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How to Get SMART About Your Marketing Goals

Cain & Company
March 14, 2019

Marketing tactics are too often performed at the spur of the moment. “Let’s post this on social media” or “let’s blast this out to our email list” just to “get the word out” happens frequently in many small marketing departments with little forethought or planning. The result, not surprisingly, is frustration that your marketing isn’t working.

Having goals for your marketing activities will help you plan expected outcomes, set deadlines for achieving them, and understand the desired end result. Whether you have short-term or long-term goals, SMART is a methodology that helps you make, well, "smart" goals! Here’s what the SMART acronym stands for and how to use this method to develop your marketing goals.


When creating your marketing goal, you want it to be as short, crisp, and specific as possible. Having "a good marketing year" isn't a clear reflection of what your company actually accomplished. Imagine that your boss is about to leave for vacation, and you have less than 90 seconds until he or she runs out the door, and all they want is to quickly hear about next year's marketing goal. How can you concisely explain your plans? Use actual numbers to gauge your success, for example, “increase website visitors by 20%.”


Oftentimes, companies say they want to "increase their social media following." While that is a respectable goal, it's not a trackable goal. If you start the new year with 100 followers and end with 101, technically you have met your goal. But my guess is that’s not enough. Pick an outcome that you can measure and switch that goal to read, "We want to increase social media following by 25%." Suddenly you can measure your progress every month to see if you're on track to ultimately jump from 100 to 125 followers. Now you really know you hit your goal (hopefully yours is more ambitious than this example)!


While having record-breaking goals are beneficial, it's important to keep these goals realistic. If in your company history you've generated an average of 10 leads every month, jumping to 2,000 leads per month would be a drastic change. Many businesses do this to push employees and to "go as far as they possibly can." But in reality, all this does is discourage workers who see they can never actually be successful. SMART goals are goals that you can actually achieve. 


Why have a goal if the goal doesn't matter? Say you’re a machine parts manufacturer whose distributors buy, at maximum, 1,000 parts per month. In this situation, your goal likely shouldn't be "increase production of machine parts from 1,000 per month to 5,000 per month." While it's great you have more product in stock, if your existing distributors won't buy more, why bother? Perhaps something like "increase distribution channels by X%" would a more relevant goal.


It’s been said that “a goal without a deadline is a dream.” While having all the aforementioned helps develop a solid goal, you need to ensure you have a timeline for meeting that goal. Looking again at our machine parts manufacturer example, if you do decide your goal is to increase distribution channels, you need to know when this goal is accomplished in order to know when to start working on a secondary goal of increasing parts production. You don't want a situation where you end up with more distributors but no product on hand.

Getting Started with SMART Goals

Setting SMART goals for each of your marketing campaigns is a great way to determine what and how you’ll measure your marketing results.

Here's a handy template to help you determine and document your SMART goals. 

“I plan to [insert your Specific expected outcome. Ex: Increase website visitors.] by [Insert Measurable, for example 20%, or 'by 100 visitors.' Make sure your goal is Attainable and Relevant.] by [Insert your deadline. Ex: 'this month,' 'in Q3,' or 'this year.']”

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