I almost didn't write a post about SMART goals for marketing because the term has been around for a long time and some readers will dismiss it, thinking, I've heard all of this before.
However, that's exactly why I think this post is so important.
It is one thing to be aware of SMART goals, but another thing to actually put them into place.
So let's start with an overall definition and then work through all the elements of a S-M-A-R-T goal to see how they apply to your business.
And we've got a free download for you at the end of the article to made SMART goal adoption as frictionless as possible.
What are SMART goals for marketing?
SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focussed, and Time-bound.
We love them because they keep us on track and have measurement and accountability built into their structure.
It’s impossible to procrastinate or wiggle your way out of your SMART goals – so they are perfect for keeping your strategy on track.
And this is the frustration about SMART goals. We all know they make sense but humans generally don't like being held accountable, so the fact that you're reading this now means that deep inside you know you want to be smart with your time from now on, so let's do it together!
But we'll start by looking at what each of these categories means in detail.
PS If you're pushed for time, pause now and return when you have no distractions so you can make every moment count.
SMART Goals: Specific
Specific means you can’t simplify them any further; they are a single unit of achievement.
For example, almost every business or organisation would have three overarching goals:
- To sell more products or services
- To raise brand awareness
- To become a thought leader in their field
These are very useful as broad goals to give you some direction at the very top of your goal hierarchy (most businesses don’t even define these), but you need to go further to develop an effective digital marketing strategy.
Let’s take the first one and turn it into a specific goal.
- Let's choose products in this example
- Start by listing what your products are and, yes, we need to list them all because this will direct the rest of our strategy
- If we choose product or widget 1, we need to start by identifying where are we selling it? Online, in-store, door to door, all of these? We need to be specific
- We can now choose to focus on online sales of widget 1
- So our first step in this process will be to focus on selling more widget 1s in our online store
SMART Goals: Measurable
There is no point making a goal if it is not measurable, ie, if you have no way of measuring whether or not your goal has been achieved.
So if we want to sell more of widget 1 in our online store, we need to know precisely how many widget 1s we are selling.
But more than that, we need to know how, when, where, and why we are selling them (or not selling them) if we want to improve our sales.
So, at this stage, you need to detail how you are going to measure these sales and gather this intelligence. Let's look at some typical options.
If you have an online store, this should be relatively easy to measure either via Google analytics, the inbuilt store analytics, email notifications, CRM links, spreadsheet, bank account etc.
How did you sell them?
This is also pretty easy to measure with google analytics and UTM tracking (ask us about our UTM guide and free downloadable template for more information).
You want to know whether it was Ad 1 with the fancy photo or Ad 2 with the video, or Facebook Post 1, or Google Ad 3 or review blog post 2 etc, that made the sale.
You need to be organised to make this work, but it’s essential if you are going to improve.
NOTE: This is often where small businesses get stuck. There are some technical hurdles in getting this online measurement right. Ask us about our Measurement Fundamentals package so we can give your measurement efforts a solid foundation.
When did you sell them?
Was there a specific event or media article that drove sales? Were they all purchased on a Thursday? Or all after 11 pm?
These trends can be great information because they let you know when the best time to promote your product is and so can save you both money and time (no point advertising on Monday of you only sell on Thursday).
Where did you sell them?
We have already defined that we are selling these online but was there a particular page or product listing that worked better than others?
Does a product page with a video sell more than a page with an image? Is a red button better than a green one?
You can test this by using split testing on your product page.
There are lots of products and plugins that use this. Google even has a free tool called Google Optimize that links directly to your analytics.
Why are you selling them?
What are the top reasons people are buying widget 1?
Wouldn’t this be good to know so that you can advertise more effectively?
It’s pretty easy to measure if you have a well-organised strategy. The tools you can use for this are:
- UTM tracking (ask us about our UTM guide and free downloadable template for more information). You can track which ad message (AKA reason for purchase) was the most effective and do more of that messaging
- Google search console – you want to use search console to see what people are searching for when they come to your site
- AdWords – if you use AdWords, you can see which search terms result in the best clickthroughs and conversions
- Your website – if you use Google Analytics on your website and have goals enabled for widget 1 sales, along with a goal value and funnel setup, you can see which pages on your site are the most effective sales pages, the content of those pages will help you understand the “why” of customer purchases.
This all sounds complicated, but if you map it out and take one product at a time, you will gain incredible insights into what works and what doesn’t so that you can improve your marketing.
SMART Goals: Achievable
There is nothing more de-motivating than constant failure, so you need to make sure your goals are realistic within your budget and resources.
It’s better to exceed a goal or to almost get there than to fail!
How do you know what’s achievable? This depends on two factors.
- What do you need to achieve? How many widget 1’s do you need to sell to make a profit? This is a good starting point for an achievable goal because it provides a bit of a health check for your business and later an excellent benchmark to keep track of.
- What’s realistic? If what’s realistic doesn’t achieve point 1 (what you need), then you know you have a problem and need to go back and assess your product. This is about separating your desires from the reality of your situation. Most people want to make millions of dollars but will this product do that for you in the next two months? Use critical thinking about your own business and products. If what’s realistic is well beyond what you need to break even then this becomes a good candidate product for you to invest time into increasing sales.
SMART Goals: Results-focussed
Your goals need to be centred on the results, not your activities and efforts or how many people like your content.
It is very common for us to see business owners patting themselves on the back for getting lots of comments on a Facebook post, or lots of traffic to their site, but these are almost meaningless if you don’t sell any of widget 1 as a result.
Of course comments, likes, and traffic are good indicators that what you are doing is resonating with your audience, like staying inside the lanes on the road, but they are not the destination or the goal – they are only indicators.
Your goals need to be about actual results – how many widget 1s did I sell. We’ve discussed how to measure this above.
SMART Goals: Time-bound
This is how smart goals keep you on track.
You need to give yourself a realistic timeframe in which you aim to achieve your goals. e.g. Increase online sales of widget 1’s to 200 per week by the end of October 2020.
This approach does several positive things for your strategy:
- It gives you a reference point for developing your content calendar (ask us about our content calendar guide) because you know when you need to create your content, Ads and promotion materials to achieve your goals
- It gives you an easy way to manage your resources. Rather than drop a goal because you are too busy, you can delay it until you have a free slot in your content calendar.
- It gives you a clear cut-off at which point you can assess the success of your efforts. You may decide to drop that product if, despite all your efforts, you can’t reach break-even, or you may decide this is the product you can spend more money promoting because you can see that it pays off.
Remember, SMART goals need to be realistic, so you need to give yourself a realistic amount of time to achieve them.
So there you have it, once you have completed your marketing research (ask us about our guide) you should be in a position to make some specific, measurable, achievable, results focussed and time-bound goals for your business.
Once you have these goals, it’s time to move onto fleshing out your customer personas (ask us about our free guide) and making your content calendar (ask us about our free guide).
Download our SMART goals template to get started? Email [email protected] and we'll send it to you.