SMART Targets were first discussed in a 1981 issue of Management Review. In his article ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T way to write management’s goals and objectives’ George Doran suggested that targets should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. Doran’s initial piece was all about good management, but his acronym is so useful we use SMART Targets in Marketing all the time.
The power of SMART targets is that they help us write “meaningful objectives”, and having clear objectives for your marketing is key to good strategy. When you know what you’re aiming for, you can choose the best weapons in your arsenal for hitting the target.
What is a SMART Target?
SMART is an acronym. It stands for:
Not all goals will fit all five criteria, but the more of the criteria your goal fills, the more effective it will be.
Let’s get Specific
Look at what you want to get out of your marketing, and then drill down. “Improve social media engagement” is a good place to start, but is too vague a target. Which social media channel? What kind of engagement? How much by? When by? A better version of this same goal is “Improve post engagement on Instagram by 15% in the next quarter”.
When you start this process you’ll likely realise your original goal is actually multiple, and that’s OK.
How do we know if we’ve succeeded, and what are the margins? Clarifying the definition of success allows you to track your progress. You’ll know if the effort you’ve been making has been worth it, in certain terms.
Typically this means you’ll end up with an objective that when asked “have we achieved this?” you will be able to answer “yes” or “no”. Knowing what success looks like will allow you to measure the difference between that and failure. When the answer is “no”, you’ll be able to iterate your process so the future is a “yes”.
Targets that are actually Attainable
High expectations are perfectly fine, as long as they’re practical. You must be able to actually reach the goal with the resources you have available to you. Targets that are impossible to reach are demotivating for you and your team, but if they’re too easy they’re pointless. It’s a balancing act between ambition and reality.
Relevant to your Business
Check your targets against the wider goals of the business. Sometimes in getting specific, you can lose focus of the big picture. If the targets you’re writing are for your team, then tying them to the big picture helps communicate the target’s purpose and makes it more motivating.
If your business is aiming for more clients, a good marketing target might be increasing the number of people subscribed to your newsletter (therefore increasing your prospects) by a specific percentage in a timeframe.
Establish a Timeline
Adding a time variable to your targets does more than make them specific. Timelines allow you to better manage your resources and track your progress. If you’re not on the way to reaching your goal within the timeframe, you’ll be able to change what you’re doing for a better chance at achieving it. Plus, a reasonable deadline is motivating – it creates a sense of urgency and keeps you on track.
SMART Targets in Marketing Examples
Now that you know the criteria, you can use them to turn ambitions into goals. Here are some examples:
The SMART version of “increase website traffic” is “double website traffic over the next six months versus the same period last year by increasing content listed on the site.”
If you were looking to improve your email open rate you would build a goal like this: “By the end of the year, we will improve our email open rate from 15% to 30% by improving the way we segment the data and changing the tone of the content to make it more personal.”
If you’re hoping to increase sales, your website might be a good place to start. Here’s an example SMART target for just that: “We will improve the conversion rate on our website’s landing page by 20% in the next quarter by improving the content and copy on the page.”
Why should I use SMART Targets in Marketing?
Each of the criteria in a SMART Target is useful for marketing, whether you’re an Account Manager in a marketing agency with a lot of clients or you’re self-employed and performing every role in the business. They’re useful when you’re preparing a strategy, but you’ll also find a use for them if you’re auditing existing marketing processes.
SMART targets allow you to focus exactly on what needs to be achieved, and when it needs to happen. In marketing, where there are so many tools, tactics and strategies at our disposal it can be easy to get distracted or work haphazardly. A laser-like focus will save you effort and streamline decision making.
The results of marketing efforts can be hard to quantify, but SMART Targets make it easier to measure your progress. You can track the success of your campaigns and calculate Return on Investment (ROI) reliably. This gives you concrete data that you can use to build your next campaign.
The greatest power of a SMART target is that it turns an abstract ambition into actionable plans. “Increasing our LinkedIn follower count” is all well and good, but “doubling our LinkedIn follower count over the next year” is a target to aim for.
A part of strategy
We know that SMART Targets are useful because we use them in our own work. When the team at Consortium research and write strategies, they always include SMART targets. We use them with our clients to contextualize the work we’re doing and to demonstrate results. We also use them in-house to plan and deliver our own campaigns.