Entrepreneurs can’t eliminate all the unknowns of starting a business. But they can use goal-setting to get a firm grasp of what success means to them.
In particular, the use of what is known as SMART goals provides a welcome dose of clarity at the outset of a new business. The term is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. When you set SMART goals before the launch of a business, you have a foundation to precisely measure success.
Let’s take a look at how to use SMART goals for new business.
First-time entrepreneurs tend to have lofty goals such as: make a positive impact, provide top-notch customer service, contribute to my community. The problem with goals like this is that you don’t know when you’ve achieved them.
Be specific in pinpointing what you want to achieve. Assessing your performance can only be done with exact goals.
Making goals measurable means translating general goals like “provide top-notch customer service” into quantifiable elements. For example, “hire an experienced customer service staff member with impeccable references” is a quantifiable element that works toward the general goal of top-notch customer service. Another specific measure of customer service would be a goal like “generate 20 positive online customer reviews.”
Goals that are too ambitious can lead to frustration and abandonment. In the first year of a startup business, attainable goals relating to things like leads, customers, revenue, and profitability are essential. What is attainable in these areas is a question that requires thoughtful consideration by you and your team.
Codify your responses in written attainable goals.
Any goal you set should spark your core internal motivations. Avoid setting goals just because they seem like the right thing for a startup to do. For example, “set up business profile pages on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Instagram before launch and maintain an active presence on each.” This goal is specific, measurable, and attainable, but is it relevant?
Does your business really need an active presence on every social media platform before launch?
A more relevant version of this goal may be: “set up profile pages on Twitter and Instagram before launch and maintain an active presence on each.”
Which social media platforms you choose to focus on is a function of the characteristics of your target audience. Younger audiences are more likely to be active on Snapchat and Instagram. Older, more professional audiences populate LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Start on the platforms that are most relevant to your business, then assess your performance on each after a period of about six months.
At that time, it may make sense to add another social platform to the mix.
Like the attainable criteria, only you and your team can determine what the most relevant goals are for your business. When goals are relevant to you, you will be intrinsically motivated to achieve them.
A time element is an essential component to having a measurable goal. There is a big difference between “attract 500 followers on social media” and “attract 500 followers on social media in the first six months after launch.” Revenue goals like “build revenue to $100,000 per year” naturally have time elements attached to them. Others, like “attract a client roster of 100” need a timeframe to give you a stopping point to assess your success.
Setting SMART goals focuses your business on important milestones and allows you to clearly measure your success over time. We recommend this technique to all startup businesses.
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