How to Make Your Goals Achievable by being SMART

Managing your projects without having defined the goals is like walking in the dark. Utilize the SMART method to define Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based goals.

Definition and origin of the method

SMART Goals: Definition

SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

This method will help you set up appropriate goals to improve outcomes. You will then be able to implement an effective strategy by continuously improving your execution.

These goals must be clear and easy to understand by every stakeholder. SMART goals improve the likelihood of finishing projects on time and help you exceed expectations.

SMART goals apply in multiple areas such as marketing, management & project management.

Companies that set SMART goals can save money, time, and resources by anticipating issues, mitigating roadblocks, and optimizing resources.

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Origin of SMART Goals

This management method is described by Peter F. Drucker in 1945, in “The Practice of Management”. In his book, he asserts that you have to plan both qualitative and quantitative goals over a limited time frame.

He also highlighted the value employees bring in by setting precise goals specific to their tasks. SMART goals enable better time management and allow stakeholders to measure progress.

Who came up with SMART Goals?

It is George T. Doran that writes about the concept of SMART criteria. He shed light on the importance of goals and common issues when setting them.

George T. Doran defined SMART goals, their characteristics and spearheaded its adoption to project management, human resources, and marketing.

Why use SMART Goals?

SMART goals allow you to lay a solid and clear foundation setting you up on a path to success.

You’ll be more likely to meet and exceed expectations by assembling the right team and getting the resources you need.

Here are some benefits of SMART marketing goals for companies:

  • Improve communication between managers and employees
  • Better alignment across stakeholders improving efficiency across projects
  • Boost performance and improve outcomes
  • Optimal use of company resources
  • Measure execution and achievement

SMART marketing goals are also useful for employees:

  • Increase project understanding
  • A clear focus on what’s at stake
  • Drive employee engagement
  • Motivating and rewarding when goals are reached

How to use the SMART method?

SMART method: S for specific

Objectif smart - spécifique

The more specific your goal, the clearer the path to success: you’ll know what is needed to achieve the goal.

Elusive objectives are one of the main factors of mismanagement. Resources allocated may be insufficient or excessive -and counter-productive- if the goal is not clear enough.

Vague goals are dangerous because they can confuse your team and create misunderstandings.

Identify team members working towards this goal, their support system (tools, resources, etc.), and their action plan.

For example, if the goal is to increase web traffic by 20% this month. Who is responsible for that objective? How is he supposed to get that traffic increase?

Specific goals make the distribution of tasks clear. No one asks what to do or does someone else's job.

Let’s assume a CEO is creating that SMART objective for his Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The CMO would be responsible, and he would allocate resources (internal team and agency partner) to execute what needs to be done to reach that goal like improving website performance, technical Search Engine Optimization, content creation, structured data implementation etc.

On the other hand, if your purpose is to motivate and inspire your team, OKR objectives will be more suitable. Be careful, though, do not use them to evaluate and take action against your employees!

SMART method: M for measurable

méthode smart mesurable

The second criterion for SMART Goals is M for Measurable goals. So you can track and quantify the progress towards your goal.

Without it, you cannot know to what degree you achieved your goal.

Here is a not SMART goal example: "let’s improve our (online) reputation.” But, this is not a SMART goal because it is neither measurable nor specific.

A related SMART goal would be to “increase our number of subscribers by 30% within the next three months".

After three months, you will be able to see whether you have achieved your goal or not.

The added benefit is that you will also know if you need to put in more effort and resources to achieve your goal throughout the project.

To measure your team's progress, you need to quantify your goals.

Avoid the common pitfalls of not relying on Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to assess progress and improve outcomes.

SMART Method: A for achievable

objectif smart atteignable

Unrealistic goals are setting you up for failure and undermine team morale.

A stands for Attainable.

A SMART goal takes into account the team’s ability to achieve it and the resources available. If you have insufficient resources, you should adapt your plan.

For example, a presidential candidate may want to advertise in every state to get as many voters as possible. No candidate has enough resources to do that though, that’s why they focus only on key battleground states where the money they spend is “worth” more.

So ask yourself:

  • Can I achieve this goal?
  • Do I have sufficient financial and human resources?
  • Do I have the right skills?
  • Do I have enough time?

For marketing purposes, combine these questions with target understanding (Buyer personas & Jobs To Be Done), competitive analysis, and market research to optimize your goals and related strategies.

Another problem with unrealistic expectations is that it can be detrimental to what you are trying to achieve.

If your goal is to become a Youtuber and have a Million subscribers next month and start from scratch, you are in for a rude awakening when two weeks later, you still have less than ten subscribers.

SMART method: R for relevant

méthode smart pertinent (réaliste)

R for Relevant is about evaluating the relevance of your goals.

You have the resources and the time, but is the goal profitable for your company? Is this the right timing?

Analyze your situation, and ask yourself if your goal is relevant or not. Is it relevant for your company to increase your newsletter subscriptions? Ask yourself if this makes sense to you and your business?

The difference is that the "achievable" criterion identifies the time and resources required to achieve a goal. The “relevant” criterion analyzes the relevancy of a goal.

SMART method: T for time-based

objectif smart temporel

Improving on a goal is good. But if you don't have a limited amount of time to do it, you won't benefit from it. As Cyril N. Parkinson says, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Thus, setting a deadline for achieving a goal allows you not to waste time or money.

Having deadlines for your goals will put a fair amount of pressure on your team to achieve them. Or at least generate strong engagement. Time-based goals will help you make consistent and meaningful progress in the long term.

A goal must be clearly time-based to avoid spending more resources than necessary and wasting time. When a goal is reached, it should be profitable for your company.

The faster the goal is reached, the more profitable it will be. But, be careful, you have to take the time to achieve a goal, and not neglect it.

Not having a schedule can hinder correct prioritization or prevent you from seeing if your team is on track.

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Using SMART goals: Examples

Now you know how to set up SMART goals and why it's important to do so. We are going to provide you with some inspiration so that you can apply this method on your own. But before showing you a few examples, here are the steps to get you started:

State your goals: Be careful, this is not an intention, a goal has to be specific. The more time you spend on your goal, the more you will be able to achieve it quickly.

Set a deadline: Setting a deadline will keep you and your team on the go. All your efforts will be directed towards the same goal. These can be weekly, monthly, or year-round dates, it's up to you.

Identify obstacles: They can be external obstacles (competitors, markets, targets) or internal ones (lack of resources and management to rework). It is up to you to identify them and deal with them.

List the resources you need: What are the resources at your disposal to succeed in reaching your goal? These may be skills that you have, that one or more of your employees have, financial resources, material resources, etc.

Make a plan: Create a monitoring table. Join the people in charge, the resources, and the time that you need. Don’t forget to note your progress.

Example 1: Reach 50,000 unique visitors per month

By 2021, the company aims to reach 50,000 unique visitors per month, in order to gain more customers.

- Specific: increase the number of unique visitors to reach 50,000 per month.

- Measurable: thanks to the IP of Internet users, the company will be able to recognize its unique visitors. And thus convert them into customers.

- Achievable: This goal is achievable using SEO best practices like semantic cocoons and website optimization.

- Relevant: By increasing the number of unique visitors, the company will gain customers, and therefore sell more.

- Time-based: Over the next six months.

Example 2: Increase the conversion rate of prospects into customers

By 2021, the company wants to increase its conversion rate from prospects to customers by 50%. We will have to rethink the sales process and train teams in the new CRM.

- Specific: Increase the conversion rate of prospects into customers by 50%.

- Measurable: we can measure this goal by dividing the number of quotes signed by the number of quotes sent.

- Achievable: This goal will be achievable through an overhaul of the sales process. It will also be necessary to train the teams to use the new CRM.

- Relevant: By increasing the number of its customers, the company will be more profitable.

- Time-based: During the year 2021

Example 3: Increase the website conversion rate to 4%

Over the next six months, the company wants to increase the conversion rate of its website by 4%. This, thanks to the people who will identify themselves on the site through the subscription to the newsletter, for example.

- Specific: increase the number of people who will identify themselves on the site. By subscribing to the newsletter, downloading content, making appointments, or other.

- Measurable: This goal will be measured by the company using Webmecanik, a marketing automation tool.

- Achievable: Currently the company is at a 2% conversion rate after just getting started. She manages to convert despite the lack of downloadable content.

- Relevant: By identifying potential customers, thanks to the newsletter subscription, downloading content, etc. The company will be able to transform these prospects into customers, and therefore sell more.

- Time-based: Over the next 6 months.

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