Setting goals is setting yourself up for success. Goals keep us in the moment and in the game, keep us focused on our why, keep us working when it’s not so fun, when we’re feeling that grind.

But how do you set goals that actually work? How do you take them from nebulous to doable?

The answer?

SMART goals.

Listen to the audio now, or read the transcript below.

Read the transcript

This is Adam Fout with The Marketing Forge by Blue Steele Solutions, and this is part two of Marketing With Clarity and Confidence: Setting Goals.

Before we can dive in to the strategies and tactics that you’ll use in your marketing, I want to go through the process of goal setting, because every single thing that you do, whether it’s an overall strategy including numerous marketing methods, or a single tactic, something like sending an email, or posting on social media, I want to make sure you have a clear goal assigned to that activity.

Now if you haven’t done marketing up to this point, or if you haven’t been tracking your progress, or if you’ve never set clear goals before, these goals are going to be kind of a shot in the dark.

You’re going to take a guess at what’s possible and see how you actually perform, and you’re going to refine those goals as time goes on, so don’t be afraid if you’re brand new and you have no idea what to expect from your marketing efforts.

That’s okay! A lot of us are in that position, or have been in that position before. Everyone was in that position at some point. The goal-setting strategies we’re going to talk about will work for everyone, new or experienced.

Let’s jump into definitions. What are these goals we want to set anyway? At Blue Steele Solutions, we like to use SMART goals—we certainly didn’t come up with the idea of SMART goals, but they’ve been in use for years, and they’re awesome.

SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-bound.

S — Specific

Specific — there’s our S — means that we’re going to typically have some sort of number involved in our goal. This might be a percentage that we’re looking to achieve, and generally speaking, that number is related to some key performance indicator for our business. That number might be as simple as increasing revenue 10% for the year, or increasing customer satisfaction numbers by a certain amount, or simply increasing the number of leads or sales each year.

M — Measurable

Your goal will also have to be measurable — there’s our M.

A goal you can’t measure progress on is a goal that’s hard to hit. How will you know when you’ve reached the goal? Further, how will you know if the goal is enough? You might increase revenue, but if you don’t measure how much, the amount of increase might not be enough to sustain the growth you’re looking for.

Before you actually start working toward your goal, I want you to think:

“How am I going to measure progress?”

For example, if your goal is related to your website, then you need to have Google Analytics activated so you can see your progress toward your goal.

If you’re marketing on social media, then each social media platform will likely track how well your paid ads or boosted posts are performing.

If you have something that’s a little bit harder to track, like a billboard or a radio ad, and your goal is to get leads or sales from that marketing tactic, then you might need to implement a survey to see how people found you — this is another form of measurement.

Get tracking tools in place before you begin, and further, take some baseline measurements so you know where you’re starting from.

A — Agreed Upon

“A” is agreed upon, and I like this one a lot because it ensures we have consensus across teams.

Now you may be a team of one, and you may be just now starting your business. You don’t have a team that you meet or consult with, and that’s okay! You can still ask yourself if the goal is something that makes sense, that works well for your business, that supports your overall goals, that meets your “why,” your reason for being.

But if you do have a team, you need to make sure that you’re all working towards the same thing. If you all agree on the goal and have a cohesive plan and are working together, the goal is more likely to be accomplished.

This is important because it’s often the case that departments can be at odds with each other. Marketing and sales might have two very different expectations of how a campaign should be performing.

If you’re the marketer in this example, maybe you think that campaign you’re working on is only meant to expose a new audience to your brand, but if your sales manager is expecting to receive a hundred leads from you at the end of the campaign, then you guys have two very different goals in mind. Agreed-upon goals avoid fights and streamline success.

R — Realistic

That brings me to realistic — that’s R. it’s easy to create lofty, unreachable goals, or on the other end of the spectrum, goals that are so easy they’re basically worthless. Realistic goals meet in the middle.

If the goals we create for ourselves are just impossible to meet, then we’re going to get frustrated. We might even quit, even if we’re making progress.

On the flip side, if we make our goals too easy, then we’re never really pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.

When we talk about setting realistic goals, we like to recommend shooting for a 1% change of your key performance indicator. So that might be a 1% increase in leads generated, in social media post reach, in customer satisfaction, in open rates… you get the idea.

If you’ve been running marketing campaigns in the past, and you have some data to compare against, you’ll be able to easily set that number—1% over the previous campaign.

1% sounds really tiny, but if we’re thinking about individual tactics and strategies, and we’re just trying to achieve 1% better every single time that we run that tactic, you end up with significant improvement over time.

This works because that 1% is attainable. We don’t feel like it’s an impossible goal, but it’s also going to push us a little bit outside of our comfort zone. We’re not going to be so lax that we’re never improving what we’re doing.

T — Time-Bound

The final letter, T, is for time bound. A goal is no good if you don’t have a clear period of time during which you can work toward that goal.

So if your goal is to have a 50% click-through rate on your email campaign, and right now you have a 40% click-through rate on, and you’re sending that email one time per week, then maybe you give yourself 3 months to accomplish that task.

Now you may find that this is too easy or too hard, that you need to make the goal more aggressive or less aggressive, so start there and use the data you’re collecting to come up with something more realistic.

Some examples of key performance indicators that you might set goals around include: The number of interactions that you’re getting on social media every week, your open rate and your click-through rate for emails, your adspend on Google Adwords, leads generated on your website, your total number of sales, your monthly revenue… you get the picture.

A Little Warning

Now a little warning — it’s easy to start out with these goals, quickly get distracted, lose interest, lose momentum, and sort of abandon your goal tracking process.

To counter this, I want you to implement a schedule for yourself, a schedule of how often you’ll be following up and checking in on your goals, to see how you’re performing. On that schedule, you should also include how often and when you will reconsider or change your strategy based on the performance you’re seeing.

This is going to help you resist the urge to change the marketing tactic you’ve implemented right away if you see that something is not going exactly the way that you planned. It ensures the tactic has the chance to play out completely. It also shows you if you were just checking too soon and you hadn’t quite hit your stride on that strategy or tactic.

It’s easy, when we start getting into data and watching our stats, to get trigger-happy and start making changes too soon. But we also don’t want to just set and forget and never make a change. We need to strike a balance. We need to let the data accumulate so we can make smart decisions, so set yourself a schedule for each marketing tactic and decide how often you’ll be checking in and monitoring the progress of your goal.