How to Set SMART Goals

Do you know how to set SMART goals? This image shows the acronym for organizing your goals.

Do you set SMART goals?

Goals: we all have them. We all want to make more money, have more time for family, and to better our daily lives. But are the goals you set SMART? No, I don’t mean is it a goal that you should be pursuing. What I mean is, are you setting SMART goals?

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that means: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. First coined by George Doran, these five elements will help you to understand your goal, what steps you need to take to achieve your goal, whether you are successful, and they set the pace for your advancement towards your goal.

S is for Specific

The first thing your goal needs is to be as specific and narrow as possible. If you make your goal narrow, the ambiguity of your actions begins to clear up and you start to fully understand what your goal really is. So if your goal is to grow your business this month and make more sales, you might ask yourself:

  • How much business do I need to feel like my business has grown?
  • You might narrow down the idea of growth to one product or service, so you may want to sell one or two more of a specific widget or service.

The idea of narrowing down the specifics is to set a course towards your larger goal. The more specific your goal, the better idea of how to proceed you will have.

M is for Measurable

Once you’ve built a specific goal, it’s time to make sure it’s measurable. Consider your goal and ask yourself how will you know if you have achieved your goal. For example:

  • How many units do I need to sell?
  • How many subscribers do I need to sign-up?
  • How much traffic volume do I want to increase?

Once you decided that a goal is measurable, and what success looks like, you should also have a means of measurement. For sales volume goals, this is fairly easy…are you selling more this month than last? For traffic volume goals you need your current stats and to run analytics in the coming months to measure traffic flow.

The most important thing about a measurable goal is that you know what you need in order to achieve success, and have a means to measure your progress.

A is for Achievable

Once you have a specific goal you need to ask yourself whether that goal is realistically achievable. No one ever felt great about themselves for failing to meet a goal. So it’s imperative to your expectations that your goal be reasonable. Everyone wants business growth, but most successful businesses experience growth in increments and persistence is the key to success and happiness.

So what does an achievable goal look like?

Let’s say you sold 15 widgets last month, 13 the month before, and only 10 the month before that. You’re experiencing monthly growth of about 2-3 widgets every month. A realistic goal is to say that within 6 months you want to grow your widget sells to between 27-30 widgets.  You’ve already proven that you can grow your business by 2-3 units of widgets every month, so a 6 month goal that aims to keep that growth pace up is a reasonable goal. It may even be reasonable to assume for further growth and give yourself a slight larger monthly unit goal of 5-6. Doubling sales is not unheard of and is a worthy goal. Where you might be setting yourself up for failure is setting goals of 1000% growth- let your past experience with your product/service be your guide on what is reasonable and unreasonable.

R is for Relevant

Relevance is a little bit of a harder step in the S.M.A.R.T. goal process, because it requires you to not only understand your short term goal, but it requires you to understand your long term goals and to evaluate whether your current actions fit into the big picture. So if your current goal is to grow your business, and we’ve narrowed down our specific goal to be to increase the sales of a certain widget, then you can evaluate whether your plan of action is relevant to that goal.

For example, to boost your widget sales you decide to use social media marketing to advertise your widget. You’re tempted to dump your budget into three social media streams: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but maybe you want to take a look at your current social media engagement. It could be that Facebook has shown a greater return of investment when you advertise your widgets there over Instagram or Twitter. It would be more relevant to your specific goal to spend more money on a stream that has proven to bring you more sales.

In examining relevance to your long term goal, you might even decide that the widget you originally wanted to promote isn’t going to do much for your bottom-line in the long run. If that’s the case, you might decide to focus on another service all together.

Time is for Time-Based.

Of course, every goal needs a timeframe for completion.  By creating an end date you can develop a schedule for completing the steps required for your success. I’ve found that understanding what I want to do and when I want it done by, I’m better able to plan my day so that my prioritized goals aren’t drowned out by other business matters which don’t serve those goals.

Another good thing that making your goal time-based does is help you to refine your goals. If you don’t hit your goals, a timeframe will give your ideas about what went wrong. It could be that your timeframe was too tight, your goal was too unrealistic, or it might reveal how much time you waste on a daily basis. By being critically honest about why our goal didn’t work out, we can better assess what we need to do in order to fix it, go back and start over, and apply the lessons we learned.

SMART goals don’t assure you of success, but they help!

I believe in planning. Marketing is more than the ability to create pretty graphics and websites that look like professional websites. Marketing is about being goal-oriented, and the only way I know to write a goal is to understand what I’m trying to do in the most specific way possible.

I didn’t invent the S.M.A.R.T. method of setting goals. It’s a time-honored, tried-and-true, means of setting up successful marketing campaigns. (It’s also the best way to approach project management, but that’s a story for another day.) If you aren’t running your goals through the S.M.A.R.T. checklist, maybe it’s time that you start.

Jason Usher

Jason has been studying design and web programming for over 10 years. He's a big fan of brand-oriented design with an emphasis on value for value growth. When he is not neck-deep in market research, he enjoys photography, time with his wife and kids, and a good movie.

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