Setting the right goals directs activities toward tactics that help in achieving your goals. The wrong goals are a waste of time and money. The football player below has a clear goal in mind. He wants to reach the goal line. But, he can’t keep throwing long passes into the endzone or he wastes the team’s effort and likely comes away with no points since he only has four downs to reach a minimum of 10 yards. However, if his goal is to march down the field, using his four downs to get a minimum of 10 yards, he has a better chance of scoring. That’s how you need to think about goal setting in your business if you want to achieve your goals.
Unlike our football players, however, companies must set their own goals. After working with small businesses for 25 years and teaching students marketing strategy for almost as long, I’m constantly amazed at how hard they find it to set strategic goals. Not wishes, not hopes, not dreams … but clearly articulated GOALS for their business. I find this especially disturbing considering the prominence of the word “goal” in our dialogue. Stop by any water cooler on Monday during the football season and you’re going to hear it — a lot. Go to a hockey game when the announced shouts, “GOAL” and the crowd cheers wildly and you’ll see how excited we get over goals. Yet, ask an entrepreneur to set goals for their business or ask a student to set goals as part of a marketing plan for a client and you get something like this (actual quote from social media marketing plan:
short-term goal of establishing a strong social networking and media presence which will in transition fall in place with our long term goals of establishing XYZ Company as the premier platform developing system available for free on the internet.
So what’s wrong with this goal, you might ask? It isn’t a goal at all … more like a wish or a hope, but certainly not a goal. And, without a clear goal, achieving your goals is hopeless. What is a goal, you might ask? I’ll tell you.
Anatomy of a Goal
The player on the right has a clear goal in mind and a single-minded drive to achieve that goal. And referees are there to monitor his progress toward the goal. By consistently reaching the goal (line), he achieves his long-term goal of winning the game and, if he stays consistent, he achieves his even longer-term goal of winning the Super Bowl.
Goals keep you focused on tactics that help in achieving your goals.
Achieving your goals
Just as the quarterback doesn’t make every play about reaching the goal line, a business doesn’t focus every tactic on making a sale. That’s because there are intermediate steps involved in reaching nearly every goal. With the quarterback, he must reach a minimum of 10 yards in four plays. But, what about your business? What intermediate goals help in achieving your goals?
A key to answering this question comes from understanding how consumers make decisions about product purchases.
An overview of the funnel leading a consumer to make a purchase looks like this:
Bundled in each stage of the conversion process are elements necessary. For instance, awareness requires a certain number of touches, usually somewhere around seven touches or exposures to the brand’s messaging and ten to form a positive attitude toward the brand. Intention relies not only on a positive attitude but recalling the messaging and positive attitude at a later date, often discussed within marketing as learning. I might see an ad for a new sweater. It looks nice and I think about buying it. But, I have to wait until payday or until I get to the store (or computer) to buy the sweater. Learning means I remember my intention when I go to make a purchase. Thus, you should set goals for each stage in the process leading to conversion, including the little elements that support each stage like learning an attitude. Even in impulse buying there’s an element of this process, such as recalling the ad when I get to the appropriate aisle in the store.
Not only do you need to set goals for any hope of achieving your goals, your goals should be smart — not mensa smart, but S.M.A.R.T.
SMART is an acronym to help you remember the elements necessary for setting goals that drive your business.
S = Specific – like 100 yards from his own goal line — that’s the footballers’ goal.
Goals should be specific, offering a clear answer of ‘yes, we did’ or ‘no, we didn’t’ to the question of ‘Are you achieving your goals.’
M = Measurable. Sure. It’s 100 yards for the football game but what about your goals? We can measure it with any number of tools and we monitor progress toward our goal by marking the field in 10-yard increments. When in doubt, referees can bring in the “chains” to assess whether the player has achieved the intermediate goal of a “first down”.
Goals should have quantifiable measures and milestones that track progress toward the goal.
A = Achievable. Goals should be attainable, but only with sustained effort. If they’re too easy, no one works very hard to achieve them and they don’t play up to their ability. Imagine a professional football team playing against your local pee wee football team. They’re certainly not going to play the way they did against arch-rivals on Sunday. The pee wees also know they’re not going to win. So, everyone just goes through the motions of playing without really working at it.
Goals should be challenging, but possible.
R =relevant — the goal should be relevant in that they contribute to your brand’s success. For instance, growing your subscriber list offers a means to build a community around your brand, nurture leads with offers to convert, and a communication channel to introduce new products or sales. Growing your followers on social media isn’t relevant as more followers don’t translate into more sales. Now, change that to engaged followers and you have yourself a relevant goal. It’s in the planning, and as Entrepreneur Magazine emphasizes, “companies who fail to plan, plan to fail”.
Goals should combine resources to their best advantage given their environment.
T = timely. There should be a time associated with your goal. So, a football game goes 60 minutes. At the end of 60 minutes, teams assess their success — did they achieve the goal of winning or not through achieving more intermediate goals of, well, goals.
Goals have an expiration date, at the end of that time, you assess whether you achieved your goal.
Now, let’s return to the original “goal” included in my student’s marketing plan and let’s transform it so it is a “GOOD GOAL” based on being SMART. Here goes:
In the next 4 months (timely), we plan to create a Facebook FanPage, corporate Twitter account, and post 3 times per week to our company blog (specific, achievable) adding 100 engaged Fans, 250 engaged Followers, and 10 subscribers to our newsletter (measurable, relevant).
This reflects an intermediate goal. But, remember, intermediate goals are part of the process necessary to achieve your end goal, conversion.
It may seem obvious, but you need to monitor progress toward achieving your goals. Looking at the SMART goal above, I need to monitor how many times I publish content to my website and social media platforms, I need to track the results in terms of followers, fans, and subscribers. Lucky for me, I can use marketing automation to translate my content marketing calendar (like the one below) into posts. This helps me monitor the number of posts I publish.
Social media platforms and my email company allow me to monitor the number of subscribers and engaged followers. So, if I monitor my performance every four months, I can assess whether I reached my goal or not.
Even better, I can track my performance on a routine basis, such as daily, to see if I’m making good progress toward reaching my goal. By monitoring every day, I have information that helps me decide whether to tweak my strategy to get better results when I find I’m not likely to reach my goal.
A great value provided by using digital marketing strategy is I can even trace my intermediate goals to my end goal of conversion. By monitoring my Google Analytics, I can see how much traffic comes to my website from each social platform, from each email message, and from each blog post. I can follow those visits through my website to determine which results in a conversion. If I tag my email links and those published on my social platforms, I can even tell which message or post delivered the most (and least) conversion. Armed with this information, I can constantly improve my performance, setting more challenging goals for the next period.
Some final thoughts on goal setting
It’s CRITICAL that your goals meet your overarching goals — if your goal is to create awareness, the goal set above does that, but it doesn’t contribute much to other goals you might have, such as making a profit.
Recognize that you achieve overarching goals by reaching multiple intermediate goals.
So, like the football player, you don’t ignore aspects critical for success, such as running faster, getting stronger, and throwing farther, and just hope you reach the goal of winning games.
Hence, achieving marketing success is not found through selling more products, but by creating valuable products, building a trusted brand, increasing customer satisfaction, and encouraging customer engagement, as well as sustaining employee satisfaction and other internal processes contributing to success. You can learn more about other aspects necessary to achieve your end goals by reaching posts on this blog. If you have specific topics you’d like to see covered, enter them in the comments below.
Business success is built like a house, by stacking one brick (goal) on top of another until finished.
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