Setting actionable marketing goals using this SMART exercise is perfect for marketers, like you, to figure out how to set achievable goals for your team—and reach them.
Planning is never easy for marketing teams, and in fact, most of us are such hit-the-ground-running-types, we tend to make goals without always ironing out all the finer details to achieve them. Oftentimes, metrics are used to measure the goals effectiveness once set in motion, but the planning part can get overlooked, or glossed over, in the heat of the moment to get a campaign up and running.
Since it’s been so integral in getting our client's major growth strategies in place, we thought we’d share it with you. SMART can help you in a variety of settings, which is what makes it so cool; it’s flexible and malleable— a marketer’s dream. Throughout this post, we’ll dive into what makes SMART tick, and how you can apply it to your long- or short-term strategies.
What’s SMART all about?
Good question. Let’s head back in a time a bit. The SMART goal exercise has been around since the early ‘80s, so this isn’t something new per se, but applying it to marketing goals and initiatives is something new.
FUN FACT: “Its criteria are commonly attributed to Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives concept. The first known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. Since then, Professor Robert S. Rubin (Saint Louis University) wrote about SMART in an article for The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.”
According to its acronym, SMART breaks down to the following:
To be clear, many have criticized SMART for not including ‘feedback’ in its structure. Some go-getters have expanded it to SMARTER goals, which includes: Evaluated and Reviewed, something to consider if this is an important part of your goal’s structure.
Now, let’s get into how you can use it and apply it realistically to your goal.
How to Get Started, SMART
Starting with step one, the best way to get going is to start with summarizing your goal, according to our friends at Hubspot. Sometimes this can be challenging, so if we head back to the roots of SMART, ask yourself the five W’s to get a better picture. Let’s use us as an example:
WHO: 41 Orange Team
WHAT: We want to accomplish 3-times the growth this year than our prior years in business.
WHERE: We want to tap into markets beyond San Diego, Calif.
WHICH: The resources we require will include hiring talented staff to support our growth goals, such as strategists and designers.
WHY: This goal is important to us here at 41 Orange because we want everyone to see the benefits of Inbound Marketing Models and great UX design, and we want to become the go-to agency for this service.
Here are some ideas from Smart Insights on (S)pecific Objectives you can set that may be different than ours here at 41 Orange:
“Digital channel contribution objective. Achieve 10% online revenue contribution within two years.
Acquisition objective. Acquire 50,000 new online customers this financial year at an average cost per acquisition (CPA) of £30 ($39) with an average profitability of £5 ($6).
Conversion objective. Increase the average order value of online sales to £42 ($54) per customer.
Engagement objective. Increase active customers purchasing at least once a quarter to 300,000 in a market (a hurdle rate metric)”
Remember, having a measurable goal means you have a timeline to achievement. Otherwise, it’s not a goal: It’s a pipe dream and everything will go up in smoke without measurable milestones to get you from A to Z.
For instance, at 41 Orange, we have monthly revenue goals which ladder up to our 3X growth by August 2018. Our friends at Hubspot offer this handy template to help you quantify the actual time it’ll take to achieve it. Oftentimes, it’s helpful to ask yourself: How will I know this goal is actually completed?
Let’s use another real-life example to see this step in action. The HR staff at M.I.T offer the following example, which we find helpful in understanding how to accomplish this step:
- “The first Friday of every month, solicit updates and new material from our department's managers for the web page.
- Publish this new material no later than the following Friday.
- Each time new material is published, review our department's web page for material that is out-of-date, and delete or archive that material.”
(M)easure: On the second Friday of every month, the team sits down to ask itself:
- Were updates solicited on schedule?
- Was the web page updated on schedule?
(These are both yes or no questions.)
(A)chievable: Another way to view this goal is, is it attainable? For instance, at 41 Orange, we had to ask ourselves in this step: Can we do this 3X marketing goal with a small staff? The answer was no. We worked hard this year to find more account strategists to help us take the load off so, as founders, we could focus more on attaining new clients, awareness outreach and other business development projects.
Smart Insights posits you should also ask yourself of your goal:
- How can I accomplish this goal?
- How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?
For instance, TheBalance.com offered a similar SMART marketing goal example that’s similar to ours at 41 Orange, except they portray how important it is to cull down your goal into a more-specific one:
Broad Goal: I want to grow my business.
Specific: I will acquire three new clients for my consulting business.
Measurable: I will measure my progress by how many new clients I bring on, while maintaining my current client base.
Attainable: I will ask current clients for referrals, launch a social media marketing campaign and network with local businesses.
Relevant: Adding additional clients to my business will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.
Time-Based: I will have three new clients within two months.
SMART Goal: I will acquire three new clients for my consulting business within two months by asking for referrals, launching a social media marketing campaign and networking with local businesses. This will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.
See how the broad marketing goal was swiftly culled into a SMART Goal by doing this simple exercise? Also, notice under attainable (what we call achievable, by the way), there’s specific projects attached that ladder up to measurable? These are highly tangible things you’re going to actually do to move the needle. This step helps you begin to turn a broad or loose marketing goal into a SMART one.
Much like The Balance’s example, we too are launching similar projects to promote our 3X growth. Part of that will be a social media campaign, hiring new employees, and this blog post is also part of it! This is our first toe-dip into our SMART goal.
(R)elevant: This step is a rather reflective step. It’s basically asking yourself: Is this even a goal we should think about? For instance, in our case, we asked ourselves quite frequently, does this 3X goal align with our broader goals for the agency itself? We decided: Yes! We knew we wanted to grow, and push ourselves as hard as we could to attain this type of growth. But the question was always: when?
We thought about this goal for years when we first launched 41 Orange, and we often told ourselves, the time isn’t right because of the young age of our company and its capabilities. Now that we have navigated those more trying early years, righted our ship, as it were—we’re sailing confidently; ready to test the waters further by challenging ourselves with this robust goal!
(T)ime Bound: As we have already shared, we’re seeking a one-year timeline to completing our goal. We felt this gave us enough wiggle room to learn as we grow. We’re eager to experiment, trial-and-error and continue to learn throughout this year of growth, but we’re excited to do so.
TrackMaven.com provides a good example of how Time plays into your SMART goal. For example, they write, if your goal is to increase brand engagement, “set deadlines for when these goals should be achieved,” in this step of the SMART exercise. In TrackMaven.com’s example, they set the following time-related SMART Goal: “Get at least five retweets per tweet sent out on blog posts by March 1, 2017.”
Now that we’ve run through what SMART means, it’s background, and how to actually perform a SMART exercise, we’d love to share some great insights from Kissmetrics. They interviewed several C-Level marketers from great companies and startups around the world, and each marketer offered a truth-laden grain of guidance that can not only help you on your path to setting SMARTer goals, but can actually help you understand why some of the goals we set fall flat.
For instance, Shanelle Mullin at Onboardly smartly notes: “Take the time to really understand your growth levels to date. If you run a popular blog and traffic has increased by 8-10% for the last four months, you know that a 12-15% month-over-month increase in blog traffic is a challenging yet attainable goal. Don’t be the startup that shoots for 20% or the startup that considers anything above 8% a win.”
We also love what Courtney Seiter at Buffer has to say about experimentation, something that makes a company go from good to great, a fact compounded by a recent study on this phenomenon by MIT and Deloitte. They determined that companies that experiment have greater successes, retention and revenue outcomes. Here’s what Seiter had to offer about content-driven SMART goals at Buffer:
“Have a hypothesis. We love testing and experimenting at Buffer, and we try to go into each new marketing goal with as much information as possible. We talk through what we want to change and why, study past patterns, perform audits, and consider all the possibilities. When you’ve done all the groundwork, it’s easier to have a good idea of what you think will happen as an ideal outcome.”
So, are you ready to get going on your SMART Goals? Here’s a handy worksheet to get you started: