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Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution only to have it fail miserably within the first month or even the first few months? Who hasn’t! Most people attribute this failure to ‘not following through’. While this is often true, could there be other reasons that resolutions (aka personal goals) for the new year fail?

One reason for goals failing is that they are poorly written or thought through. Studies show that people who make their goals explicit are actually 10 times more likely to achieve them compared to those who don't. So why would it be different for your business?

Here are our top 5 reasons why businesses (and marketers) fail when setting goals.

1. They are not SMART goals

One of the most common frameworks for goal setting is setting SMART goals. This framework was created by Peter Drucker, the father of modern-day business management.

Each letter in the SMART mnemonic acronym provides criteria for setting objectives for any part of your business. Creating marketing goals to achieve your business objectives should also be done in a SMART way so your marketing team can plan accordingly in order for them to truly succeed.

A good goal simply consists of five things – they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

SPECIFIC: SMART goals are specific, and state exactly what you want to accomplish. The who, what, where, and why questions are answered here. For example, instead of saying “I want leads,” you can say, “I want 300 qualified leads a month”.

MEASURABLE: If you can't measure your success, how will you know whether your efforts have actually been successful? You also need to make sure you are evaluating the metrics that actually matter.

ATTAINABLE/ACHIEVABLE: When you are setting challenging goals, make sure you’re actually able to achieve the outcome.

Taking my previous example of the leads, if you're only getting 10 leads a month now and you want the 300 in just 1 month, chances are that unless you seriously supercharge your sales and marketing efforts – this will be a goal that will fail.

At the same time, you don't want to create SMART goals that are too easy. The key is to set a goal that is challenging yet do-able.

RELEVANT: Choose a goal that matters!

For example, if you are a B2B marketer selling software to the C-Suite of major corporations – aiming to get 10,000 followers on social network your target audience wouldn't ever use is just a waste of time and energy because it's completely irrelevant to your market.

When you’re creating a relevant goal, make sure it’s actually worthwhile. A relevant goal will support or align with your business and marketing objectives and tie in with your industry and current trends. Relevant goals drive you forward.

TIMELY: Goals need deadlines otherwise you’ll never feel the pressure to achieve them. Set one or more target dates by which the goal should be successfully completed. These can include due dates for deadlines as well as frequency.

An example of good SMART goals may include:

  • Increase website visits by 25% by June 30, 2017.
  • Close 5 deals worth $60,000+ by June 30, 2017.

2. Lack of motivation

In some situations, the 'M' for measurable actually refers to 'motivation'. In other words, are you motivated enough to reach these goals?

Pursuing a relevant goal can be an exciting process and reaching your goal feels triumphant. But at some points along the way, particulalarly if there are set backs, it can feel like a bit of a slog.

We all hit plateaus sometimes, so even though they may otherwise qualify as SMART goals, you need to make sure your goals have enough meaning for you. When creating goals, make sure that you associate a strong-enough reason for doing them.

To keep you inspired along the way, it might be useful to write down your reasons for pursuing the goal and what is on the line.  Keep this somewhere visible and review it regularly to keep the motivation up.

3. There is no plan to execute your goals

One of the most common mistakes startups make is to assume “if you build it, they will come”. But, in order to achieve your SMART goals, you have to actually follow through and execute - otherwise it's just wishful thinking. 

Questions to consider when planning to execute your SMART goals within your market include:

  • Who are your buyer personas?
  • What promotional tactics will be used to reach my ideal customer?
  • What message will resonate with them and encourage them to buy from me?

4. You're not consistently tracking and analysing your goals

'You can't manage what you don't measure' - right? Regardless of how great your SMART goal is, you need to have a system in order to track and analyse the goal.

Once you have figured out the metrics that are important to you, use a tool to make your life easier such as Google Analytics or Hubspot. Make sure you check it on a regular basis, such as once a week.

5. You don't adjust your plans when necessary

Although you may set some great SMART goals and actually follow through on your plan – sometimes things simply just don't work out. One of the advantages of tracking and analysing the right metrics  is to know if you're off-course.  If you are sure something's not working, accept it and change things up.

If you are reviewing the metrics on a regular basis and often, you'll know early whether you need to adjust your plans. 

Final Thought

Setting SMART goals is certainly the first step to business success.  Having SMART goals is a great way for marketers to plan, execute, track and show that their efforts have made an impact on the business.

SMART Marketing Goal Setting Template

TOPICS Strategic Marketing

Shane Davies

Shane Davies

Shane Davies is a digital marketing strategy expert. He helps B2B companies win the work they should be winning. He lives in Cottesloe, Western Australia with his wife and two daughters. You can follow him on or LinkedIn or or Google+

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