Set and achieve SMART marketing objectives

Some marketers have become kings of generic goal-setting. Hiding behind buzzwords has replaced planning and actionable steps, leading to so many promising projects and creative ad campaigns positively failing to impress.

Related: Marketing mix definition, What is marketing?

Once again, we as marketers need to get SMART about our own objectives. The word ‘SMART’ however, refers to more than just raw intelligence in this case. It is a conveniently-worded acronym, designed to help project managers everywhere hone the forgotten art of goal planning.

For a marketing objective to qualify as SMART, it needs to be:

1. Specific

While wanting more visitors to your site is a laudable pursuit, statements like that are far too vague to build a solid foundation. Instead, work on removing ambiguity from your marketing objectives.

Limiting your goals in both scope and time is vital for measuring their effectiveness. Rather than proclaiming you need more traffic, delve into particularities. ‘I want 10% more visitors to my site over the next month’. This sort of accuracy allows for precise resource planning and lets you set relevant, actionable steps towards achieving your goals.

Ask yourself exactly what it is you’d like to accomplish. Everybody wants their business to be profitable. Increasing your market share by 15% over the next six months, however, makes it more than just an aspiration. It also works as a nifty internal compass, helping you quickly align all future business decisions with your pre-set company goals.

2. Measurable

Whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, you need to be able to track its progress. Saying you want to build a significant social media presence sounds cool, but how do you quantify that? If your goals are too broad to be measured, how will you even know when they’re completed?

Marketing objectives need specific milestones and KPIs. To that end, you should always make sure the goals you set are easily measurable. Saying you want to sell more e-books or seminars this month is not enough to determine the plan’s success. Aiming to sell 25% more e-books, on the other hand, lets you track your goal’s momentum, so you can quickly adapt and pivot if the results don’t add up.

3. Achievable

While setting an ambitious goal may motivate you and your team to work harder, it’s futile to go overboard. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your Instagram following.

Working towards attainable goals seems to be anti-entrepreneurial nowadays. And while the need to grow inhumanly fast is understandable, setting a goal with no basis in data or reality will only lower the team’s morale in the long run. If your landing pages historically convert between 2-4%, setting a goal of 100% growth within a month is either ridiculous or will require some serious resource reallocation.

4. Realistic/Relevant

Most marketers are divided on what the R in SMART actually stands for.

For some, it’s a reminder that you should always be realistic when setting your goals. While a target may be achievable, there may still be physical or financial constraints to seeing it through. Your team or your budget may be too small for you to grow 200% this quarter, even though data says you could. Being honest about your present capabilities and potential hurdles may mean settling for less than what feels within reach.

Others, however, feel the ‘R’ highlights the significance of relevant objective-setting. In other words, you should try to prioritise goals based on their current importance. Is now the best time to try and achieve this? Does it align with other goals the company’s striving for at the moment? Make sure your targets are worthwhile, more than just convenient.

5. Timely

Finally, every marketing plan should have a clearly-defined beginning and an end.

Deadlines are crucial for monitoring your goal’s success. Build a reasonable timeline of events for every objective, so you can easily schedule periodic check-ups.

If, for example, you want to increase your web traffic by 50% in 6 months, try to analyse your progress on a monthly basis so you can see the difference between expected and actual results. That way, you can make the necessary adjustments on time, rather than failing to hit your marks six months in and having to start everything from scratch.

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