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Smart goal setting tips for inbound digital marketing

Posted by John Aikin
on January 3, 2018

As the old saying goes, “If you consistently aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

Clearly, it’s important to set goals. Goal setting is something most companies know they should be doing and monitoring frequently… But yet many still don’t have a system in place to track?

That doesn’t make sense.

​With inbound digital marketing, goals are set to help define the priorities and establish a path to success.

​The truth is that’s easier said than done for most businesses who are constantly overwhelmed with the day-to-day running of their business.

Here’s the problem with goal setting - most of the time goals are set that are either:

  • Too lofty, not rooted in factual data

  • Not specific enough, meaning it’s unclear if/when they are met

  • Not defined in a format that the team knows how to accomplish them

It’s too easy for companies to look back at the goals they set 1-2 months prior and think “wow, that’s clearly not going to happen,” or “I’m on track for raising awareness because we had someone share our stuff on social the other day.”

If you’re working through your marketing strategy and you’re not 100% sure if you’re doing this whole goal setting thing right, then read on, friends.

Why is goal setting and tracking important?

Without a clear definition of what it is to be successful, you have zero justification of the marketing efforts you’re implementing.

​Did you know that professionals in marketing roles have some of the highest turnover rates out of all professions? And why do you think that is?

Because they can’t prove what they are doing is working.

You can be certain that had those marketing professionals established clearly defined goals, followed by a plan to help hit those goals, that they would not be as worried about their job as they probably once were.


Your goals should be extremely clear, to the point where you can hand them to another person and have them evaluate whether or not you’ve accomplished your task.

​In order to do that, there are 5 key points to establishing really attainable goals.

Look at the acronym S.M.A.R.T. and put this into your path of success.

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Timebound

S is for Specific

When outlining your goals, you can’t be general in your attempt to outline what you’re doing. It must be specific in objective, service, etc.

​The more clear you are, the more clarity your team has, and the better your chances are of building a plan that will hit your target.

M is for Measurable

Your goals should be measurable in intervals, and it should be easily broken down into benchmarks and time line.

Ask yourself these 3 important questions:

  1. Can my goal be tracked? Is progress able to be documented?

  2. How will I know when I have achieved this goal? What about it tells me it’s a success?

  3. Why is this goal important to me?

A is for Attainable

Are you goals something that can be reached with effort? Or are they so lofty that there’s no way in hades you’re going get there.

​Your CEO telling you he wants to triple business by this time next is great and all, but… really tho?

If you set unattainable goals for your team, you literally are setting yourselves up for sad puppies, crushed hopes and dreams, and all things upsetting.

Keep in mind the reason for setting this goal. Make sure it is realistic.

R is for Relevant

The relevancy of a goal is important. Will this goal improve the effectiveness of your team, or does it have little impact whatsoever?

​If your company’s clients typically take the month of August off (hello, Europe), is it really a relevant goal to attempt to convert several new clients?

​With careful planning, wouldn’t that time be better utilized building better sales data or performing internal processes? Make sure what you’re doing is going to help the overall progress of the business.

T is for Timebound

Yes, the dreaded word “DEADLINE” is here and has its place!

The most stressful and anxiety-inducing thought of any marketing or salesperson is knowing you’re approaching the end of the month and are way off track.

​With SMART goal setting, this shouldn’t be an issue in the least.

Your goals should absolutely be tied to a time line of some kind. An open ended goal is not good for anyone, and no one can be held responsible for this.

Need An Example?

SMART goal setting is not a new technique. It has been around for some time now thanks to Peter Drucker, the man behind the theory.

There is a 76% success rate when goals are set, a plan of action is in place, and the goals are shared with another person. This is where the accountability comes in to play, of course.

Here are just a few examples of some typical SMART goals for inbound digital marketing:

  • “I want to increase our leads by 25% by December 31st”

  • “We are going to hire 2 new project managers by the end of Q2”

  • “Our client NPS will maintain an average of 8.5 for the next 6 months”

  • “We want to land 5 new clients in the SaaS space by September 15”

  • We want to generate 5 MQLs from the Association Tradeshow in March”

What Happens Next?

Goals are the lifeblood of a well-oiled marketing and sales machine. When goals are set in a SMART way, the team has transparency into what the company aims to achieve.

​There’s also a lot of accountability, on top of potential for support.

Once your goals are set, you have to build a strategy that will fuel your success. Goals typically won’t be met based on the status quo. If that’s the case, you didn’t make it challenging enough.

Make sure your sales and marketing teams are aligned, and don’t forget to keep track of your goals as time goes on!


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