SMART Goal Setting for Digital Marketers

Content Marketing Data-Driven Marketing Marketing Tools & Tips

Have you ever had a fantastic idea you’d like to put into action, but it never really kicks off the ground? Generating a great idea is the first part of the process, but organizing your thoughts around making it a reality is just as important.  This is where SMART goal-setting becomes an invaluable tool.

SMART is an acronym to help us easily remember the planning process for transforming a vague idea into actionable steps. This method should be used for both long-term and short-term goals. Using the SMART goal planning process ensures that the goal makes sense for the business, that everyone is on the same page, and the goal will be measured and completed on time. Here’s what the SMART acronym stands for:
 Here’s what the SMART acronym stands for:

S - Specific, M - Measurable, A - Attainable, R - Relevant, T - Time-bound

What is Specific about the goal?

The first thing you’ll want to do is write down all the thoughts floating around inside your head. It doesn’t matter how rudimentary or lofty your idea is at first. Once you have your idea on paper, you can begin thinking about the details and logistics for how it will work. The purpose of this exercise is to turn your idea into a specific goal. A specific goal should cover the what, why and how. It needs to clearly outline what it is that you wish to accomplish, why accomplishing it is important and how you expect to accomplish it.

For example, Increasing your followers on social media is a great goal to have, but it isn’t very specific. Growing your brand awareness by increasing your Instagram following to 2000 people with a contest is much more specific.

Creating a specific goal right out of the gate can be a difficult task, so if you need to, revisit it after you get it down on paper.


Is the goal Measurable

In order to know if you’ve accomplished your goal, you’re going to need to figure out a way to track your progress. A well-constructed plan will include targets, to indicate you’ve accomplished your goal or not, and milestones so you can track whether you’re heading in the right direction along the way. If it’s a short-term goal, then your metrics should at least tell you when you’ve accomplished your goal.

Digital marketing analytics software can aggregate and report on a wide array of metrics, many of which are fun to know, but without context don’t tell you much about how to move forward. We call these “so what?” metrics. Make sure your metrics actually measure the progress of your goal, have context and can help you make decisions about what to do next.

Revisiting our example above, let’s say you already have the biggest Instagram following in your industry. An ongoing measurable goal for increasing brand awareness could increase your following by 5% every quarter. Check in at the beginning of every month to see if you’re on track to hitting your goal.


Is the goal Achievable?

Goals are great, but they don’t mean anything if they aren’t realistic. Unrealistic goals set us up to fall short and often left with no indication of where to go next.

If your marketing team is bringing in 25 leads every month from social media channels, increasing your goal to 500 leads would be a stretch. When goals are unrealistic, people don’t see the point in working toward them. This happens to individuals too. At first, you’re excited about taking on the new challenge, but then you realize how much work is ahead of you and it becomes overwhelming and you throw in the towel.

This is one of the reasons why achievable goals should also be part of a bigger plan. Break your overarching goal down into small, manageable action steps. When creating an attainable goal, consider the time and resources available to you within your timeline.


Is the goal Relevant to our/my expectations?

At a high level, your goals should align with your organization and department’s mission. For instance, investing in a twitter campaign to spread the word that a new retirement community opened up might not be the best way to reach your target audience. While it’s great that you’re trying to leverage more social media channels in your marketing mix, it’s not relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach. The relevancy of your goal to the business will impact the likelihood that it’ll be achieved. If this goal is geared toward the sales or engineering team, then hand it off to them. In the end, a relevant goal should make sense for either your customers and/or the business.


Is the goal Time-bound? How often will we check in to see how things are going? When will this goal be accomplished?

Marketing goals are just ideas until they have a deadline. Goals shouldn’t be indefinite and open-ended. It’s best to set an end date/time for your goals and schedule milestones along the way to check in with the team and progress of the project. Consider how much time you and your team can realistically dedicate to your marketing goal. Creating a realistic timeline to complete a goal does a number of things:

  1. Creates urgency and motivation to complete the project.
  2. Makes you consciously consider how much time working toward this goal will take out of your week.
  3. Timeline milestones allow you to check-in and decide if you should continue pursuing your goal, or stop and pivot or optimize your efforts.
  4. Milestones allow you to know if you’re on track to accomplishing your goal on time.

Do you have any other great goal-making tips not mentioned above? How has using SMART goals helped your marketing team conquer a tough challenge or implement a great idea? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Danica Benson

Originally from the Portland Metro Area, Danica migrated north to work as a marketer in the startup arena after earning her MBA. She’s a small business advocate bringing her passion to the tech world. Outside of the office, Danica spends her free time on outdoor adventures and exploring the great city of Seattle.

Ready to start analyzing?

Start measuring the impact of your social media campaigns with our 14-day free trial.

Start Your Free Trial