One of the most basic problems startups face is finding a way to channel the talent, resources, and enthusiasm at their disposal into concrete results. You might have an idea that can change the world, but without a concrete plan to bring it to life, even the most promising businesses can fail to reach their full potential.
Smart goal setting can keep all stakeholders in your startup on track and engaged with the project at hand. It can prevent procrastination from eating away at your enterprise’s potential while keeping your team’s energies focused on discrete objectives. One of the most popular goal setting methodologies is actually contained in the acronym SMART.
If you are looking to expand your startup quickly, SMART goal setting can help you set clear goals and determine discrete metrics of success.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. First popularized in the 1980s by author and management consultant Peter Drucker, this five-part framework for effective goal-setting has since gained worldwide acclaim as the go-to method for organizations that want to develop actionable goals and campaigns quickly. It is especially popular within the startup community, where time and money are as scarce but opportunities to scale rapidly are plentiful.
With the SMART goals approach, you can craft specific, realistic and measurable goals to accomplish within a given time-frame.
The first stage in the SMART goal setting approach is to set specific goals. Studies have shown that organizations or individuals that attempt to reach specific goals rather than vague ones have a much greater likelihood of accomplishing them.
Rather than saying you want to “increase sales” or “reach more clients,” think instead of what your goal would mean in concrete terms. Perhaps you want to double gross revenue by the end of the fiscal year, or maybe you would like to increase social media traffic by 100 additional visitors each month. With goals like these, you’ll be able to determine the work necessary to reach each one while keeping people in your organization accountable for their share of progress.
Once you decide on specifics, it becomes much easier to move on to the second stage of the SMART goals approach: creating measurable goals. You might want to increase sales or improve intangible but essential aspects of your business such as customer satisfaction by a certain percentage.
To monitor progress toward each goal, create some benchmarks. For example, you could find out how many more sales or “Likes” you will have to generate each month to meet your goals by the end of the campaign. This can help you determine when they have been met or what needs to change to reach them.
The next step in the SMART goal setting approach is to refine your goals, so they are attainable. Startup owners often dream of vaulting from the basement to the boardroom but becoming a CEO overnight is nearly impossible. If you set goals that are simply beyond the capabilities of your startup, you can cause burnout among partners or employees.
You can avoid this by seeking agreement on what is attainable from your partners. This can allow you to set challenging goals that encourage a high output and level of engagement from all parties but which do not discourage or intimidate them. You’ll also be able to break a large task up into smaller steps, making workloads for everyone easier to manage.
You now have specific, measurable, attainable goals. However, your goals are not realistic or relevant to the realities your startup faces there’s a slim chance that you will ever accomplish them.
None of us want to limit our horizon of possibilities artificially, but it’s important to recognize that your business has limited resources and material constraints. These will shape your strategy for its growth. Once you do this, you can better position your business to work according to its strengths and take advantage of available opportunities.
The final stage of the SMART goals approach involves setting time frames by which you expect to accomplish your goals. Whether you want to increase sales or improve your startup’s outreach, firm deadlines allow you to keep track of work as it is accomplished. They also encourage accountability and help people make the most use of their time. Once the deadline has been met, you can assess the progress that was made within the time-frame and decide if your methods need to be changed or if progress is satisfactory.
SMART provides a tested set of criteria by which you can identify specific benchmarks and goals for your startup. By clarifying the work expected from each person and tailoring goals to current capabilities, you can reduce the risk of losing sight of your overall strategy and wasting time and effort. Time frames can also establish a level of accountability and provide motivation for all partners involved in your project.
One famous study conducted by Professor Dr. Gail Matthews showed that 76% of those who wrote down their goals were able to accomplish them, compared to only 43% of those who did not. SMART allows businesses to take advantage of the same principles and apply them directly to accomplishing their own projects.
SMART is best applied in conjunction with inbound marketing.
As a startup, one of your key objectives is to gain customers that will generate enough revenue to both delight your investors and keep your startup on track for exponential growth. However, as a new company your target customers may be unaware of your existence. Inbound marketing will give you long-term leverage by allowing you to bring awareness to your business.
The “smart” move for any startup that wants to scale rapidly and make full use of the talent and resources at its disposal is to integrate SMART goals into their decision-making processes.
Also read: 7 Business Goals for Early-Stage Startups
Sha Drena is a digital marketing strategist and inbound marketing expert at Yokel Local, an inbound marketing agency that helps businesses turn their online traffic into sales and grow with confidence using a 6-step process. By night she’s a brand identity developer, graphic designer, and web developer, who works with creative startups and brands. You can reach ShaDrena on LinkedIn or follow Yokel Local on Facebook. Twitter: @shadrena_