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Hitting the road with no destination in mind is probably on a few bucket lists, but it’s not the kind of adventure on which you’d want to take your company with your digital marketing. The most successful marketing is just the opposite of a map-free trip, and it’s built on research, analysis, accountability, and measurability. That may not make for the most carefree journey, but it’s a sure way to take control and work toward continually improving the return on your digital marketing investment. Where to begin? By defining and setting the right marketing goals.
SMART: More than a catchy acronym.
If you’ve read anything about inbound marketing, you’ve probably encountered the SMART goal-setting method. The idea was first introduced in the early eighties as a way to help business managers set objectives. It can be used for any type of goal-setting, but in recent years, it’s become closely associated with inbound marketing principles and practices. Here are the criteria for setting objectives using the SMART method:
- Specific: General or poorly defined goals aren’t very useful. If you set a goal to “increase brand awareness,” how will you reach it? Will your team know what the finish line really looks like? A goal should be clearly defined, such as “create 10 new articles per month and publish one each month in a top-five industry journal.”
- Measurable: The right marketing goals can and must be measured. An example is “get 20 qualified leads in the second quarter.” Such a goal can be tracked, analyzed, and adjusted over time.
- Achievable: If your company has historically acquired 30 new leads a year for the last three years, a goal to “get 100 leads in the second quarter” is almost certainly unattainable. SMART goals can be ambitious, but they shouldn’t be impossible.
- Realistic: This differs from Achievable from the perspective of resources. Do you have enough people to manage the acquisition of 20 new clients in the next quarter? Do you have the right processes in place?
- Time-bound: Once you know your destination, determine when you want to arrive. A date on the calendar not only gives you another point of specificity; you can also use it to set regular milestones that will help you check your progress and make course corrections if needed.
Clear the path.
One of the most challenging parts of the SMART process is the Realistic criterion. To reach the destination you’ve defined, you’ll need a clear path to get there. It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge some of the problems that may be in your way, but it’s key to your ultimate success.
Plot the milestones along the journey and identify the resources you’ll need in each phase. Look for common obstacles such as:
- Gaps in your team’s skills
- Technology-related issues
- Insufficient data
- Lack of infrastructure
- Lack of processes
If there are problems that will prevent you from reaching your goal and that can’t be solved in a timely way (or along the way), you may need to adjust your goal so that it aligns with your company’s realities.
Involve your team.
Team members must understand the goal and the plan for achieving it. Keep in mind that people will view the goal from the perspective of their own roles, responsibilities, and personal stakes in the outcome, and can make their own unique contributions. Working through the five SMART goal criteria with your team’s involvement can help ensure that your marketing success fully supports your company’s success.