The SMART goal-setting framework — you may be familiar with it, but can you answer the simple question: What is a SMART goal?
As a refresher for those in the know and a primer if you haven’t yet come across them, let’s start with the basics. We use the SMART goals acronym in the business world to refer to a goal that meets the following criteria:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant
T - Time-bound
So, what is a SMART goal?
SMART goal setting is a widely used tool in business primarily because it lays out specific criteria for success. One of the biggest reasons teams fail to hit relevant goals is a lack of clarity, which can lead to differing expectations of the end result and no clear path to get there.
When you use the SMART goal acronym and SMART goal examples to create your team goals, you can dig into the granular details of your business growth strategy. That way, attaining goals propels you forward rather than barely moving the needle under the illusion of progress.
Why should you use SMART goals?
With standard goal-setting, it’s not uncommon to see a lack of progress from ambling towards vague objectives as a disjointed unit.
Why is that? Because regardless of whether you’re a strong team leader with a clear vision, setting stretch goals without specific — and measurable — criteria is a recipe for poor performance.
If you were to set the goal for your team of improving sales by 10% this year, it might seem like a solid target to aim for. The problem is that while you might have a clear idea of how to make that happen, it might not be shared by your team members.
To make this goal SMART and more likely to produce the results you’re looking for, you could try expanding upon it like this:
Our goal is to improve our e-commerce sales by 10% up to $25,000 total by December 1, 2022, to help meet the company’s goal of increasing online revenue. We’ll begin with a rebranding campaign and then focus on driving organic traffic through SEO-optimized content to bring new leads to the e-commerce store. We’ll measure sales through Google Analytics at the end of each quarter.
The first goal outlines a pipe dream, whereas the second fleshes out exactly what needs to happen and how you can track your progress as you go. That’s what makes SMART goals so effective — they break down projects into tangible metrics and specific objectives, so everyone can move in the same direction without stopping to ask questions.
Align team strategy
As team leader, it’s you that everyone looks to for guidance. You’ve likely got enough on your plate already without regular check-ins regarding issues that can easily be addressed before you start your next big project.
The best way to align team strategy from the outset is to define exactly what needs to happen on your upcoming project with SMART goal-setting. You can also use team effectiveness models to collaborate seamlessly based on roles and relationships.
Take the time to draw up a project roadmap and fill out your main goals using the SMART framework. That way, there can be no doubt as to what’s expected of each team member and how you plan to go about the work involved.
Create achievable wins
One of the most critical elements of any SMART goal is making it realistic. While it’s always a good idea to shoot for the stars and show ambition with your vision, sometimes this sets up unachievable goals.
There’s nothing more discouraging than falling short of your professional goals, especially when it can easily be avoided with strategic project planning.
With SMART goals, the idea is to create an objective that moves your team and company forward without leading to burnout and disappointment due to lofty expectations. With a series of smaller, realistic wins under your belt, you and your team can build confidence and grow in ambition over time to hit your blue-sky goals.
How to write SMART goals
To write SMART goals, you should explore SMART goal examples and understand the following three things inside and out:
- Your team members
- Your company goals
- Your own capabilities
SMART goals only work when you, as team leader or project manager, have a firm grasp of all the moving parts of your business and your team.
If your knowledge in any one of these three areas is lacking, your action plan becomes much more difficult to accomplish.
Say you don't know your team members' strengths and weaknesses well. In this case, it’s almost impossible to set achievable goals because you don’t know how quickly your team can complete tasks and whether they require extra training.
If you don’t know your team members well, you can carry out a series of one-on-one in-person meetings or video calls to establish a clear picture of each individual. You should also draw from any data available on performance, such as past appraisals or time tracking information.
If you don’t know your company goals, your SMART goals might make your team look efficient, but they won’t satisfy stakeholders and higher-ups who have strategic goals to move the needle as a company.
To avoid this issue, familiarize yourself with the company vision and the strategic goals set out by higher-ups. Only when you have this information can you formulate valuable SMART goals that will not only show off your team in a positive light but also help build forward momentum for the whole company.
Finally, if you don’t know what you’re capable of, it will be exceptionally challenging to know what you can achieve with your team without external help or resources.
You have to know exactly how to manage and allocate the resources at your disposal — both human and financial — as well as how you can spearhead a campaign and motivate your team to hit your milestones.
Once you’re confident you know what (and who) you’re working with, you need to include the following five elements when writing your goals.
S - Specific
Vague goals lead to undesirable outcomes nine times out of ten. That’s why specificity is crucial for creating goals that will help you achieve positive results.
For a goal to be specific, it has to lay out exactly what needs to be done, who is involved, and the methods you’ll use along the way. For instance, a specific goal might look like this:
A design team will redesign the e-commerce store homepage, taking inspiration from the company website and the brand style guide to boost sales.
M - Measurable
A specific goal will give you and your team clear direction, but how can you tell if you’ve accomplished it? This is where metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) come in, as they’re useful ways to measure your progress.
Business runs on data, so if you want to make concrete progress, you need to make data-driven decisions and use relevant information to track milestones.
Let’s take the initial goal we outlined and make it measurable:
To measure whether the homepage redesign was successful, we will track sales using Google Analytics to see if there’s an uptick after the rebrand. The goal is to exceed $5,000 in sales revenue per month.
A - Achievable
An unrealistic goal doesn’t serve anybody.
While blue-sky thinking has its place and can help push businesses to the next level, for most projects, you need to set realistic expectations. If your team members struggle to meet lofty expectations, that will reflect poorly on your leadership and negatively impact group morale.
When setting goals, ensure you have everything you need to achieve them before setting the project in motion. Here are the three major elements that will influence whether or not a goal is achievable:
- Time: Do you have enough time to complete a project without putting undue stress on your team?
- Funds: Do you have the requisite funds to execute your strategy?
- Human resources: Do you have enough people on your team with the right skill set to accomplish the tasks involved?
Let’s see how we can add realism to our checkout page rebrand:
We’ll outsource the brand asset design and allocate a budget of $2,000 and a timeline of two weeks. Then, the marketing team will jump in and promote the rebrand through content marketing and social media posts on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn in time for the relaunch one month from the project start date.
R - Relevant
We’re almost finished with the goal, but you need to make sure it aligns with your company’s vision and ties in with the main strategic goals.
The big picture may be a big buzzword in business, but not without reason. If you don’t have a broad view of where the business is heading, you can’t expect to create SMART goals that help you push forward as an organization.
To make a goal relevant, simply consider how your team can contribute to overall company progress.
With the e-commerce homepage redesign, we’ll generate more organic traffic and make it easier to convert leads with a more trustworthy checkout process and clear branding. This should help generate more sales in line with the company’s goal to make e-commerce a new major revenue stream for this year.
T - Time-bound
Finally, we have to discuss the most precious resource of all — time. Time and resources are everything in business.
If you fail to meet a project deadline, it could cost you a client. If a team member doesn’t deliver work on time, it could cost them their reputation. If you don’t accomplish a goal when you said you would, it could cost you your job.
There’s a steep price to pay for failing to operate within outlined time frames. That’s why it’s imperative that every goal you set clearly states delivery expectations for milestones, deadlines, and goal completion dates.
Let’s add the last element to our example SMART goal and put all the elements together:
We’re going to redesign our e-commerce homepage starting on September 1 and finishing at the end of the month. Here’s how we’ll accomplish the goal:
- Add clear branding elements and overhaul the checkout page to convert more leads.
- Outsource brand asset design to an agency with a budget of $2,000 and a two-week completion date.
- Invite the marketing team to drum up interest with an SEO content marketing campaign and social media posts.
- We’ll measure progress with Google Analytics, paying attention to e-commerce sales figures. Success would be to see sales revenue in excess of $5,000 per month.
- The goal will align with the company’s objective to focus on improving e-commerce sales for this year.
Examples of SMART goals
Now you’ve seen what it takes to create meaningful goals and what each element involves, it’s time to put it all together and take a look at some more practical SMART goals examples.
The client acquisition push
- Specific: Convert five new leads every month to sign up for a subscription service and boost MRR (monthly recurring revenue) by $1,000 by the end of the quarter. Use paid ads to find more qualified leads to capture and convert.
- Measurable: Confirm that there are five new active users in your subscription service each month, accounting for churn.
- Achievable: We’ve averaged four leads each month since starting the subscription service five months ago, so adding five a month is possible with extra marketing efforts.
- Relevant: The company’s goal is to increase revenue from the paid subscription service.
- Time-bound: For each month, the team should onboard five new paid members, and by the end of the quarter, there should be 15 new members enrolled.
The CLV (customer lifetime value) increase
- Specific: Increase your company’s CLV by 5% for the year using a combination of sales-focused onboarding and well-executed upsells.
- Measurable: Find out the average purchase value in the company and multiply it by the average number of purchases to calculate the current CLV and aim to increase it by 5%.
- Achievable: With a focus on the onboarding process and upsells, it’s conceivable that you can bump up the value from each customer enough to a total 5% increase by the end of the year.
- Relevant: The company’s goal is to get more from its existing customer base rather than spending a lot of resources on qualifying new leads.
- Time-bound: Each quarter should see a marginal increase in CLV to ensure progress is being made.
The product launch
- Specific: Raise awareness for the new product with a two-pronged marketing approach. Run a social media campaign alongside influencer-led promotion. The goal is to have the product featured in three or more high-profile publications in the tech industry.
- Measurable: At the end of the three-month-long marketing initiative, the product and company should be featured in at least three tech publications.
- Achievable: With the right level of exposure, spearheaded by influencers with large followings, it’s feasible that the product could garner the necessary attention to be picked up by relevant publications.
- Relevant: The company wants to roll out a new line of products and hopes they will reach a wide audience.
- Time-bound: Once the three-month marketing campaign concludes, the team can check in and assess whether the goal has been accomplished.
Let Wrike help you meet your SMART goals and more
If you want to give yourself and your team the best possible chance of meeting your goals, you need to equip yourselves with the best tools and use SMART goals examples to set your own.
Wrike is a project management solution that offers you many ways of managing your resources, planning ahead, and collaborating effectively with your team. With streamlined communication and 360-degree visibility on all tasks and projects, you can make sure you satisfy each element of every SMART goal you set up.
Even with the most well-planned SMART goals, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit bumps in the road during execution. That’s why it helps to have team-based software that puts you in the driving seat and gives you access to a wealth of performance and progress data.
When you lead a team in Wrike, you can react quickly to problems that arise, and even if your team is scattered around the world, asynchronous communication ensures everyone’s voice will be heard. Get started today with a two-week free trial.