How I used SMART goals last year to kick ass
It’s almost a month into the New Year and Chinese New Year just started (新年快樂). A lot of things come to mind when I think of the new year, but the thing that sticks out the most for me is New Year’s Resolutions.
We all know how easy it is to start our New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the year. It feels easy to say that we are going to –
… lose weight
… get a better job
… save money for an excellent vacation
… or my New Year’s resolution: make more money with my business.
But starting New Year’s resolutions is the easy part.
Like baseball or golf, the most important part is your follow-through.
Without actually following through with your New Year’s Resolutions, nothing else matters. That’s why I’m going to share with you the method I used to improve my business’s bottom line by 500% last quarter.
This method isn’t some new fad – it’s a simple system that millions of businesses use every day to stay ahead of the competition.
And that method is: using SMART goals.
What are smart goals?
Using SMART goals is a management technique used by both business people and non-business people to get shit done.
SMART stands for :
- Time Bound
I’ve personally used these goals to
- start a successful business (after three failed attempts)
- get my first high paying client within days of opening my business
- continue to grow my business month over month
I’ve also used SMART goals to get published a few times: /humblebrag
But I didn’t write this article to tell you about my successes with SMART goals. I wrote this article to give you actionable steps that you can use to improve your business right now.
Let’s get started.
SMART goals are Specific
The “S” in SMART stands for Specific. This means that SMART goals need to be simple, sensible, and significant. If you are going into 2020 and thinking “This year, I want to grow my business,” you are in trouble.
“Growing your business” is too vague of an idea. To make your goal Specific, you need to state the specific target that you are aiming for. Here are some examples of Specific goals:
- I want to create and release a new digital product for my business
- I want to attend local business meetups to network with other business owners
- I want to enter into Spanish speaking markets
The most important parts of the specificity of your SMART goals are who, what, and why.
In the above examples, my who was “I.” If you are in a large company or you are a department head in an organization, then the who, may be “the marketing team” or “the eastern office of the company.” Whoever it is, you need to think of who is going to be involved in these SMART goals. If you aren’t thinking of who is going to be involved, then you will have problems with the other sections.
The what in your SMART goal is the specific thing that’s happening. In my examples, these are “create a new digital product,” “network with other business owners,” and “enter into Spanish speaking markets.” The what is your guiding star, your compass, and your target. Without knowing where you are going, it’s impossible to plan how you are going to get there.
Finally, we have the why. Why is this goal important to you or your business? Here, you really need to think about the resources and commitment that this goal is going to require. If you can’t figure out why your goal is important, then it’s not a good goal at all.
SMART goals are Measurable
The “M” in SMART stands for Measurable. If you can’t measure a goal, how do you know if you’ve met it or not? Some goals are easier to measure than others. Maybe your goal is “get better at marketing.” How do you determine if you actually have gotten better at marketing? Goals that are too subjective usually aren’t a very good choice. Instead of “get better at marketing,” what can you measure that is a reflection of your marketing skills?
A goal like “increase ROI from marketing spend by 10%” is measurable.
There we go.
This goal is great for two reasons. The first reason why this goal is great is that it is measurable – you can look at your revenue against expenses to see real, hard numbers to see if you achieved your goal.
The other reason why this goal is so great is the specific number of 10%. When developing your SMART goal, you need to have a specific number that you are aiming for. We’ll cover that more in the next section.
Here are some goals that can be measured:
- customer ratings on satisfaction surveys
- churn among customers
- the number of leads sent to you from your SEO campaign
SMART goals are Achievable
The “A” in SMART stands for Achievable. In my previous example, I used the example “increase ROI of marketing spend by 10%. As a business owner, you probably think that 10% might not be enough. After all, why not make the goal “increase ROI of marketing spend as high as possible?”
I’m really big into social psychology – specifically how language affects decisions and feelings. And how language affects you and your employees’ motivation can make or break your business.
Think about it. If you had a boss come up to you and say “you must make as much money as possible,” it may sound like an impossible task. It will feel like climbing Mount Everest.
During my first job working in fast food, I felt like I was just doing jail time every day I went into work. But when I started my next job as a waiter, I was pumped when I set a goal for my tips each night.
“Alright, let’s make $150 tonight” is much more motivating than “let’s make money tonight.”
Each type of business with have its own metrics of what is Achievable, but here are some goals that I use:
- Increase page views by 5,000 each month
- Give five SEO sales presentations by the end of the week
- Increase my client’s leads by 50%
SMART goals are Relevant
The R in SMART stands for Relevant. This is similar to the why that was asked in the Specific section. Why is this goal relevant to your overall business model? Here’s a hint, if you have to report to a manager and you want to propose a change, you absolutely must make certain that you are considering how your ideas are relevant to your overall business.
When selling SEO, a lot of SEO companies here in Florida talk about page views and keyword rankings. How important are those, really? How do keyword rankings make you money?
That’s why I don’t care about keyword rankings.
I tell all of my clients that I am focused on what is relevant to their business. How do my marketing ideas contribute to their bottom line?
Here are some good Relevant goals that you can use for your business:
- increase net income (duh)
- build a mailing list
- develop a new marketing campaign
Here are some goals that are not Relevant (never have goals like this):
- build awareness on social media
- get 1,000 likes on Facebook posts
SMART goals are Time Bound
The T in SMART stands for Time Bound. This part of SMART is what puts the fire under your ass. Many business owners, including myself, perform much better when there is some sort of pressure. This is similar to the idea of Parkinson’s Law – the amount of work that you need to do fills ups the allocated time for the task.
That’s to say – if you give yourself two months to get ten more customers, it will take you the whole two months to do so. And if you only give yourself one month to get ten more customers, it will only take you one month.
That’s not to say that you can tell yourself “I will make a million customers by tomorrow afternoon.” But, if you don’t place some kind of time limitations on your business goals, it will take much longer to achieve them, if you even achieve them at all.
Some good examples of Time Bound goals include:
- Increase revenue by 20% by the end of the quarter
- Make two new hires before the end of the month
- Make ten sales calls before the end of the hour
Writing SMART goals
If you are like many business owners, you might read an article like this and think “hmmm, this SMART goal idea is pretty interesting” and then you go about your day.
But you are a different kind of business owner.
You want to get shit done, so here’s what you need to do right now.
Close all of the other tabs that you have open. Turn off the TV. Put your phone on silent. Get rid of all distractions.
Did you really do it, or did you skip what I told you to do?
You need to think of a short-time goal, a medium-time goal, and a long-time goal. I usually use one month, three months, and a year for my time frames.
For each time frame, you need to think of one SMART goal. For example, your one-month goal may be “get one long-term client @ $1,000/month before the end of the month.”
Now you should have three SMART goals in front of you. Here’s what you need to do to make sure you actually do them.
Take your short term SMART goal and write it on a sticky note. Take that note and stick it on the side of your computer monitor. Now, every time you sit down to do work, that goal will be staring you in the face just waiting for you to complete it.
Don’t continue reading until you actually do this.
Next, take your medium-term goal and write it on your office whiteboard. You do have one, don’t you? (If you don’t have an office whiteboard, you really should get one ASAP.)
Make sure you write this goal in the corner, so you can continue to do other work on your whiteboard without erasing your goal.
Finally, take your long-term goal and put enter it into your calendar app. I personally use Google Calendar. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s a calendar app that you check regularly. Put this long-term goal a year from now with a one-month reminder, a three-month reminder, and a six-month reminder. Make sure that your calendar app sends you a notification and an email for every one of these reminders.
Get to work.
SMART goal wrap up
SMART goals have changed my business and personal life. I’d highly recommend it to anyone that has a lot to do and not enough time. If you made it this far to the article without writing down your SMART goals, you can download my SMART goal worksheet to get you started.
Get the SMART Goals Worksheet when you sign up to my Business Tips newsletter – I’ll send you tips a few times each month.
After you fill it out, go ahead and tweet me your goals at @josh_seo.
What to read next: Don’t read another article before you download and complete the SMART goal worksheet.
You can read more about the origin of SMART goals here.