Market Research

Marketing objectives: Get SMART

Set realistic marketing goals to make the most of your investment.

Published: July 05, 2016

Your business invests in marketing for a reason: to get results. But without the right goals, it's impossible to know whether your investment is paying off. Worse yet, unrealistic goals can be discouraging and easy to abandon.

Can you realistically increase year-over-year sales by 25 percent, boost the number of units sold by 30 percent, or go from an inconsequential share of the market to one of dominance? Before aiming for the impossible, take time for a reality check.

For established businesses, your existing performance is the best place to begin. "Existing businesses can look at results for similar activities in previous years and review the change from previous results to see if it is realistic," says Dave Chaffey, a Leeds, England-based author of five books on digital marketing, and CEO and co-author of Smart Insights.

But all businesses — new and existing — can consider the golden rule of goal setting when planning their marketing objectives.

Setting SMART marketing objectives

SMART is a mnemonic device to help set effective business goals. It can also be applied when it comes to marketing goals.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Find quantifiable, data-based information about a business to use as a baseline. Some examples are sales dollars, units sold, number of new accounts, conversion rates, or market share.

  • Measurable: Use your business's baseline data to set reasonable goals and project future marketing success. A measurable goal must include a plan with targets and milestones to track progress along the way.

  • Attainable: Break your marketing goal or goals into smaller, more manageable action steps that realistically use your business's resources and available time within a reasonable period.

  • Relevant: Align the marketing strategy with your business's overall goals. Goals that don't mesh with your business's mission and business model are often unattainable.

  • Time-bound: Set a finite end date for a campaign and re-evaluate the strategy based on the results.

SMART objectives help all staff members focus on the goals – and be held accountable. "Everyone can be sure exactly what the target is," says Chaffey.

Getting real about your marketing objectives

Some marketing goals may be unrealistic because they greatly exceed your business's capabilities, but overly simplistic goals can be equally ineffective. Easy goals, such as small sales increases or a few percent more visitors to your website per week, can be uninspiring, and won't stretch and grow your business.

When developing your marketing plan, consider setting just one or two major goals, and support those with three to five smaller goals. This way, you're approaching your primary challenge from several angles, boosting your chances of success.

As with any investment, you want your marketing spend to pay off. SMART goals are the best way to maintain a laser-sharp focus on your progress – and ensure you get the most out of your investment.

As you set your marketing objectives, leverage the resources that are part of the Business Plan Center.

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