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light bulbLike most adages, the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” resonates. While the SMART acronym has been around for years, it applies perfectly to inbound marketing, so there’s no reason not to use it when setting inbound marketing goals. For the uninitiated, SMART means your goals should be all of the following:
Specific: How you achieve a goal may be grey, but the goal itself should be stark black-and-white.

Measurable: If you can’t track a goal, how will you ever know if you’ve reached it?

Attainable: Find the right balance between challenging yourself and knowing your limitations.

Realistic: Honesty is the best policy—especially when it comes to marketing goals.

Timebound: Every goal needs a definitive deadline, no matter how close or far away that deadline is.

The beauty of SMART is that it’s based on common sense and that it’s easy to remember. However, applying it to your business can be a little trickier. Let’s run through the ways you can apply it to your inbound marketing efforts. As always, creating a process for goal-setting goes a long way toward success.

Get Specific

Nothing sits untouched like broad, vague goals. That’s why you have to consult your business plan to dig into the numbers when you start setting them. It’s the difference between saying, “I want more leads” and “In 2013 I want to create 50 new sales-qualified leads.” The latter not only gives you a number to shoot for; it gives you the type of lead, too.

Use A Measuring Stick

The good news is that today there are a variety of analytics dashboards and services, so tracking traffic and monitoring your online efforts across a wide range of marketing channels is easier than ever before. Internal efforts can be tougher, though. It’s critical that your sales team is using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to ensure that leads are being followed up with—and ultimately being closed. Conversion rates will certainly be incorporated within your inbound marketing goals, so one way or another you have to find a foolproof way to track that or future customers will slip right through the cracks. When it comes to measuring, the less human intervention, the better.

Make Them Attainable

It’s important to stretch yourself while also being practical. Your experience informs this step; for example, if you’ve been monitoring page views, obviously setting a goal may be as simple as raising the number you want to achieve for the new year. But a brand-new goal may be harder to quantify. What if you’re launching a new social media campaign? In this case, you might need to research industry standards or utilize your internal and external marketing peers to set an obtainable goal.

Be Realistic

While shooting for the stars with your goals is admirable, it can also lead to futility and frustration when you set them too high. A huge aspect of this is recognizing the barriers that can prevent you from achieving the goal. Once again, understanding your industry inside and out, leaning on your marketing peers, looking at the previous year’s results, and poring over data will help you quantify and categorize your goals properly.

Time Is Of The Essence

Deadlines are integral because they hold the entire process accountable. However, deadlines don’t have to be stressful if you’ve followed these steps; like the goals themselves, they should be realistic. This final part of the process begins with prioritizing which goals need to be tackled first, and ends with staggering all of the goals accordingly. Dependent on your line of business, you might be tracking goals along a variety of timeframes: monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Be it page counts, overall traffic, email subscribers, or lead conversions, most inbound marketing efforts can be quantified. Goal-setting is a time-honored aspect of success, and for marketing specifically it allows you to have a firmer handle on your marketing return on investment (ROI). Do you feel like you’re setting the right goals for your business? If not, we hope you’ll use this SMART way to rectify that problem.


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William McKee

William McKee

William McKee is a founding partner of Knowmad. As a Web architect & Internet business consultant, he is passionate about applying business knowledge & technical expertise to deliver solutions that advance business online. With over 15 years of Web experience, his current work involves designing strategies and creating processes to help business attract, engage and convert website visitors into customers.

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