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SMART Goals: An Acronym for Success

In today’s fast-paced business and competitive environment, every organization must set goals to survive and thrive in the short- and long-term—but not just any goals. Planning for a successful future works better when you use specific strategies for sustainable growth. Setting SMART goals helps you do just that with a clear-cut formula for achieving positive results. Let’s explore what SMART (and SMARTER) goals are and how they make it easier to improve business performance.

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What are SMART goals?

SMART goals are an effective approach for setting and reaching your goals in the workplace. Applying SMART as a grid for your company’s aspirations assists you in creating specifically measured targets you wish to hit, with clear-cut parameters. This methodology also helpsyou avoid failures and more precisely measure progress.

Which type of SMART goal should you set?

When setting goals, consider what you want to achieve. You can set three types of goals for your organization, including:

  • Activity:Activity goals relate to the number of activities you want to complete. An example goal of thisis writing 20 blog posts in a month.
  • Outcome:Outcome goals relate to the results you want to achieve. An example of an outcome goal isto acquire 10 new clients per month to grow your business.
  • Process: Process goals relate to how you plan to achieve activities and outcomes. An example of this is using marketing automation software for new lead generation.

What does the SMART acronym stand for?

So,what do SMART goals stand for? The letters represent Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-boundmanagement methodology. Let’s explore each component of this framework.

Specific

Defining your goals precisely increases your chances of accomplishing them. Set very specific, highly detailed goals because goals are simpler to reach when they’re crystal clear. To do this, remove ambiguity from the process by asking a few questions.

Outline the specifics of your goals like this:

  • Who? Your sales team
  • What? Boosting revenue 10%
  • When? By year-end
  • Where? At your retail location
  • Why? To grow your business

By laying out what you expect from the outset, everyone involved knows what success looks like. Additionally, setting and refining specific goals helps everyone involved direct their actions and thoughts toward a common purpose.

Measurable

Data and metrics fuel successful business operations, and tracking progress toward your goal with numbers helps keep you laser-focused. To make your goals measurable, develop metrics that show you birds-eye views of important information, and then detail thekey performance indicators (KPIs) that help quantify advancements.

Common metrics to measure data in the SMART process include:

  • Net sales revenue measures how much your company makes after discounts, returns and the costs associated with both.
  • Churn rate shows the number of lost customers versus the original number of customers as a percentage.
  • Return on marketing investment (ROMI) tracks advertising results by pitting sales data against marketing costs.
  • Gross profit margin displays a company’s profits before subtracting operating expenses and taxes.
  • Inventory turnover rate measures the cost of goods sold versus your average amount of stock as a percentage.

Metrics abound to help you measure hard figures while striving for goals set with SMART. Measuring the success of your efforts via pertinent metrics provides structure to otherwise chaotic data.

Achievable

By creating business goals you can achieve and attain, you increase your chances of success. Comprising the A portion of the SMART acronym for goal-setting, achievable goals rely on specificity and measurability, as well as realism. When you understand you can meet your goal due to good planning and tracking, you have more confidence going forward.

Questions like these also need answering when determining your goal’s attainability:

  • Do your workers have the right backgrounds and talents to get the job done?
  • Does your company have ample time to complete the necessary tasks?
  • Does management have the dexterity to land contracts and create the right processes?

Though you might feel tempted to push everyone hard to reach your goals, you need your team on your side every step of the way. In fact, part of setting achievable goals is maintaining employee motivation and keeping everyone on the same page. Likewise, dealing with missteps fairly, correcting mistakes as you go and providing necessary support for those you rely upon goes a long way in achieving success.

Relevant

Relevant in the SMART acronym means aligning your goals with the broader objectives of your organization and the realities of the market. By focusing on what’s truly important, you more effectively advance your overarching ambitions. Likewise, relevancy to every stakeholder in the process provides more motivation and urgency because people work harder when goals matter to them personally.

Relevancy also does the following in SMART goals:

  • Ensures efforts go only toward desired outcomes
  • Enables better resource allocation for a bigger ROI
  • Streamlines planning and execution for easier decision-making
  • Keeps goals adaptable when priorities shift

Relevancy in your SMART goals offers a compass that points the way toward success. It guides your business’s efforts in a meaningful, impactful direction.

Time-bound

By making goals time-bound, you prevent procrastination. Framing goals as time-bound provides a sense of urgency and the opportunity to schedule the steps toward your ambitions. During your assessment, consider which objectives lay the foundation for your goals and which must come later in the process. There’s a sweet spot for punctuality, so the deadline needs to be far enough out to make it attainable, yet close enough to the present to keep it top of mind.

Other reasons time-bound matters in SMART goals include:

  • Offers accountability via deadline-setting and outcome evaluation
  • Makes success easier to recognize via measurable metrics
  • Keeps everyone focused on the goal with short-term milestones
  • Balances aspiration with practicality for realistic goal-setting

Making goals time-bound brings time management into play to increase efficiency and productivity. Creating actionable plans with clear deadlines gives you a better chance of making your ambitions a reality and ensures a proactive approach to achieving outcomes.

What are SMARTER goals?

Some goal-setting systems use two other letters in addition to the SMART acronym—ER for Evaluated and Revised. Let’s look at theSMARTER goals acronym in relation to realizing your ambitions.

Evaluated

At the end of the SMART process, you either achieve your goal or you don’t. Either way, looking at what factored into the outcome helps you use failures as a springboard to success. Evaluating also helps you see what you did right so that you improve performance the next time you set similar goals.

Revised

Once you evaluate your project and see what went right and wrong, you have opportunities to fix problems and expand on successes. Revising and refining your objectives also keeps you aligned with overall goals and boosts relevancy as times and conditions change.

A breakdown of each SMART component

To give you a clearer idea of how you can apply SMART (and SMARTER) business goals, consider this description of each component:

  • General goal: Start with a specific overall aim, such as starting your first business.
  • Specific: Define the exact type of business and what it sells.
  • Measurable: Provide at least one example of a measurable goal, such as how many sales you want per day, week or month.
  • Attainable: Set measurable goals to fit realistic time frames and resources, such as growing sales by 10% per quarter.
  • Relevant: Define how your goal helps you achieve something bigger, like having more investment capital to boost growth.
  • Time-bound: Set short- and long-term deadlines to determine success, including milestones like selling your first 10,000 units.
  • Evaluated: Look at how well you met the goals by the deadline. For example, maybe you met milestones but fell short on sales percentages.
  • Revised: Make changes to improve the chances of attaining your next goal, such as using website metrics to improve conversion rates.

Benefits of using SMART(ER) goals

If you understand the old adage, “How do you eat the elephant? One bite at a time,” then you have the basic reasoning behind using SMART(ER) goals. Segmenting project and business goals into bite-sized chunks makes achieving overall objectives seem less daunting because you’re focused on smaller portions of the whole.

Your business can see other benefits of using SMART goals in business, including the following:

  • Increases employee motivation, clarity and engagement
  • Improves project planning and resource allocation
  • Enhances tracking via measurable, actionable metrics
  • Heightens ownership, commitment and accountability
  • Strengthens problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Streamlines processes for adaptability in changing conditions
  • Fosters a company culture of continuous learning and growth

SMART goals examples for business

Knowing what SMART goals look like in action helps you better create your own when you need structure to achieve your aspirations. To better understand what SMART goals mean for your business, let’s look at three hypothetical examples of this goal-setting framework.

Goal 1: Completing a big project

Use this SMARTER goals example to improve project management.

  • Specific: Most customers view our site on their smartphones. Recent feedback shows a need for speed optimization, so we plan to upgrade for mobile devices by Q3.
  • Measurable: The new site should be fully developed and ready for content by May. We also set a June 1 deadline for copywriting, image approval and additional graphics creation. The rest of June, we focus on implementing and polishing SEO.
  • Achievable: Involved departments agree this timeline should be sufficient to attain the set goals.
  • Relevant: The market’s demand for a high-quality online presence makes increasing traffic and improving click-through rates a priority.
  • Time-bound: The new site launches on July 1.
  • Evaluated: Customer feedback shows heightened satisfaction with a few small complaints about certain internal pages.
  • Revised: We task developers to troubleshoot and tweak affected pages to improve customer satisfaction and experience rates.

Goal 2: Increasing sales

This framework outlines a plan for increasing sales.

  • Specific: We want to increase conversion rates by 5% by the end of Q4. We do this by implementing more sales training, boosting advertising, creating incentives and conducting cold calls or following up with potential customers.
  • Measurable: We plan on increasing our sales by 1.5% each month. To dothis, find and implementnew marketingstrategies by the end of October.
  • Achievable: Both the marketing and sales teams believe we can easily accomplish this goal in the allotted time.
  • Relevant: Our top priority for the year is growing our customer base.
  • Time-bound:We should reach this goal by January 1.
  • Evaluated: Metrics show website traffic grew in July and August, so we should dive into the data to see what we did differently then.
  • Revised: We discover we ranked highly for a certain keyword, so we task our marketing department to focus on improving searches for it going forward.

Goal 3: Improving company morale

This example of a SMART goal demonstrates how to improve staff performance.

  • Specific: We have good team members who need to feel supported and valued. To improve morale and performance, we must establish better relationships among coworkers. We do this by creating incentives, increasing positive reinforcement and establishing team-building activities.
  • Measurable:We want to decrease the turnover rate by 10% by the end of the year.
  • Achievable:By prioritizing employee satisfaction, we can see an improvement in company morale.
  • Relevant: Staff satisfaction reduces recruitment costs and makes our business more efficient and effective.
  • Time-bound: We should see strengthened relationships by the holiday party.
  • Evaluated: Employee surveys show improved satisfaction rates, but turnover sits at 12%.
  • Revised: We look at our incentives and add a bonus program that increases with every year on the job.

SMART serve sas an incredibly effective tool for simplifying business and life achievements, but it’s not perfect for every context. When using the framework to set your own goals, consider every step carefully to better set yourself up for success.

FAQs about SMART goals

Is SMART useful for multiple simultaneous major goals?

You can use SMART for as many goals as you like and for any scope of time, but it works best when applied to goals without too many complex steps per section. For larger projects and plans, creating multiple SMART grids for each segment is a practical choice.

How can SMART be applied to goals with multiple time frames?

You can apply multiple SMART plans to different goals based on their time frames. Businesses might have a single key long-term goal for several years in the future, a few intermediate-term goals for the next year or numerous short-term goals with horizons of weeks or months. You can create a SMART grid for goals in each of these categories.

Are there other words for the letters in the SMART acronym?

Yes, there are. While specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based are often used, other variations for each of these are also commonly found. They might include strategic, manageable, ambitious, reliable and tangible, for example. However, the basic SMART protocol remains mostly unchanged.

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