Key Differences Between Short-Term and Long-Term Planning

Updated December 20, 2022

Planning is essential to achieving both short- and long-term business goals. It helps you align resources to meet organizational objectives in the most efficient manner possible. Short- and long-term planning also ensures you reach the highest levels of customer satisfaction and ROI. Separating your business goals is a vital aspect of short- and long-term planning. Use our guide below to help you understand the important differences between short-term and long-term planning. 

What are short-term business goals?

Short-term goals are inherently necessary to fulfill long-term business goals. You can pick goals related to one another in different departments, like advertising and marketing, and separate those goals according to which ones are short-term and which ones are long-term. For example, you might have a goal to double your advertising budget every other month for the next six months. This goal is very short term, but it likely has long-term effects that can help you achieve a long-term objective, such as increasing your revenue by 10% throughout the next five years.

Example of short-term business goals

You will likely strive to achieve multiple short-term business goals simultaneously. Some of these goals may overlap with one another, while others may have no connection at all. 

One of the most common short-term business goals found among all types of for-profit companies is making sales and marketing a priority. Since a lot of companies don’t specialize in these areas, it’s not uncommon to tap into external resources to achieve this goal. Examples of external resources include third-party sales and marketing service providers and free or cost-efficient cloud-based applications. With the right resources in place, it becomes possible to increase lead generation, enhance the results of PPC campaigns and achieve other goals that benefit the company as a whole.

Another example of a short-term business goal that helps achieve long-term objectives is to implement varying forms of technology to better listen to customers. By better listening to customers (short-term goal), you can refine your product development (long-term goal) to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction (long-term goal). You can use different forms of technology to achieve this goal, including digital website surveys, creating a presence on social media to interact with customers and email to send out questionnaires.

What are medium-term business goals?

It’s important to understand medium-term business goals to get a full understanding of the differences between short-term and long-term planning. Medium-term business goals are those that help achieve short-term business goals but not permanently.

Examples of medium-term business goals

Medium-term business goals come in many forms.

For example, if your company is facing quality issues (short-term, high-priority problems), you may implement employee training courses. These courses remedy the issue for the time being, but you plan to come up with a more solid solution to ensure the quality issue doesn’t present itself as a long-term problem. Solving the issue on a temporary basis is the medium-term business goal, and the training courses serve as the medium-term solution.

Another example of a medium-term business goal is to repair a piece of broken equipment (short-term, high-priority problem). You have taken action (repaired the machine) to ensure you continue to achieve high levels of productivity. However, this doesn’t permanently fix the problem. Instead, investing in a service contract serves as a long-term solution as it mitigates the likelihood of the machine breaking down again. The goal of medium-term planning is typically to temporarily eradicate the occurrence of short-term problems.

What are long-term business goals?

Long-term goals are those that by their very nature influence the overall direction of the company. Generally, the ability to achieve long-term goals is a genuine reflection of how well senior-level employees conform to the company’s mission. Long-term goals are very strategic. They seek to remedy problems on a permanent basis to ensure the company can reach its fullest potential. There is much planning involved in achieving long-term goals, as it takes into account all aspects of the company, including social, economic and political factors.

Examples of long-term business goals

An example of a long-term business goal is to triple your revenue within the next five years. You will set multiple short-term goals to fulfill this long-term goal. Examples of short-term goals you can set to achieve this long-term goal include:

  • Contracting with an advertising consultant for a period of 12 months to help you pinpoint essential customer buying trends

  • Studying your competition for a period of six months

  • Brainstorming ideas for new advertising methods

  • Using your research to design new advertising campaigns

Another example of a long-term business goal is to achieve a maximum and permanent 100% customer satisfaction rate. To achieve this goal, you set short-term goals, like redesigning your customer service policies, collecting customer feedback and implementing a customer loyalty program. As you can see, all long-term goals are achievable only if you set and achieve short-term goals first.

How your mission supports short- and long-term planning

A company’s mission statement, which highlights its purpose and core values, is a crucial element of effective short- and long-term planning. Your short- and long-term goals will have distinct purposes in helping you achieve this mission. In addition to creating a clear, goal-oriented mission, you must put long-term plans in place to ensure the mission is well understood throughout the entire organization for as long as the company is operating.

When separating short- and long-term goals from one another, you will check to see how they support your mission. You will also consider where the company is at today and where you want it to be during the next 15 to 20 years. This is what allows you to create realistic long-term goals. Generally, long-term goals take anywhere from five to 15-plus years to achieve.

What are SMART goals?

Your goals become easier to achieve when they are SMART goals.

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable, attainable

  • Relevant, realistic

  • Time-based, time-measured

With SMART goals, everyone is on the same page because the goals themselves are very specific. Because SMART goals are measurable, it’s important to put metrics and benchmarks in place to ensure you have the ability to realize when you have met your goals. You can leverage SMART goals for both short- and long-term planning. As with any goal, all SMART goals should contribute to your company’s mission. 

Using SMART goals for short- and long-term planning

Let’s take a look at an in-depth example of using SMART goals for short- and long-term planning.

Company mission: Green Service Reps Inc. provides quality customer service call center services throughout various industries. By providing a seamless customer experience across multiple channels, we help clients increase customer satisfaction rates while reducing their carbon footprint.

Long-term goals:

  • Open multiple call center offices

  • Leverage multiple forms of green technology to provide a seamless customer experience

  • Partner with various service providers to study customer preferences and needs

  • Develop long-term marketing methods to secure new clients

Now that you have your long-term goals in place, you must use short-term planning to bring life to those goals. The tasks you put in place to achieve your long-term goals will build out your short-term plans. With that in mind, you must pinpoint the functions that you need to achieve the long-term goals. 

For example: To open multiple call center offices, you need someone in charge of planning and funding; this allows you to acquire real estate and outsource any construction aspects involved. To leverage multiple forms of green technology to provide a seamless customer experience, you need someone responsible for call center management. This person can put together a plan that outlines the technologies you will use to operate the call centers. This person can also take on the responsibility of partnering with various service providers to study customer preferences and needs.

You will also need someone in charge of agent recruitment. This person can create plans for gathering the necessary funding that it takes to recruit quality agents.

Since you know which functions you need to achieve your long-term goals, you can list your short-term plans, which consist of:

  • Planning

  • Funding

  • Agent recruitment

  • Call center management

  • Accounting management

Your SMART goals outline who is responsible for what and how those people will help achieve your company’s long-term goals. Since SMART goals are measurable, you must establish a time frame in which each of those responsible parties is to accomplish his or her goals.

For example: Since you have a long-term goal to open multiple call center offices, then your SMART short-term goals that support this long-term goal will look something like this:

  • Susy Raina: Raise a minimum number of funds by August 15, 2020.

  • Billy Golden: Partner with a real estate agent to purchase or lease property within 30 days.

  • Timmy Grayson: Recruit 50 agents by December 20, 2020.

  • Penny Livensdale: Grand opening on January 20, 2021.

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Achieve business goals with short- and long-term planning

Your short-term planning is temporary and flexible. Long-term planning, on the other hand, is more concrete. As an example, you have a long-term plan to double your sales within the next five years. This plan doesn’t change, however, the short-term plans you make to bring life to the long-term goal can change and likely will. To achieve this long-term goal, you will use various methods. More so, you will measure those methods, getting rid of the ones that don’t work and utilizing the ones that do. 

Another notable difference between short-term and long-term planning is that the latter directly impacts the direction of the company. Let’s say you have a long-term plan in place to increase customer satisfaction rates to 99% within the next seven years. This goal will have a huge impact on all aspects of the company. 

Some of the short-term plans you put in place to achieve this goal will not have such lasting effects. In fact, some of them may have negative effects but this is why short-term plans aren’t set in stone. You can get rid of them at any time and replace them with better-suited plans that help you more effectively and efficiently reach your long-term goals. 

Here’s an overview of a strategy you can put into place that includes short- and long-term planning to achieve a long-term goal of increasing customer satisfaction rates to 99% within the next seven years:

Long-term plan: Establish three new customer service methods to achieve a 99% customer satisfaction rate within the next seven years.

Short-term plans:

  • Deploy chatbots on social media for one year.

  • Deploy chatbots on the website for one year.

  • Establish an email customer service department for one year.

  • Develop customer service option via Facebook messenger for one year.

  • Provide customer feedback forum for one year.

  • Create a self-serve knowledge base for one year.

  • Leverage on-page widget support for one year.

  • Measure method effectiveness over the course of a year.

  • Deploy the five top-performing methods for two years.

  • Deploy the four top-performing methods for two years.

  • Deploy the three top-performing methods for two years.

As you can see, throughout various parts of the seven-year plan, you are weeding out the methods that do not contribute well to the overall long-term goal, yet your long-term plan stays in place. Your long-term planning is consistently building on the achievements you make through short-term planning. At the heart of both short- and long-term planning is metrics. You must constantly measure what is working and what isn’t. This allows you to refine your plans accordingly to ensure you fulfill your long-term planning objectives.

You can set all the short- and long-term goals you want but the key to achieving them is planning. Even with all the motivation in the world, unless you have a solid plan in place, meeting your goals is highly unlikely. By chance, if you do meet them without any planning, you will have likely achieved them with minimal efficiency and effectiveness. With this in mind, always use short- and long-term planning to meet your goals.

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