The SMART method: how to effectively formulate goals

 

If you set the right goals and achieve them in time, you will be successful in anything. One of the most effective techniques in goal setting is considered the SMART method. Read in our article about what SMART goals are, how to set them correctly and how they influence the result.

What is SMART

SMART is a method for setting effective goals. It can be used to formulate a measurable and realistic goal, to identify the necessary resources and timelines to achieve it.

The first time the method was mentioned along with the name of Paul J. Meyer in 1965. It became widely used in the late 1980s. Now the approach is used in project management, business planning, Internet marketing, marketing and other areas of life, including personal time management.

SMART is good for setting tasks with predictable results:

  • When it is necessary to delegate well known business processes;
  • When it is necessary to describe regulations, instructions, technical map, etc.
  • SMART helps to act fast and save time due to concreteness.

 

SMART Criteria

The name of the method contains an abbreviation for the names of the criteria, which must be met by a properly formulated SMART Goal.

S (Specific)

SMART goals and objectives should give direction and be such that they cannot be understood differently. If the goal is not specific, everyone can go in different directions when completing tasks. All implementers should have the same understanding of the SMART goal.

Unspecific – Get more profits
Specific – Increase sales.

What’s important to remember:

  • One goal – one result. If there are different development priorities, there should be one for each of them.
  • SMART goal should answer the question “What to do?” For example:
  • Increase the conversion rate on the site with the same traffic.
  • Reduce the percentage of customer churn.

 

What questions to ask to set a specific SMART goal:

  • Why with this particular goal is it possible to achieve the desired result?
  • What result do I want to get with this goal?
  • Does the goal match the company strategy/customer goals?

M (Measurable)

A SMART goal should be measurable, so that you can determine how close the result is. Otherwise, you won’t be able to track progress. A goal that cannot be measured will be difficult to work with. For example, you can’t measure how happy a customer is, so making a customer happier is not a goal. If you want to increase loyalty to the company, the goal might be, “Increase customer loyalty to the company by 30%.”

Unmeasurable – Reduce the cost of a lead by using anti-fraud.
Measurable – Reduce the cost of a lead by 15% by using anti-fraud.

What’s important to remember:

  • You will only be able to track progress if you have designated a quantifiable goal. Example SMART goal: Increase leads with tools by 30%.
  • The target should be agreed upon by all stakeholders.

 

What questions to ask to set a measurable SMART goal:

  • By what metric will I know I have achieved the goal?
  • What value of this indicator will indicate that the goal has been met?

A (Achievable or Attainable)

It is important that the SMART goal is not exorbitant and unachievable. After it is achieved, new opportunities should open up. That said, SMART goals are always ambitious and not too easy to achieve. When setting a goal, a balance is important.

It is necessary to rely on resources and experience: the level of skills in the team, information about growth in previous months, etc. An over-ambitious goal without the resources to achieve it may demotivate the team.

Unattainable – Increase the percentage of repeat sales by 20 times by the end of the year
Achievable – Increase the percentage of repeat sales by 2x by the end of the year

What’s important to remember:

  • The principle of SMART goal setting takes into account the experience and knowledge of specialists and the market situation.
  • A goal that cannot be achieved is demotivating for the team.
  • A SMART goal is always ambitious. Too low indicators won’t motivate to work to achieve the result and can’t take the team to the next level of development. Achieving an ambitious goal of 80% is better than a mediocre goal of 110%.

 

What questions to ask to set an achievable SMART goal:

  • Is it possible to achieve the goal within the specified time frame?
  • Is there enough experience and knowledge to accomplish the goal?
  • Are there other factors that affect the outcome?
  • What makes it impossible to achieve the result?

 

R (Relevant)

It is important that the SMART goal is relevant to the trends and needs of the company/client. Synonyms for the name of this SMART goal criterion are useful, justified.

Irrelevant – To invest 200 thousand rubles in contextual advertising
Relevant – To invest 200 thousand rubles in contextual advertising of a new product

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What is important to remember:

  • A meaningful SMART goal meets a company’s strategy and does not go against other goals.
  • A meaningful goal takes the company to the next stage of development.

 

What questions to ask to set a relevant SMART goal:

  • Why should it be achieved?
  • What benefits will it provide?
  • Does the goal align with the mission and strategy?
  • Does it align with other goals and objectives?
  • Is it consistent with market trends?

 

If you can’t answer the “Why” question, the goal is irrelevant. For example, “To gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace” is a means to an end, not the goal itself. What the competitive advantage is for is the goal.

T (Time bound)

SMART goals are usually set for a year, six months, or three months. A longer period of time can be defocusing. A goal set for three years will be forgotten and irrelevant. A specific deadline helps to outline the progress of work and plan tasks during the given period.

Unlimited in time – Increase sales with targeted advertising by 20%
Time-bound – Increase sales with targeted advertising by 20% by September 15, 2022

What’s important to remember:

  • You need to decompose long-term goals: if the timeframe is longer than three months, you need to define intermediate milestones to monitor progress.
  • The maximum allowable time frame is one year.

 

What questions to ask to set a time-limited SMART goal:

  • How long will it take to achieve the goal?
  • What are the steps to reach the goal?

What tasks do SMART goals solve

  • Focus on accomplishing specific tasks. A specific goal is more easily broken down into subtasks to achieve.
  • Allow you to measure progress toward the goal. When a goal is measurable, it is easier to track the result.
  • Simplify communication in the team. Each member of the team knows what the result should be, no time is spent on explanations.
  • Increases the chances of success. SMART-model simplifies goal setting.

Alternative SMART transcripts

SMART goal-setting technology has been refined throughout its existence. New criteria have been added and existing criteria have been redefined.

Here are a few examples.

SMARTER – a goal must be reviewed and evaluated. “Reviewable” means that as internal and external factors change, the goal can and should be adjusted and revised. For example, when there is a change of performers, during economic crisis, etc. Evaluatable” means that the SMART objective can be evaluated for achievability, adequacy, etc.

SMARTER – the goal must be ecological and recordable (recorder). Ecological implies that it is safe to achieve the goal for the company and specialists. Recorded goal is one that is recorded on electronic or paper medium.

SMARTTA is a variant with additional criteria such as ” Traceable” and “Agreed with other goals”. In fact, there is nothing new here. It just emphasizes that the process of achieving the goal should be monitored, and that new goals should not be in conflict with those already set.

SMARRT is a variant with the “realistic” criterion that the SMART goal must meet. This means that it can be achieved with an adequate amount of resources within the specified time frame.

The components of the SMART acronym can also have different meanings. Here are some well-known variants of deciphering, which are met in practice.

  • S – simple, stretchable, significant.
  • M – meaningful, motivational, manageable.
  • A – aligned with corporate goals, agreed, appropriate, acceptable, actionable, ambitious, action-oriented.
  • R – reasonable, realistic, resourced, result-oriented.
  • T – timed, testable, traceable, timely.

How to configure and set SMART-targets correctly

The following examples show the technique of SMART-target setting.

Step 1: Identify the need

Analyze what should be improved or changed in your work, in the work of the company. You can get ideas from the SWOT-analysis, for example.

The SWOT-analysis is a tool that helps to determine which mistakes are made in your work, how to eliminate them, what the risks could be. The abbreviation SWOT is also formed from the abbreviation of words by their first letters:

  • S – strengths. These are advantages, unique characteristics;
  • W – weaknesses. Weaknesses, which hinder the development, growth of profits. Because of them competitors are one step ahead;
  • O – opportunities. O (opportunities) – something you can influence in order to improve your results, the profit of the company etc;
  • T – threats. Potential risks that can cause you to suffer, lose revenue, contractors, customers, etc.

 

Look at what weaknesses are reducing efficiency, how to fine-tune business processes, build against competitors to improve results.

Narrow your objective as much as possible: analyze one aspect, one area, so that the “one SMART objective = one result” requirement is met.

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You should have a concise statement of what needs to be done. For example, you want to increase the number of customers.

The general wording, without specifying the timing and dynamics, would be: “Increase the number of new customers.

Step 2: Make sure the goal is relevant

Determine whether the goal is not inconsistent with other goals set, the overall strategy, whether its implementation will change anything for the better. For example, if you have a very big customer flow, you don’t want to set a goal for expanding your customer base.

Step 3: Set quantitative targets

For example, this can be profit, conversion rate (%), audience coverage, number of repeat customers and other metrics, which can be measured and assess the dynamics on the principle of “was – is”.

In our example of SMART goal setting this indicator is the number of new customers. Suppose we need to increase it by 15%.

A SMART goal would be, “To increase the number of new customers by 15%.

Step 4: Set a deadline

Break the goal into several steps and set completion dates for each of them, and set a deadline for achieving the SMART goal as a whole. If different people are responsible for the goal, create a schedule with responsible people and deadlines for each of them. This will make it easier to control the process.

The deadline, like a quantitative indicator, should also be adequate. Rely on historical statistics. For how long was it possible to bring in so many new clients?

In our example, let’s take the period in which the advertising campaign to attract. The goal looks like this: “Increase the number of new customers by 15% in 3 months.

It is recommended that you allow extra time, as questions may arise as you work through the goal.

Step 5: Check if the goal is achievable

Assess resource constraints. These can be:

  • Time resources;
  • human resources;
  • monetary resources;
  • information resources;
  • competencies, etc.

 

If everything is sufficient, you can fix the goal and start working to achieve it. If there are not enough resources, you need to figure out where to get them from.

Step 6: Be as specific as possible.

Everyone working towards it needs to understand the goal. Visualizing the principle of formulating a SMART goal can be represented as a table:

  • Verb-action – Attract, raise, fulfill, increase, achieve, sell, get, attract
  • Indicator name – Number of orders, customers, contracts, traffic, quality score, profit
  • Target – Increase by 20%, 250 customers, 150 contracts, 3x Period of completion or deadline – By October 1, 2022, per quarter
  • What to do (optional) – Automate some processes, build back from competitors, scale the company

Examples and anti-examples of goals

Let’s look at 5 examples of SMART goals, how you should and shouldn’t set them.

Example 1

Record webinars on “How to Set SMART Goals in Sales, with Examples” by September 1, 2022 to attract new customers.

Check:

  • S (specific) – it’s clear from the goal what the business coach should do;
  • M (measurable) – it’s not clear how many webinars there should be;
  • A (achievable) – the goal is achievable, there is an audience and developments;
  • R (meaningful) – to attract new customers;
  • T (time-limited) – until September 1, 2022.

 

How to fix it:

Record three webinars on “How to Set SMART Goals in Sales, with Examples” by September 1, 2022 to attract new clients.

Example 2

Increase the number of targeted leads from Facebook by 10% for revenue growth.

Check:

  • S (specific) – it’s clear what needs to be done and where the leads should come from;
  • M (measurable) – you need to increase the number of leads by 10%;
  • A (achievable) – colleagues achieved such a result for the specified period;
  • R (significant) – for profit growth;
  • T (time-limited) – time limit is not specified.

 

How to fix:

Increase the number of targeted leads from Yandex Direct by 10% for profit growth over the quarter.

Example 3

Using the tool “Media Planning” cut the time for selecting keywords and calculating the budget for advertising campaigns in Facebook by half in 3 months, so as not to work on weekends.

Checking:

  • S (specific) – indicated what needs to be done, what to use;
  • M (measurable) – 2x;
  • A (achievable) – it is real because the automation service is used;
  • R (meaningful) – the specialist will not spend personal time on work tasks;
  • T (time-limited) – there are 3 months to achieve the goal.

 

There is no need to correct anything, the goal is set correctly.

Example 4

Decrease cost of client attraction to Facebook community from 1 dollar to 10 cents for a month.

Check:

  • S (specific) – it is stated what needs to be done;
  • M (measurable) – $1 to 10 cents;
  • A (achievable) – this goal is unrealistic to achieve, as previously the cost was reduced by 10 cents per month;
  • R (meaningful) – the cheaper the subscriber, the more profitable for the client;
  • T (time-limited) – there is a month to achieve the goal.
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How to fix:

Reduce the monthly cost of attracting a client to Facebook community from 1 dollar to 80 cents.

Example 5

Earn by 30% more by the end of the quarter.

Check:

  • S (specific) – from the wording is not clear, what tasks should be performed;
  • M (measurable) – 30% more;
  • A (achievable) – during the last reporting period it was possible to increase sales by 25%;
  • R (significant) – the goal corresponds to the company’s growth strategy;
  • T (limited in time) – there is a quarter to achieve the goal.

 

How to fix it:

Reduce the bounce rate from the site by 30% by the end of the quarter.

How to evaluate the effectiveness of a SMART goal

According to the theory of American psychologist Edwin Locke, people who set goals are more successful than those who don’t. In 1966, he proposed five principles for effective goal setting.

  • Clarity. Goals should be understandable and clear.
  • Complexity. Properly set goals are quite complex. They require some effort to achieve them.
  • Commitment. The person who sets the goal must make a commitment to achieve it. Without this, it is difficult to develop the motivation to achieve.
  • Feedback. It is necessary to be able to receive information about progress toward one’s goal. This information can motivate or indicate that the goal set is very difficult or simple and needs to be adjusted.
  • Complexity. The more levels a goal has, the longer it will take to achieve it. Good goals are not always ambitious. But understanding this parameter is an important part of planning.

How to achieve SMART goals

Make a list of goals and prioritize them

Write out separately all the goals that you or your team are facing. For each one, briefly state what the desired outcome is. The goals should not be contradictory. Choose the most important ones for which you have sufficient resources. If you focus on one task, your brain works on it non-stop. The highest priority will be the one that maximizes profits.

Break down large goals into smaller tasks

Even a precise, specific, and measurable SMART goal can be discouraging in its scale and create a sense of unattainability. Especially at the beginning of the journey. That’s why you need to break down the main task into several smaller ones that you are no longer afraid to tackle. Intermediate results will show progress and motivate for further work. There are two ways to break down a large task into smaller ones:

  • Classic list. You need to write down in chronological order the tasks that are important to solve to achieve the goal. Then it is necessary to break down each of them into smaller ones. The ideal solution is to obtain a list of specific tasks, each of which requires less than 30 minutes;
  • Mind map. In the center of the sheet you should write or draw the main goal, and then draw arrows from it to less global objectives. From them – to smaller, etc. Mind map allows you to always keep in mind the whole plan and understand the relationship between tasks. You can also divide subtasks into categories, prioritize them, and so on.

Write the plan by tasks

Achieving even a small goal requires a clear plan of action. You need to spell out what and in what order each task will be done, who will be involved in the process, and what resources will be involved. It is important to plan each day.

If everything is done correctly at the previous stage, you will have a list of specific tasks in front of you. In order not to miss anything, you can make a to do list for each day. How to use it at work?

  • Be sure to create a draft in the evening and correct it in the morning, if necessary.
  • Write the expected start and end time for each item.
  • Pick the most important things to do.
  • Write down during the day the actual time of completion of each task, mark those that could not be done. In the evening it is important to analyze why this happened.

Disadvantages of the SMART method

Despite its merits, the SMART goal setting method cannot be applied:

For strategic goals. It is only suitable for setting goals for a short period. For example, when we fix bugs or work with content;
if it is difficult to predict the outcome. For example, if it is an activity that requires creativity;

 

 

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