S.M.A.R.T. Goals

I’m not a wildly zealous, proselytising proponent of the S.M.A.R.T. Goals methodology, but I do find it a useful framework for goal-setting. That’s because it helps you avoid skipping over many of the elements critical to your success. It pushes you to clarify your goals that little bit more. And that’s a good thing.

If you’re not familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. Goals approach, you’re in the right place:

S is for Specific

Saying you want to increase sales is not specific.

Saying you want to increase sales by 20% is. Saying you want to increase sales of [new product line] by 20% is even better. But it’s still not quite there.

Saying you want to increase sales of [new product line] from 200 units per month to 240 units per month — which is a 20% increase, is much better.

It also helps with the next point…


M is for Measurable

The 20% increase in sales of [new product line] is easy to measure. You know you can simply look at your sales figures for the month: How many did you sell?

Saying you want to increase customer satisfaction, on the other hand is a bit stickier.

Of course it’s something you want to be striving for all the time, but how do you measure it? Do you currently measure customer satisfaction levels? How? Is it reliable? Or are you only getting people who were really unhappy and really overjoyed?

If you have a baseline metric for this, e.g. you’ve been using something like the Net-Promoter Score and the average for the past two years is 6.2, then you’re good to go. If not, find a way to measure what you’ve got before you start including it as part of your goals. Otherwise, how will you know whether you’ve failed or succeeded?


A is for Attainable (or Achievable)

Far too many people set unrealistic goals for themselves. We’re all guilty of it at some point, of course. And it’s an easy trap to fall into, no doubt about it. But you have to be realistic otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.

Now, there’s a balance here between setting easily achievable goals that don’t really get you off your duff and push you to excel versus the old “Aim for the stars and you’re bound to hit the moon” adage.

Set your goals high by all means. Just be realistic.


R is for Relevant

[Note: Some versions of S.M.A.R.T. have "R" as "Realistic". I think that's redundancy because "Attainable" encapsulates "Realistic" in my opinion]

If the goals aren’t relevant to you personally, you’re unlikely to follow through on them. Is this something you and the people in your business care about? Would achieving this goal actually be worthwhile to you and your team?

If the goals are tied to personal interests and you’re falling into the trap of assuming your market is “just like you”, you might pursue something only to find it’s not relevant to them and, therefore, your business.

An example of an irrelevant goal (in many cases) would be to get a thousand extra visitors a month to your blog. Now, is that bad? No. But in terms of this criterion (i.e. the “R”) it begs the question: “Why? How will that matter?”

A more relevant goal might be to increase the number of comments on your blog each month by 5% so that you can better engage with your audience (with the added benefit of being able to get a clearer picture of who they are, what their needs are, etc. Basically, how you can serve them better!)


T is for Time-Bound

We all know what happens when there’s no deadline, don’t we? Bugger all gets done until the last minute.

Dan Ariely, a behavioural psychologist (focusing primarily on behavioural economics) and professor at Duke Univeristy, did an experiment with his students. He said:

“You’re going to have to hand in three papers this semester. You can hand them in any time you like. The last day of semester is fine if that’s what you want.

“You can also nominate a date to hand in each one. If you’d like to do that, please let me know those dates. Just be aware that every day you’re late beyond the deadline you nominate, you’ll be deducted one mark.”

You’d be inclined to think no one would nominate a date, right? You can hand them in whenever you like throughout the semester without penalty. Or on the last day if you’re especially lazy.

The thing is, plenty of students do set a date. Why? Because they understand the power of deadlines. They know they’ll be better organised, they’ll make a proper plan, they’ll do better quality work than cramming in three assignments in the last two weeks of term. And so on.

A hard deadlines is like medicine. We don’t like the taste, but we know it’ll do us good.

So make your goals time-bound. Don’t say “I want to increase sales of [new product line] by 20%”. By when? Given 10 years of sales, you’d expect a 20% increase, but what good is that to your bank balance THIS YEAR? Or this quarter?

“I want to increase sales of [new product line] by 20% by the end of the financial year”. Or by Christmas or whenever. Just set a realistic date.


So to wrap up, the main example we’ve been using throughout of increasing sales by 20% might look like this:

Increase sales of [new product line] by 20%, from 200 units
per month to 240 by the end of the financial year.

Now it’s your turn. Join my mailing list and instantly download a workbook to help you plan out your goals. It’s called “Where Do You Want Your Business to Go This Year?” It’s free and it could make you a lot of money this year.

All the best with it!


More information: SMART Criteria (Wikipedia)

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