Strategic goal-setting is integral to the growth of any business. From small-scale process enhancement to high-level performance improvement and company planning, at the heart of every strategic plan is a calculated goal. And one of the most popular tactics for achieving strategic plans is to use SMART goals.
You don’t read about many CEOs attributing success to their SMART goals, but once you’re familiar with the goal-setting framework, you’ll begin to see examples of it being used in every industry.
Today, we’ll explore how you can make your plan operational by defining actions and success metrics during the implementation phase by creating and measuring SMART goals.
How to Write SMART Goals
The strength of goal-setting comes from its relationship to developing a strategic plan. The sooner you set SMART goals, the more focused your implementation efforts will be.
SMART goals are concrete targets that you strive to achieve over a certain period of time. Let’s explore how the SMART goals framework helps you create meaningful goals.
Each SMART goal you create should have these five characteristics of its acronym to ensure it is attainable and benefits your strategic plan:
- Specific: target a specific area for improvement
- Measurable: quantify or suggest an indicator of progress
- Attainable: the goal should be possible to attain, not a pipedream
- Relevant: state whether the goal is relevant and in-sync with your overall business objectives
- Time-bound: specify the time you will achieve the specific results
With these characteristics defining your goals, you provide yourself and your team with a definitive destination and qualifiers for success. Let’s dive into why each facet is important for achieving your intended results.
SMART goals are specific in that there's a hard and fast target the employee is trying to reach. "Get better at my job," isn't a SMART goal because it isn't specific. Instead, ask yourself: What specifically are you getting better at? How much better do you want to get, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
For example, if you're a business manager, your job may revolve around key performance indicators (KPIs). Therefore, you might choose a particular KPI or metric you want to improve, like team sales numbers or increased sales phone calls. You should also identify the team members working toward this goal, the resources they have and their plan of action.
In practice, a specific goal might be, “I want to sell more software packages in the Midwest to increase cross-selling opportunities for the region.”
This way, you know exactly who’s involved and what you’re trying to improve. But it still requires more input to be a functional goal. Next, it needs to be measurable.
SMART goals should be measurable so you can track and quantify the goal's progress. “Sell more software packages” is not a SMART goal because you can’t measure it. Instead, ask yourself, how many packages do you need to sell to hit your goal?
If you want to gauge your team's progress, you need to quantify your goals, like achieving an X-percentage increase in sales at a regional, state or store-level.
Adding a KPI metric to our goal from above, you can state, “Individual teams need to increase sales by 5% in each state.”
This way, you can track the effectiveness of your goal, and should the need arise, pivot to support the facets which are in danger of not achieving the goal.
An attainable SMART goal considers the employee's ability to achieve it. Make sure that X-percentage increase is rooted in reality. For example, if sales increased by 5% last quarter, arbitrarily aiming to increase by a lofty 30% this quarter without any corresponding changes will likely backfire.
It's crucial to base your goals off of your own analytics, not just industry benchmarks, or else you might bite off more than you can chew.
Attainability also serves to motivate your team. If you propose a staggeringly high metric, you’ll likely discourage your team and lose buy-in on the goals.
SMART goals that are relevant relate to your company's overall business goals and account for trends in your industry. For instance, will growing your traffic from social media lead to more revenue? And is it actually possible for you to significantly boost your blog's social media traffic given your current email marketing campaigns?
If you're aware of these factors, you'll be more likely to set goals that benefit your company — not just you or your department.
So, what does that do to our SMART goal? It might encourage you to adjust the metric you're using to track the goal's progress. Maybe your business has historically relied on organic traffic for generating leads and revenue, and research suggests you can generate more qualified leads this way.
Our relevant qualifier for a SMART goal might instead say, “Increasing cross-selling opportunities aligns with our social media brand awareness push for our suite of services.”
This way, your sales increase is aligned with the business's revenue objectives.
A time-bound SMART goal keeps your plan on schedule. Attaching deadlines to your goals puts a healthy dose of pressure on your team. The key to high-level execution is consistent long-term progress and having the awareness to pivot at the right time.
Which would you prefer: increasing organic traffic by 5% every month, leading to a 30-35% increase in half a year? Or trying to increase traffic by 15% with no deadline and achieving that goal in the same time frame? If you picked the former, you're right.
Here’s an example of a SMART goal:
Specific: I want to increase the number of sign-ups for our Strategic Planning webinar by promoting it through social, email, our blog and LinkedIn InMail.
Measurable: A 15% increase in attendees is our goal.
Attainable: Our last webinar saw a 10% increase in sign-ups when we only promoted it through social, email and our blog.
Relevant: When our webinars generate more leads, sales has more opportunities to close.
Time-Bound: By April 10, the day of the webinar.
SMART Goal: By April 10, the day of our webinar, we'll see a 15% increase in sign-ups by promoting it through social, email, our blog and LinkedIn InMail.
In business, goal-setting that is SMART can make a huge difference in maintaining growth and momentum. Whether you run a modest department or a large corporation, make sure that you always make an effort to add these properties to the goals you set!
Using this framework, you’re on track to create a successful strategic plan. However, the execution and implementation of a strategic goal can be like balancing spinning plates. In order to track, report and align your implementation efforts, take a look at how MPOWR Envision can help open communication and ensure the successful achievement of strategic goals.