(Read Time: 7 minutes)
One of the most common mistakes I see business owners make is a failure to set clear goals.
This doesn’t just apply to their marketing efforts, but often their entire business. ‘But I do have a goal’ you might say. ‘That goal is to make more money!’ … You may well achieve this goal, but I guarantee that it will be more by luck than by design.
It’s a bit like getting into a car and saying ‘I’d like to go somewhere nice’ without deciding on your end destination. Although there’s a chance that you’ll discover paradise, it’ll probably take you a lot longer … and cost you twice as much in fuel than if you’d just planned ahead. Of course the worst case scenario is that you drive for years, never find that nice place, and end up broke and hungry in an industrial estate car park wondering where your life went wrong …
If you don’t have a clear view of what your objectives are though, don’t worry … you’re not part of an exclusive club. In a survey of 300 small business owners, over 80% admitted that they weren’t keeping track of their business goals either. So, if you want the edge over your competitors, make sure that you’re part of the smart 20%.
Whether you manage your marketing yourself or hire an agency, your marketing efforts are doomed to underperform unless they are tied to clear marketing objectives that support your main business goal.
Don’t worry if it sounds intimidating, there is absolutely no downside to setting goals, whether it’s for your overall business, for your marketing campaigns, or even your life. And your goals don’t always have to be revenue related. They could be about innovation, employee retention, or customer service – anything that enhances your business.
What is Goal Setting?
A long term business goal is your end destination. Once you’ve decided where you want to go, every activity that your business undertakes should help drive you a little further along the road to getting there.
The process of setting goals forces you to sit down and think about what you want from your business … and what you don’t. It’s important to remember that setting goals is not only about deciding on the results you want to achieve, it’s about deciding on which system to use to get there …
Here’s an example … imagine an athlete. He wants an Olympic gold medal. His goal is to be better than everyone else. To be better he has to employ a system, which includes training harder, training smarter, eating correctly, having a great coach, taking supplements, getting enough rest, and a whole host of other commitments before he gets within sniffing distance of a podium.
He meticulously plans the timing and content of every meal to ensure that his body absorbs the maximum nutrition. The intensity and timing of every single training session is geared to avoid injury, burnout, and to achieve maximum gains.
Well, if you’re a small start-up, your goal might be to turn a profit within six months, and your system to achieve it would be your sales and marketing strategy. And, much like our Olympian, you will plan, assess and optimise every step of the way.
The Importance of Setting Business Goals
End goals are important for many reasons … first of all, they give you a framework by which to measure your success. They provide greater cohesion within your team because everyone considers how they contribute towards reaching the destination. They also help you make tactical decisions. For example, you’ll gain a better understanding of the implications of making a large new purchase, or winning a big client.
Goals should be focused and few though!
Trying to be an Olympic athlete, a bestselling author, an award winning actor, and a successful after-dinner speaker within a six-month period is obviously unrealistic. Although all of these things might be achievable at some point in your life, you can’t focus on all of them at the same time.
For a lesson in how focus can increase your chance of success, try this test: get a friend to stand in front of you and hold an A4 piece of paper by two edges, then try and push through that piece of paper with your palm out flat … It’s bloody hard to push through one piece of paper.
Now try doing the same exercise with your index finger pointing out, you’ll push through the paper effortlessly. This is the power of focus, and in business if you stick to three goals for 12 months, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving them than if you try and be an overachiever with 10 goals.
So, let’s get onto how to set your business goals.
How to Set Your Business Goals
Of course goal setting is not just about what you want to achieve. What you are not willing to do and what is realistic is just as important … for example most of us would love to be best in the world at something, but we don’t all want to (or have time to) train like an Olympian.
In business, you might want to improve your customer service, but are you willing to invest in training your staff or hiring more experienced professionals? You may want to grow your business quickly, but are you willing to work later nights or spend more money on new hires?
Luckily for us, someone developed the SMART framework, which helps us avoid setting vague and unrealistic goals. It means:
S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
Say, for example, your broad goal is to become a ‘well-known expert’. This on its own is not enough to build momentum. So let’s look at it through the SMART framework.
Specific: I will become a well-known expert on the topic of social media.
Measurable: Success to me is receiving an invitation to speak publicly about social media, to write one article a month for an industry publication, and receive an interview request every week.
Achievable/agreed upon: I will accomplish this by hiring the services of a PR/publicity firm and launching a publicity campaign.
Relevant: Establishing myself as a social media expert will reinforce my senior position in the field, and allow me to reach new clients for my consulting business.
Time-based: I want to be considered an expert in my field within two years.
Or perhaps you’re looking to ‘grow your business’. This rather vague goal can also benefit from the SMART approach …
Specific: I will acquire three new clients with contracts worth at least $10,000 for my design agency.
Measurable: Success will be measured by how many new clients I bring on while maintaining my existing client base.
Achievable/agreed upon: I will canvas current clients for referrals, have a stand at local design events, and launch a digital marketing campaign.
Relevant: Adding additional clients to my business will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.
Time-based: I will have three new clients within two months.
Or how about ‘I want to start a business’? Let’s break it down …
Specific: I will sell my home brewed beer to high end restaurants
Measurable: My beer will be ready to sell within one month and I aim to sell 10 crates a week
Attainable: I will use my existing contacts in the hospitality industry to introduce me to potential resellers, enter my beer for five local awards, and build customer relationships through word of mouth, referrals, and local networking.
Relevant: This is an opportunity to turn my hobby and skill into a money making venture.
Time-based: I aim to have enough customers to sell 10 crates a week within three months.
What Are Marketing Goals & How Are They Related to Your Business Goals?
So by now you should, hopefully, have a clearer picture of the importance of setting business goals and how to do it.
Now it’s time to determine how your marketing can help you achieve your business goals. Again marketing goals, like business goals, should follow the smart framework and this way you have something to aim for.
Wishy washy marketing goals include:
‘I want to rank number one on Google’
‘I want more website visitors, sales, and leads’
But what you haven’t answered is exactly why you want to rank number one on Google, how exactly would this benefit your business, or how it helps you to become a ‘well known expert’.
Similarly, why exactly do you want ‘more website visitors’, how many do you need? How and why will it help you to ‘grow your business’?
Well, let’s talk about how to set your marketing goals.
How to Set Your Marketing Goals
The best place to start is by calculating how much revenue, or what result I need to generate from my marketing efforts. If my main business goal in the coming year is to increase my annual revenue by $300,000, how will marketing play a role in achieving it?
Let’s assume an average client is worth $1,000 to me … Perhaps my marketing goal is to generate 100 new business enquiries per month, knowing that I’ll convert about 25% of them.
With 100 new business enquiries, I’ll generate an additional $25,000 per month, which delivers on my goal of a $300,000 increase in annual revenue. The progress towards my end destination is measured in my revenue, leads, and conversions.
Getting 100 new leads a month may not be attainable if my marketing budget is only $5, or if I’m hiring one inexperienced junior to create and execute a perfectly converting marketing campaign within a week. If I don’t have in-depth marketing experience, I may want to call on an agency to discuss what is realistic.
Gaining new clients will help me expand my business in the future through word of mouth recommendations, and the revenues will help me secure new equipment next year to continue on my growth path.
I aim to get 100 leads a month within three months.
Where to Next?
Remember, your marketing goals will never be perfect, and you may not hit every target every time – although you should always strive to. The most important thing is running through the exercise of goal setting itself. If you don’t have a solid goal for your business, no-one in your organisation will be able to function efficiently. You’ll all be driving into the future blindly.
So sit down, take some time, and outline a few clear business goals. Think about the big 12-month goal, and a few smaller goals that support you on your journey. Once that plan is solid and looks achievable, see how your marketing can boost your efforts and help you achieve that business goal.
If the task feels overwhelming or you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with us. Book yourself a time in our calendar to do a 30-minute strategy session and we’ll help get you on the right track.
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