As you approach the end of another stressful quarter and approach budgeting season, the timing couldn’t be better to take a step back to establish clear goals for the month, quarter and year ahead. Establishing goals will provide you with a clear sense of direction, and can act as your strategic roadmap for what you should be focused on during your day-to-day job.
If you are managing a marketing team, it’s also a great time to set goals for your department and each individual staff member. Going through this exercise will keep your team members focused, motivated and accountable for their work. It will also provide you, as the team lead, with a framework upon which you can measure your team’s impact and progress towards company-wide strategic goals.
In fact, a recent study found that you can become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
When done poorly, however, goal-setting can also have an undesired negative effect. Setting lofty goals like “let’s win a marketing award this year” or “let’s double our leads” can leave your team feeling overwhelmed, confused and like their boss is out of touch.
Download the S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Goals Template
An easy-to-use, free spreadsheet template with step-by-step instructions.
That’s where SMART Goals come in. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. This keeps the goal much easier to digest and aligned with your business’s larger strategic objectives.
To help you align your marketing efforts with SMART goals, our friends at HubSpot built this easy-to-use marketing planning template, available for free, to download. It specifically helps you:
- Easily summarize your ultimate marketing goals
- Automatically calculate your greatest marketing need
- Set a deadline for meeting your annual, quarterly or monthly goals
What are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?
SMART goals are documented goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. They help to ensure that goals are both strategic invaluable, and can actually be achieved within a defined timeframe. Let’s break it down further:
- Specific – Make it crystal clear what you’re trying to achieve. Instead of “increase leads,” try “increase marketing qualified leads.” Instead of “increase visitors,” try “increase visitors from the persona Marketing Mary.”
- Measurable – This is how you know you’ve been successful. Use a metric that is the strongest indicator that you’re meeting your goal. As an example, if your goal is to increase visitors, you should not report on pageviews as sessions or users would be a much more appropriate metric. Bonus points if this metric is selected from a marketing scorecard that the entire team uses to measure success.
- Attainable– Use this as your gut check. Is this goal actually achievable within the period of time we’re measuring? Goals should be ambitious, and difficult, but you don’t want to set your staff up for failure. You want your team to meet their goals.
- Relevant – Set goals that are tightly aligned with the overall strategy of the business and the goals of the department. Avoid focusing on vanity metrics that might make the team feel good, but won’t help move the needle at the end of the day. Try the CEO test. Would the CEO care if you met this goal?
- Time-bound – Pick a date that you plan to achieve your goals by. Is it by the end of Q1 or a year-end goal? Map this to your review cycle as you’ll want to be able to know if your direct report has met their goals when you sit down to meet. If quarterly, it should represent a benchmark towards meeting a larger annual goal.
What Type of Metrics Are Best To Use for SMART Goals?
When defining your specific goal, you’ll need to have a certain metric in mind that you wish to improve. This could the count of sales-ready leads you hope to generate, or the number of emails you’ll send on a monthly basis. Whatever it is, make sure that you focus in on a metric that is closely tied to your core responsibility, and that a positive improvement
Before selecting a metric to measure your goal by, it might be helpful to establish two different categories of metrics: KPIs and Leading Indicators. A KPI, or key performance indicator, is a metric that should instantly tell you if you’ve made progress towards a primary, strategic goals. Examples of common KPI’s might include # of visitors, # of leads, conversion rate, or revenue per customer.
A leading indicator is a metric or trend that could indicate that you’re on track to meeting your KPI. For example, if one of your KPI’s is the # of MQL’s generated from social media, social followers, retweets, or social click-through-rate might be leading indicators to pay attention to.
When selecting a metric to focus on for a SMART goal, you’ll generally want to choose a KPI over a leading indicator unless it is tied to a specific lever you need to pull to improve your KPI performance. It’s like fixing a broken step in your staircase. If your selected metric isn’t directly tied to revenue growth, and you create a goal around something like Facebook Likes, your boss might think you’re focusing on the wrong types of activities.
It’s also wise to take into consideration your role in the organization. If you are an individual contributor and not in management, you might not be able to directly influence something like total revenue generated by your actions alone, and therefore it unfair to hold yourself to that metric in a SMART goal. Instead, focus on a metric that you have the influence and skills to reach on their own, which if achieved will help the team meet their more strategic-level goals.
If the SMART goal is for a department head or senior manager, it is much more appropriate to hold them to a KPI metric such as total new business revenue generated.
Using The Free SMART Goal-Setting Template
This template will help you clearly describe your goals, set a deadline for meeting them, and understand the desired end result. It has been customized for the common needs of marketers, and helps improve the likelihood you’ll meet your goals by forcing you to identify potential obstacles up-front.
You’ll want to collaborate on each input so there are full agreement and no confusion. Once you’ve established and agreed upon the goals, find a way to track your progress. Tools like Databox allow you to track your SMART goals automatically.
With your goals set and solid dashboards in place, schedule weekly check-ins to discuss progress address any obstacles that come up along the way. You’ll be amazed at how quickly things get done!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.