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How to Set SMARTer Marketing Goals for the New Year

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November 12, 2019
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As we inch closer to the new year, many teams are thinking about new goals; they’re looking at the goals they set for 2019, seeing how well they did (or how much they missed by), and using that information to set new bars to clear in 2020.

And while goal setting is useful and important, many departments are going to miss their targets – not for lack of effort, but because they set goals that are unattainable from the outset.

So, how can you make sure you’re setting the right goals? Start with the mnemonic SMART. The criteria for SMART goals has been around for nearly forty years, first published in Management Review in 1981 – and it continues to be important today (though the definitions of the letters have morphed over time). By adhering to SMART goals, you’ll be guiding your team toward targets that are built to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound:


This one is pretty straightforward: what is it you want to accomplish? You might want to ask yourselves the five W’s – who, what, when, where, and why – to help narrow the scope of your goal as well.


You should be able to measure results of any goal. Can it be quantified? If the goal is not a number, can you at least specify what, exactly, will indicate your progress towards it?

This step also gives you room to think about the cadence for your goal measurement and reporting. If you’ve set a yearlong objective, how often do you want to measure your progress? Bake those markers right into your goal setting process.


Bring yourself back down to earth by making sure the goals you set are actually achievable (unless you’re NASA, of course, in which case you’re not confined to the planet). Your goal(s) should be something your team can realistically accomplish. It would be nice for everyone to increase sales by 200% in the next 12 months, but is that something you can make happen, realistically? Likely not. Instead, make your goal something more achievable.


At this point, you need to determine if you’re setting a goal that is applicable for your team to implement. For example, if your organization isn’t on Instagram, then you shouldn’t be setting a goal to increase customer engagement on the platform.


This is the most important step of the SMART process – making your goal time-bound. Don’t leave things open ended. If you want to set a goal for the entire year, do it. Or, maybe the goal you set is only for a campaign you’re running in Q1—in this case, the end of Q1 will be your time frame for accomplishing said goal.

Put it Together

Let’s put SMART goals into practice with a goal that is likely on every marketing department’s list: increasing website traffic. That’s a great goal, but as it's written it’s too vague.

Here’s what I mean: If you had 10,000 visitors to your site in 2019, getting 10,001 in 2020 would mean that you’ve achieved your goal—but would you be happy with a .01% increase in traffic? Probably not.

By making the goal SMART, however, you’re giving your team something tangible to work toward. Here’s the same goal, written with the SMART framework in mind:

Increase website traffic in 2020 by 10% with progress reports monthly.

Do you see the difference? Written the first way, there’s a lot of wiggle room. Sure, it’s measurable, achievable, and relevant, but it’s not specific enough to be useful. How much of an increase are you after? Are you looking to increase your web traffic in Q1, or over the course of the entire year? It’s not clear.

By adding just a bit more detail, however, your goal becomes something your team can easily track and report on – giving you the ability to pivot, if necessary, and keep everyone on target when it comes to moving your business forward.

Need help setting SMART marketing goals for the new year? We can help! Email us at, and let’s talk.


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