Approximately 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  By the end of the second year, 30 percent of businesses will have failed. By the end of the fifth year, about half will have failed. These are some sobering stats!
Goal setting is the backbone of an effective inbound marketing strategy. Goals help us prove how successful we are, provide focus, and push us to succeed. And while we know how important goals are to measure our success, far too many small business owners don't keep track of their business goals, putting them on the path to failure.
"A goal is a dream with a deadline." ~Napoleon Hill
Perhaps that's because goal setting can be one of the most difficult things we have to do as marketers. While we all have hopes of what we want to accomplish with our marketing and business, that's not enough. We also must ensure that our goals are grounded in reality and can be used as benchmarks for future strategies and plans. This is where SMART marketing goals come into play.
First, let's tackle what a SMART marketing goal is. A SMART goal is:
SMART goals are a way of creating targets for your marketing strategy and business that align with your objectives, provide a clear timeline, and are achievable.
Now that you know what the acronym stands for, let's address why each element is equally important to consider in your goal setting.
Your goals should be specific enough to check off a to-do list. A general goal can get you started in determining where you want to focus your efforts, but it would be a challenge to check "I want more visitors to my website" off a to-do list. Does one new visitor count? How about two? Set a goal with real numbers that are specific enough to track.
Example of a specific goal: I want to get more website traffic.
Make sure your goal is measurable. Something quantifiable with an attached metric. Numbers are your friend here. Consider any statistics you're already tracking in your marketing efforts and use them as a baseline for measuring your goals.
Example of a measurable goal: I want to increase website traffic by 30%.
Avoid ambiguous terms like "brand engagement" and "social influence" as you craft your goals. While they can be facets of your overall marketing plan, using hard-to-measure metrics in your goal-setting will make it impossible to set and accomplish your goals.
Your goals should be challenging but realistic. While you likely have long-term goals for your business, your SMART goals should be short-term steps to help you reach those larger goals. Consider your baseline statistics as you make sure your goals are attainable. If you've seen a 3% increase in website traffic each month, setting a goal for a 30% jump in a short time span might be unattainable.
Example of an attainable goal: I want to increase website traffic by 5-10%.
Attainable goals also help you experience success quicker, giving you the stamina to stay the course for those larger goals. And if you are in a larger organization, this also helps you share successes with your leadership team.
Be honest with yourself about your long-term business plans. Your SMART goals should directly support your long-term marketing. It can be easy to get carried away with goal setting and brainstorming how your marketing team can contribute to your company's success, but rein in your enthusiasm to ensure that your goals actively contribute to your organization's current focus.
Example of a relevant goal: I want to increase traffic to our website by 10% to establish our reputation as a trusted industry leader.
Give yourself a deadline for your goal. Setting a time limit to accomplish your goal adds accountability, which will help make sure your goal gets met. A timeline also allows you to monitor your progress and adjust your goal accordingly. If you're halfway to your deadline and have already almost met your goal, you can set a stretch goal to see if you can accomplish even more.
Example of a time-bound goal: I want to increase traffic to our website by 10% within 6 months to establish our reputation as a trusted industry leader.
Setting SMART goals will not only ensure that you're striving for something achievable for your business but will also allow you to more accurately measure your inbound marketing success and determine whether you are reaching your goals.
EXPERT TIP: People who write down their goals are 50% more likely to reach them. So, if you really want to focus on tracking your goals and determining success, write it down somewhere you will see it every day. Even better, share your SMART goals with other teams or stakeholders in your organization. You may inspire them to set their own SMART goals!
Another EXPERT TIP: Tying your SMART goals back to your buyer personas will ensure you stay focused on your customer's pain points in your inbound strategies and goals!
Using the inbound marketing methodology as you develop your SMART marketing goals can help you set and meet goals that organically build your business. Here are some buyer persona templates to get you started.