Goal setting is an integral part of any successful business. Without goals, you and your team will drift aimlessly from one project to the next, wasting time and effort along the way.
But setting goals can be difficult because it's hard to know where to start and what types of goals are realistic or helpful for your business.
Luckily, there's a handy framework that does a lot of the heavy lifting associated with effective goal setting. Let us introduce you to the SMART goal system.
What Are SMART Goals?
One of the most critical aspects of setting and achieving goals is having a plan.
Without a plan, it’s hard to know where to start and even more difficult to stay on track. Many different goal-setting tools and systems are available, but the SMART system is one of the most popular and helpful due to its ease of implementation.
SMART is an acronym that stands for the following:
A specific goal is much more helpful than a nebulous one. Specific goals are easier to communicate, track, and measure for success.
If you can’t measure progress toward your goal, how will you know when you’re done? How can you plan for the effort that’s required to accomplish your goal?
Setting a goal that you will never be able to achieve isn’t a productive goal-setting exercise. Ensure that your goals are actually within your (or your team’s) grasp.
Your goal must be relevant to the business and the goals of the team involved. If the goal isn’t relevant, why are you dedicating time and energy to it?
A goal without a deadline doesn’t have the same motivating urgency as one with a looming due date.
The SMART system is a helpful framework for setting goals because it ensures that each goal aspect is considered and that each goal you set is truly useful and productive.
It enables a repeatable method for both setting and achieving any goal you desire for yourself or your business.
SMART Goals in Action
Let’s take a look at the SMART goal-setting framework in action.
Here are a few examples of goals that aren’t very SMART.
Let’s increase the average amount of money that our customers spend by upselling everyone on a high-margin product.
Most of our marketing emails generate a good amount of sales, so let’s send more emails.
Advertising costs are getting out of control. We need to spend less on advertising, but we can’t sacrifice sales.
These statements demonstrate real business objectives that teams could be working toward.
But knowing what we know about the SMART framework, we can immediately see that these goals are pretty vague and aren’t as actionable as they could be. If we rephrase these same statements using the SMART framework, we can see how much more concrete they become:
To increase overall store revenue, let’s increase the average order size in our store by at least 15% by the end of the year using a selection of upsells offered to each customer.
To increase the revenue associated with our email program, we need to double the number of marketing emails we send on a monthly basis.
To keep our advertising costs under control, we need to invest more in the ads that meet our cost criteria while getting rid of the ads that are underperforming, before the end of the next quarter.
The SMART goals provide context to demonstrate how the goal is relevant to business objectives, specific ways to accomplish specific results, and a time-bound basis by which these goals need to be completed.
These specific goals also contain measurement mechanisms and are reasonably achievable by each team.
Tips for Making SMART Goals Work for Your Business
SMART Goals Are for Small Steps, Not Big Finishes
Since each aspect of your goal requires oversight, using the SMART framework to achieve a "big" goal is unrealistic. Instead, make sure to break your goal down into smaller, more manageable steps.
Many entrepreneurs tend to overcomplicate their goals by looking at the wrong level of detail.
For example, if you want to increase sales by 20% this year, start by making a SMART goal that details how many more products you’ll need to sell on a monthly basis. Creating a path through the SMART framework that gets you an increase of 10 extra sales this month is easier to focus your efforts on and easier to track and manage.
By breaking down your goal into smaller, more manageable steps, you'll be able to stay on track and reach your end goal.
Make Sure Your Goals Are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
This might sound redundant, but fudging the framework elements will make achieving your goals more difficult.
There's an elegance in the SMART methodology because it's so simple. If you feel as if your goal isn't hitting one or more of the key elements enough, you know to go back and evaluate what you're trying to achieve and how you'll go about doing it.
Allow Yourself a Timeline That’s Realistic and Manageable
One of the main things you need to do when setting goals is to make sure that the timeline for achieving them is realistic and manageable.
This means seeing a clear path to getting where you want to be without feeling overwhelmed or stressed. It's important not to set goals that are too ambitious or out of reach; this can lead to frustration and disappointment if they're not possible to achieve in the time frame you've set.
Measure Your Progress and Make Adjustments as Necessary
It's essential to keep track of your progress as you work toward reaching your business goals.
This way, you can adjust your plan as needed to ensure that you're moving in the right direction. If there are any bumps in the road, having a record of what went wrong will help you correct your course and reach your ultimate destination sooner rather than later.
Celebrate Small Victories Along the Way
We often only think about our end goal. However, it is important to celebrate the small achievements too, which can help us stay motivated and on track.
Here are some tips for celebrating small victories:
1) Make a list of everything you have accomplished so far in your goal-setting process. This can include things like writing down your goals, tracking your progress, and reaching mini goals along the way.
2) Be grateful for everything that has led you to this point. This can be as simple as appreciating your friends and family, taking a walk in nature, or simply taking some time for yourself. Practicing gratitude while working on your business goals helps to keep you centered and reduces stress.
3) Remember that goal setting is a process, not an event. Don't get discouraged if you don't reach your goal right away; it takes time and effort to achieve anything worthwhile. Persevere and be patient – the rewards will be worth it!
The Bottom Line
We all have goals, but not all goals are created equal. With some simple tweaks to the goals you are already making, you can effect a huge change in your ability to accomplish and communicate them, in your business as well as your personal life.
Megan Brame is a 5x award-winning content strategist whose content centers around helping others develop a better understanding of finance and marketing. Visit her online at www.bramecreative.com