Smart Goals

A 5 step framework to set up better goals for your business and growth

Goals. Targets. Objectives.

Call it whatever you want, your business is chasing them all the time. One quarter it is growing your userbase, and the next it is increasing the ARPU. Everything depends on the current goal your business is chasing after. Your marketing, sales processes, product roadmap, it all gets defined by your goals, often directly. So today, I figured we would talk about establishing a framework that will help you set up better goals for your business, and help it achieve growth in a more methodical, calculated and optimised fashion.

Why do you need a framework to set up goals?

It may seem like an overkill, right? After all, you already know what you want your business to achieve this month, quarter and year. So the goals are already in place. Why do you even need a framework?

You need one because in the absence of a properly defined and well outlined framework, you would soon realise that different teams and functions are working independent of each other, with no clear and coherent strategy that’s helping them move forward in a coordinated fashion. You’ll notice things falling off track multiple times, and as the goals get more aggressive, things fall off track with an even higher frequency.

Often times, the problem stems from the fact that nobody has a clear understanding of what success looks like, there isn’t a defined methodology to monitor and analyze progress, and while different stakeholders believe they are chasing after the same goal, this incoherent, non-converging approach often results in the primary objective slipping off to the back burner without anyone even realising so.

So, how do you stay the course? What should your action plan look like?

That is exactly what we are here to discuss today.

The best goals are smart

To set up goals right, you need to make sure they are specific and precise, and not vague. They should also be measurable so that you are able to tell with certainty, at any point in time, if they are moving in the right direction or not.

They need to be achievable. After all, we call them goals and not wishful thinking. They need to be relevant to the broader business focus. And most of all, they need to be bound by timelines, so that you don’t find yourself on a wild goose chase.


Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound

Sometimes also known as SMART.

Yeah, yet another cliche acronym play from the world of marketing. For a bunch of creative folks, us marketers aren’t the most creative bunch, are we?

Cliched approach set aside, this methodology of establishing goals works. It eliminates generalities and guesswork, eliminates the risk of everyone interpreting goals differently, sets a clear timeline, provides a precise overview of the progress, and makes it easier to analyze and track progress while identifying missed milestones and shortcomings along the way.

#1. Goals that are specific and not vague or open to interpretations

The more precise you are in specifying what exactly are your goals, the easier it would be for you to formulate a plan to achieve that, and visualise how your actions can help bring you closer to achieving your goals.

Don’t be afraid of digging deeper and diving in the details.

Goals that are specific are able to answer questions like:

  • What exact objectives are we trying to achieve via these goals?
  • Who is going to be responsible for them?
  • What possible steps would be needed for your business to be able to achieve these objectives?

The more you think of prompts like these, the more realistic and coherent your goals would get.

And why goals should be precise? Consider a scenario where your goal is to increase your app downloads. A 5% increase in your app downloads will also meet up to that requirement, but does that help your business and make you smile? If it doesn’t then your goal wasn’t set right, because even though this 5% increase checked the requirement set by your goal, your business objective wasn’t probably met. A better way of putting it forward would have been “increase app downloads by 30%”

The goal should also have a timeframe attached to it, but since we would discuss it later, let’s ignore it for now.

#2. Goals that are measurable so that you know what’s up and what’s down

We are on a good start, but without numbers it all loses meaning. That is why we added in that 30% in there, right? We want to quantify our goals so that they are easier to track progress of, and give a beforehand knowledge of whether our actions are bringing in the right results or not.

Adding numbers to your goals percolates the tracking and measurement across to different channels you would be making use of while chasing these goals. If traditionally, 50% of your app downloads have been attributed to social media platforms, then that would mean half of this new growth could be coming from social media itself. So, at any point in time, you would be in a position to hit the pause button and analyse if the numbers are holding true and the trend lines are moving in the right direction, and at the right pace. If yes, you can breathe easy, but if not, you need to make edits to your current approach if you want to meet your targets, and you need to do so before it’s too late.

It wouldn’t be possible if you did not have numbers to guide you every step of the way.

#3. Goals that are achievable so that you are working towards a realistic target

I was having coffee with a founder who wanted his signups to hit 30,000 by the end of the month. At the time, they were sitting at 17 signups. In six weeks. And they wished to hit these numbers organically. No ad spend, no collaborations, no fancy tieups or broad exposure activity.

I think you can guess how that story turned out.

Having goals that are grounded in reality is crucial. They are goals, not lofty dreams from which you would inevitably be forced to wake up. Your goals can be aggressive, but they need to be attainable at all times. Give yourself a reality check. Is the goal attainable? Is this what you and your team can actually accomplish? What are the limitations and constraints that might impede you achieving this goal?

You need to be honest with yourself here. For example, I know that at our current state, it is impossible for us to realistically manage social presence on multiple fronts, so we choose to focus on one channel and one channel alone. This helps us cover that one channel well and drive more impact instead of spreading ourselves thin and producing a watered down impact. Similarly, I know we aren’t quite ready to be running ad campaigns just yet. So, whenever I am setting up a goal for our business, I would make sure that these constraints play a pivotal role in shaping up the final goals.

#4. Goals need to be contextually relevant to the broader business objectives

What is the one true benefit of you achieving the goal you have just set up? Is that benefit aligned to the broader business focus? If so, how?

Contextuality is the key here. If your goals aren’t aligned with your long term business vision, even having achieved the goal would do little to the health and prospect of the business.

Consider this scenario. Your current goal is to increase monthly free trial activations by a thousand. Why are you focusing on trial activations and not actual new paid customers? Because when you looked at data you realised that conversion rate for trial signups is 6 times higher as compared to plan purchases, and 20% of your free trial activations do upgrade their account within a month. So by focusing on increasing signups, you are adding more value to the business as compared to the alternate approach of chasing plan purchases.

#5. Goals need to be constrained within the bounds of a timeframe

If it doesn’t have a deadline, it isn’t a goal.

Don’t treat goals as feel-good new year’s resolutions. Put a bell on them.

Unless your goals are constrained by a timeframe, you could spend months and years chasing the same objective and hurt your business tremendously.

If you are an early stage business, keep the timeframes shorter, and goals more achievable - making you achieve more incremental successes early on. And as you find yourself getting more familiarised with the process, you can go for more aggressive goals and longer timeframes.

Check-in on the progress of your goals more often, in the early days of adopting this framework. This will help you understand if you are going about the process right or if you need to make adjustments to it. While it is important to remember that you would need to put in quite some work and have patience before you achieve your goal (after all, none of the goals ever worth achieving were achieved overnight), you need to track progress continuously to ensure things are on track and haven’t fallen astray.

When you set up goals in your Benne Analytics dashboard, you get a weekly email detailing out the performance of those goals, and a comparative view against their past performance. This makes sure that you are always on top of things, and get a better sense of what needs to be fixed when things aren’t moving the way you expected them to.

Do you follow a framework to set up goals for your business? How do you go about the process? Let me know.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.



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