there’s any progress at all. In the corporate world, this can lead to wasted resources, missed opportunities, and, ultimately, failure to achieve key objectives.
The good news? This is where the SMART goal-setting method shines.
Establish SMART Goals
SMART goals provide clarity, focus, and motivation. By making your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, you can significantly increase the likelihood of success.
SMART goals provide:
- A clear road map toward your objectives, enabling you to break them down into manageable tasks
- A clear understanding of the steps required, making you more likely to achieve your goals
- Effective time management and an ongoing sense of motivation
- A sense of accomplishment when you meet your goals.
It might take a little extra time to set up at the start, but the payoff is well worth it. As the saying goes, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."
Creating SMART Goals
You’ve probably heard plenty of talk about SMART goals—but clear directions on how to create those goals are harder to come by. We’ve got you.
Specificity in goal setting means your goals must clearly define what needs to be done, when it should be completed, and who will be involved. It's about leaving no room for misunderstandings or vagueness.
Instead of setting a goal to "increase sales," a specific goal would be to "increase sales by 10 percent in the first quarter of the year by focusing on our top-performing products and identifying new markets." This goal is clear and concise with a defined objective and a detailed action plan. This level of specificity not only provides a clear path to success but also makes measurement and assessment of progress a lot easier.
The second step in creating SMART goals is to ensure they are measurable. A goal without a measurable outcome is much like a race without a finish line—you won't know when you've achieved success.
To make your goals measurable, you need to incorporate metrics. These could be percentages, quantities, or time-bound targets. For example, instead of setting a goal to "generate more leads," a measurable goal would be to "generate 50 new leads within the next two months." This way, you’ll know for sure whether or not the goal has been achieved. A measurable goal should answer questions such as how much or how many. Track your progress and adjust your strategy if needed to ensure your goals are always driving you toward success.
Determining what you can achieve is the third step in creating SMART goals. Achievable goals are realistic and within your reach. It's important to set high standards, but it's equally crucial that your goals are attainable with the resources you currently have or can reasonably acquire.
In the context of goal setting, it's essential to balance ambition with realism. An achievable goal should stretch you—but not so far that you become overwhelmed or discouraged. For instance, instead of setting a goal to "double website traffic overnight," an achievable goal would be to "increase website traffic by 20 percent over the next six months through a combination of content marketing, SEO optimization, and targeted ad campaigns." This goal should feel ambitious but possible, given sufficient time and resources.
To determine whether a goal is achievable, consider factors such as the required skills and resources, available time, and the constraints or obstacles that might arise. This will ensure that your goals remain feasible, keeping you motivated and improving your chances of success.
Establishing relevance is the fourth step in the process of creating SMART goals. Relevant goals matter to you or your organization and align with broader business objectives. They are the goals that are worth pursuing and will have a positive impact on your key metrics.
It's important to ensure that every goal you set is directly tied to your strategic objectives and will contribute to your overall success. For example, instead of setting a goal to "create a viral social media campaign," a more relevant goal would be to "create a social media campaign that increases our brand awareness by 25 percent over the next quarter." This goal is directly relevant to your business because it contributes to your broader objective of increasing brand visibility. Also, it’s under your control because you have the resources to create and manage a social media campaign.
To determine the relevance of your goal, ask yourself: Does this seem worthwhile? Is this the right time for this goal? Does this match our other efforts and needs? By setting relevant goals, you ensure that your resources are being utilized effectively toward achieving meaningful objectives.
Establishing timelines is the final step in the SMART goal-setting process. Time-bound goals are attached to a specific time frame, which creates a sense of urgency and can help motivate you to get started.
Rather than saying, "I want to increase my client base," a time-bound goal would say, "I want to acquire 10 new clients within the next 30 days." This deadline encourages immediate action and helps prevent everyday tasks from taking precedence over your longer-term goals. A time-bound goal should answer the question of when the result(s) can be achieved.
To set effective time-bound goals, start with your end date and work backward to establish milestones that will keep you on track. Use realistic time frames that both encourage progress and include a degree of challenge to motivate you. Remember, the time frame should be flexible enough to adjust if circumstances change but not so flexible that the goal loses its urgency. As with all aspects of SMART goal setting, setting time-bound goals is a dynamic process that requires regular review and adjustment.
Tips for Achieving Your Goals
Now you’ve got great goals. Let’s talk about how to make them happen!
Make Your Goals Visible
Once you’ve created your SMART goals, it's important to keep them somewhere visible so they remain at the forefront of your mind and serve as a reminder of what you want to achieve. You might consider reviewing them every morning or writing them on Post-it notes to keep on your office wall.
Break Big Goals Down into Smaller Ones
It's important to break your goals down into smaller, more manageable tasks. The gratification of achieving each task will give you the sense of accomplishment and momentum you need to stay on track.
For example, consider this goal: "Increase website traffic by 20 percent over the next six months through a combination of content marketing, SEO optimization, and targeted ad campaigns."
This is a solid SMART goal, but it's quite large and could seem overwhelming. Here's how you could break it down:
- Content marketing: Develop a content calendar for the next three months, focusing on high-interest topics. Aim to publish one blog post per week.
- SEO optimization: Identify 10 high-volume keywords relevant to our industry. Optimize existing content for these keywords and incorporate them into future content.
- Targeted ad campaigns: Research and establish target demographics for ad campaigns. Develop a campaign for each demographic, set a budget, and launch them to run for the next six months.
Each of these tasks is a smaller, more manageable goal that contributes to the overall objective of increasing website traffic. As you complete each mini-goal, you'll be making progress toward your larger goal—and enjoying a sense of achievement along the way.
Create Checkpoints to Stay Accountable
To stay accountable, it's important to create checkpoints and regularly measure progress. This feedback loop ensures you are staying on track with your goal and allows you to adjust your strategy if necessary.
Let's continue with our example goal: "Increase website traffic by 20 percent over the next six months through a combination of content marketing, SEO optimization, and targeted ad campaigns."
Given the size of this goal, it's important to set up checkpoints to monitor progress and hold ourselves accountable. Here's how you might do it:
- Content marketing: After creating a content calendar, you can set a checkpoint for every week when a new blog post is published. Measure the number of views, shares, and comments each post receives. This will provide you with immediate feedback on what topics resonate with your audience, which can guide your future content creation.
- SEO optimization: After identifying high-volume keywords and incorporating them into your content, set a monthly checkpoint to monitor your site's SEO performance. Look specifically at your ranking for targeted keywords and organic traffic numbers. If you find that you're not making progress, it might be time to reassess your keywords or SEO strategy.
- Targeted ad campaigns: For your ad campaigns, it would be beneficial to set a monthly checkpoint. Monitor key metrics such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and overall traffic from ads. If your ads aren't generating the expected results, it could indicate that they need to be better tailored to your target audience or that the budget needs to be adjusted.
Through these checkpoints, you can regularly measure and evaluate your progress toward your SMART goal. Doing so will allow you to stay on target, make necessary adjustments, and celebrate your progress. Remember, the process of reaching your goals should be dynamic and adaptable, not rigid. Regularly assessing your progress will help you be confident you're moving in the right direction and getting closer to achieving your goal.
Once you have achieved a goal, take a moment to celebrate your success! This could be a small personal celebration or a larger team event, depending on the scale of the goal.
The celebration provides a reward for your hard work and serves as motivation for achieving future goals.
Here are a few ways you could celebrate:
- Take a moment to reflect on the work you've done and the progress you've made. Write down what you've learned and how you've grown during the process.
- Share your success with your team or organization. This can be done through an email update, a highlight in a team meeting, or a post on the company's social media channels.
- Reward yourself or your team with a treat, an outing, or a small gift. This can help reinforce the connection between hard work and positive outcomes.
Remember that celebrating your successes is not just about marking the completion of a task; it's about recognizing the hard work, dedication, and perseverance that went into achieving the goal. On top of just feeling good, this positive reinforcement helps establish a pattern of setting and achieving SMART goals, which will serve you well in all areas of life.
It's never too late to recommit to your New Year's resolution mid-year—or to establish goals for that marketing campaign. Here's to your renewed resolution and/or your next successful campaign!
About the author
Brooke Master was formerly the Content Marketing Coordinator at SmartBug Media. Brooke played a key part in executing multi-channel campaigns and programs at scale to increase inbound customer acquisition and engagement, and grow pipeline generation. Her passion as a woman in business is not only in marketing avenues but also for ministries and churches worldwide. Read more articles by Brooke Master.