How To Set SMART Goals & Achieve Them

If I could list all of the things businesses get wrong about planning their growth, you’d be in for quite the ride. However, some of the most common issues would be right at the top because they occur time and time again. One of the most apparent is the lack of strong goal setting, which is not only detrimental to your business right now, but also damaging to your future.

Setting goals seems straightforward enough, right? You pick things you know you want your business to achieve, then write them down. Six months down the line, however, you realise you’ve strayed way too far from the goals and have no real means of tracking or managing them.

SMART goals are, in my opinion, the most superior option for growth planning. An acronym representing ‘Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound’, SMART goals give you targets that aren’t just something you strive for – they’re realistic steps you can tangibly move towards and measure the results of.

Let’s break it down to distil what a smart goal really offers:

Specific

When setting a goal, make sure it has a specific deadline and output. Speaking in general terms is banned - you can’t have a vague goal like ‘I want to increase sales’. Instead, focus on something more specific like ‘I want to increase my site’s cart conversion rate’

Measurable

Assign clear measurement metrics to your goals. Again, vague ideas like ‘engagement’ aren’t relevant - you need specifics such as site visits, cart completions, conversions etc. Taking the above example, you’d assign a metric such as ‘Increase my site’s cart conversion rate to 50%’.

Attainable

Goals should be ambitious but achievable. Don’t go too big - set goals that you can see yourself realistically managing in the given time frame. Sticking with our cart conversion example, for this to work effectively, you’ll need to know your current cart conversion rate and assign a metric that is an attainable and reasonable increase on your current conversion rate.

Relevant

Goals must be relevant to your wider business purpose. If you push ahead with a goal around cart conversions when your wider business is focusing on marketing and building brand awareness, you may be in conflict with the rest of your team.

Time-bound

Create deadlines for goals and don’t let them stretch into the impossible ‘someday in the future’. Real, time-limited goals are more motivating and useful for a business. Sometimes you can even set multiple time milestones, which can be especially useful in the digital space since you can generally retrieve metrics for each period to see what level of marginal gains you’re making. I always suggest setting an annual goal with 90 day chunks at which point you’ve allowed enough time to reassess whether your tactics to increase the cart conversions are working.

How to set SMART Goals

Setting SMART goals relies on understanding what they are – but now that we’ve covered that, it’s all about getting your own mindset focused on each part of the SMART acronym. One of the best ways to do that is to translate a goal you already have in mind into the SMART goal system.

Take a look at the table below. In it, you’ll see some prompts for each part of the SMART goal method. Consider your goal, then fill out the empty section of the template to dissect the goal. Once you’ve done that, we’ll move on to putting it all together.

Once you’ve ‘dissected’ your goal through these questions, you should have a far more focused mindset. Use this to create the ‘Final Goal Statement’ that summarises the SMART Goal.

Taking our earlier example, you’d have changed your goal from ‘I want to increase sales’ to a SMART goal stating: ‘By 31st Dec 2023, increase cart conversions to 50%.’

How to achieve SMART goals

Setting SMART goals is a good start in your productivity journey, but they don’t really mean anything if you don’t stick to them. While their very concept is about creating goals you CAN achieve, the reality is that businesses move quickly and you can easily lose sight of those goals.

My advice would be to treat your goals as a project. Like any other project in a business, that means planning in time to action parts of the goal, scheduling reviews of progress and having specific team members delegated to tasks associated with it.

So taking our example of ‘By 31st Dec 2023, increase cart conversions to 50%’, I would create a project dedicated to this goal in my project / task management system broken down with clear ownership and deadlines. This may mean, for example:

  • A task for your copywriter to review the copy on your cart checkout page to ensure it’s persuasive and a complete ‘no brainer’ for the potential customer to input their card details in Month 1.
  • A task for your web developer to implement those copy changes to your cart checkout page in Month 1.
  • A task for your marketing person to record the cart conversion rate at the end of each month.
  • A task for you to review the conversion rate at the end of Q1 to see if those copy changes have made a positive impact on the conversion rate.

Doing that means you’ll have your SMART goals as a core part of your business journey. Rather than having the goal written down somewhere or emailed between your team, you’ll all be actively working to achieve it and each part of your workflow will have some reference to the goal in mind.

Things don’t always go to plan and that’s okay. While SMART goals are great tools, they are just tools and can be abandoned or pivoted if circumstances change. As a leader in your organisation, your role is to pursue the goal as best you can but also to embrace critical thinking and reprioritise when necessary.

What Next?

Of course, it’s not always easy to do this kind of internal work. When you’re busy doing your day-to-day tasks, setting SMART goals may feel like a chore. That’s where I can come in - helping you to lead your business forward by acting as a Fractional Director of Operations. I’ll work with you (and your management team) to set SMART goals and the associated plan to achieve them, freeing you and your team up to focus on output. Contact me today if you’d like to know more.

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Pragmatic BFF

The Email Newsletter for ambitious and visionary entrepreneurs, who need a down-to-earth best friend. Sign up to get fortnightly, actionable insider advice and tips delivered straight into your inbox. Designed to help you successfully scale with sanity and focus. Always keeping it simple, created to make sure you avoid common scaling mistakes, and it’s FREE.

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