SMART Goals: What Are They and Why Use Them?

I first encountered SMART goals when taking Hubspot’s Inbound Certification Course. As marketers, we all have goals, and the way we set them up can help alleviate a lot of stress and set ourselves up for success!

Goal setting is probably one of the hardest things marketers have to do. Let’s face it, odds are your “uber goals” are given to you, along with the expectation that you’ll do what you did last year, AND add some great new strategies as well (with the same or fewer resources…)

SMART Goals

However, when you find yourself in a position to do some planning with your manager and/or team, I highly recommend running numbers in a format (here’s Hubspot’s template which I swear by). This will help get everyone onto the same page — literally — in terms of what’s the best use of your time and resources.

Why I Love SMART Goals

Goals are great. They help us prove how effective we are, keep us focused, and push us to be better. The thing is, though, goals are totally useless if they’re not grounded in reality. That’s why it’s critical to set SMART goals, meaning:

  • Specific. Do set real numbers with real deadlines. Don’t say, “I want more influence.” Pick a specific channel you’ll be active on, so you can be…
  • Measurable. Do make sure that you can track your goal. If you can’t measure it, its not really a smart goal. I end my goal statements with AMB (as measured by!).
  • Attainable. Do work toward a goal that is challenging but possible. Be aware of best practice benchmarks in your company or industry.
  • Realistic. Do be honest with yourself, because you know what you and your team are capable of. And use this time to put down anything that could be a gate. Wishful thinking will come back to bite you.
  • Time-bound. Do give yourself a deadline. Ensure they match what your management needs.

So, with that in mind, read on. (I’ve set up the rest of this blog post as an exercise. If you’re not doing the exercise using this spreadsheet, feel free to skip the italicized parts!)

Step 1: What Is The Goal?

Write a summary of what your goal is. If at all possible, make the language match/ladder up to your boss’s goals to a) keep you in synch and b) ensure you get credit for your contribution.

In the orange box, set a numbers-driven goal (keeping the SMART acronym in mind). Here’s an example of how Hubspot filled it out for a recent program.

hubspot-smart-goals

If you can’t come up with one now, leave it blank momentarily and come back to it once you’ve completed the worksheet — you might find you have an easier time of it, as the template helps you figure these things out.

Step 2: Think About What Kind Of Goal It Is

Most marketers need to do one of three things: get more visitors to their site, get more visitors to convert into leads, or get more leads to convert into customers.

If following along on the sheet, pick one of these three options.

marketing-needs

Step 3: Pick A Number (Not Any Number, But…)

Now that you’ve narrowed down your goal, it’s time to set a value to work toward. This can be the hardest step of all, but if you know general industry or company best practice benchmarks, start there. If you need to put in a SWAG (silly wild ass guess), highlight this as a hypothesis you’ll confirm in your time with team/manager.

specific-number-goal

For this example, you can see we put in average monthly site visits — let’s just say 10,000 visits — and a current visit-to-lead conversion rate. Once we add in those two numbers, the rest is completed for me and I now know exactly how many leads I should strive to generate.

Step 4: Put Down Your Ideal Completion Date

Nothing motivates me like an actual due date. And I suspect your management has monthly/quarterly/yearly numbers you could choose from!

Select the length of time you think it will take to reach your goal. This will help you figure out how aggressive you need to be with your marketing efforts.

Step 5: Book The Time To Get It Done

Odds are you have more than one project going on. Have you thought about how much of your time goes to each? If yes, try plugging that into a goal sheet for each area!

By selecting how many hours a week you can work — and we mean really work — on this project, you’re setting another smaller goal that helps your marketing dreams become reality.

hours-per-week

This personal goal helps you prioritize your time and your resources!

Step 6: Know Thy Potential Roadblocks

Be creative and think of any and all things that can and will happen. State those now so you’re aware of them. You can start planning ways of getting around them, and you can prevent them from turning into excuses for not reaching your goal. Preparing for the hurdles now will make it that much easier to reach your marketing goals.

No really… Do. This. Step.

Life moves pretty fast (right, Ferris?) and you may say, I don’t have time for extra planning. You may be busy, but odds are, you’ll have situations (weekly meetings with your team or boss) where this would be a great exercise to get real together. Why not give it a try?

A Final Note

SMART Goals are typically mentioned in work situations, but they’re a great way to look at personal items, too. For instance, I gave myself a year to learn to speak Spanish, and Duolingo‘s app lets you program your daily work towards meeting that goal. I have a friend who’s learning to ride a road bike and she has given herself a specific goal, with lots of detail about how she’ll measure herself and how often she’ll need to work at it.

It’s very motivating!

About Suzy DeLine

Suzy DeLine is a digital marketing consultant specializing in both inbound and content marketing. She is a huge marketing geek and gets very excited when she sees things being done well, or innovative stuff being tried out. (She also loves beagles.) She hails from a Wisconsin dairy farm by way of Northwestern University (go Wildcats). View all posts by Suzy DeLine
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