President Kennedy wanted to present the American people with a big, inspiring goal that would catch their imagination and be politically popular. He also wanted to show the world that the United States was superior to its competitor in the Cold War, the Soviet Union.
Kennedy found his goal 239,000 miles away. He announced to Congress in 1961 that the United States “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Kennedy’s goal was clear. It was not simple, but it was simple to understand. And he set a specific timeframe for achieving the goal: before 1970.
Do goals matter?
Setting the right goals and then tracking your progress is important behind-the-scenes work of any project, whether or not it relates to your marketing. You may have heard this quote one hundred times before, but as Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
As humans, we tend to notice what we are looking for in situations around us. Applied to goal-setting, this tendency can work to our advantage. Having clear, thoughtful goals helps us to see opportunities that we would have missed otherwise.
In Psalm 90, Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Setting goals keeps us from aimlessly squandering our time. As you know, the clock runs in only one direction, tick after tock, never stopping. Time is a nonrenewable resource, and setting goals helps us manage time well. When we have clear goals, we have clear direction on how to spend our time.
Goals also help us wisely spend our dollars and other resources. Having no goals is a mistake, but so is having the wrong goals. Chasing after goals that are out-of-reach, unhealthy, selfish, or otherwise misguided is a waste of precious time and resources.
Distinguish between the urgent and important.
In the daily whirlwind of work, urgent questions or looming deadlines often force us into doing “short-term” work instead of working toward long-term goals. Notice President Dwight Eisenhower’s distinction between the “urgent present” and the “important future” in this quote:
“Especially whenever our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.”
The quandary we face is that our urgent tasks are rarely truly important in the long-term sense, and our most important work rarely feels urgent. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey gives us what is sometimes called the Eisenhower matrix.
The Eisenhower matrix visualizes the following points:
- Quadrant one – Urgent and Important: Some tasks are both important and urgent—do them.
- Quadrant two – Not Urgent but Important: Some tasks are important but not urgent—schedule time for them.
- Quadrant three – Urgent but not Important: Some tasks are urgent but not important—delegate them to someone else.
- Quadrant four – Not Urgent or Important: Some tasks are neither urgent nor important—delete these.
Quadrant 2 work is usually where goals are needed. Because we don’t naturally gravitate to those tasks, we need goals to help us remember to prioritize that work. Improving your marketing often falls under quadrant two work.
Write down your goals.
It may come naturally to some of you to write out your goals. To others, it may be unfamiliar. Writing your goals helps us in several different ways. It helps us be clear. As writer Ayn Rand said, “Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.”
Writing your goals also helps us communicate them to others and helps us remember them. Writing our goals makes them more physical and tangible because they exist outside your head. You can see them because you have externalized them.
Writing goals is not a silver bullet or a magic trick. It doesn’t take any of the work out of achieving the goal. However, I’ve come to believe that it is important. Productivity expert Michael Hyatt points to a research study with 267 participants that found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.
Try it for yourself and see! There is nothing to lose, and the results might surprise you!
Follow SMART goal guidelines.
The letters SMART form a practical framework for setting good goals. This method works for marketing goals or any goals you may have in life.
Specific. Steve Pavlina wrote, “Setting a vague goal is like walking into a restaurant and saying, ‘I’m hungry. I want some food.’ You’ll stay hungry until you order something.” President Kennedy’s moon goal was specific: to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely (that last part was important!). Be specific by including numbers in your goal: we will acquire 12 new accounts by December 31 of this year.
Measurable. Your goal should be something that you can measure. This helps you both manage and track your progress. Being specific (previous point) helps make the goal measurable. You can measure (count) the number of new accounts that you are adding throughout the year. If a month goes by where you don’t add an account, you know that you will need to add two next month.
Achievable. Goals should stretch you or your team, but they shouldn’t be so far out of reach that they are delusional. If you are accustomed to only adding four new accounts a year, adding 12 accounts may not be realistic. People such as your wife or a practical-minded person on your team can be insightful in helping you evaluate whether your goals are achievable or delusional.
Remember to consider downstream implications. Having a goal of extreme sales growth might be achievable on its own, but could the rest of your business (manufacturing, customer service, etc.) handle or sustain the additional sales even if you did achieve it?
Relevant. Your goals must be relevant to the direction you want your business to go and relevant to the stage you are currently in. For a business that has the capacity and is poised for growth, the goal of adding 12 accounts can be relevant. For a business that isn’t ready for that kind of growth, achieving other goals may need to come first.
In addition, consider what is most important for your business. What goals would make the most difference in your current situation? Stephen Covey used the example of putting rocks, pebbles, and sand into a jar. If you put the small items into the jar first, you won’t have room for the larger rocks. But by putting the rocks in first, the other items fit too. Make sure your goals are aimed at your most important priorities.
Time-bound. As shown in our example of adding 12 new accounts by December 31, tie your goals to specific dates. In 1961, Kennedy gave NASA nine years to complete a moon landing, and they achieved the goal in 1969, before the end of the decade.
Review your goals and progress regularly to keep them in your mind and ensure that you are on track for completion. Regular review is an accelerator to accomplishment.
If you have a team, your team members will be accountable to the team leader or each other for reaching goals. If you are working toward your goals alone, find someone who will help you be accountable and motivated.
Track your key performance indicators (KPIs).
Peter Drucker said, “You cannot manage what you do not measure.” Key performance indicators are statistics that you select for regular monitoring because of the important information that they provide about how things are going for your business. This is similar to how you monitor gauges on a piece of equipment you are operating.
KPIs can be measured on a daily, weekly, or monthly frequency. For example, you might measure the number of orders fulfilled per day, the level of website traffic per week, or the number of new customers per month. One of your KPIs should always measure sales, either order totals or invoice totals. Following are KPIs from actual companies:
Retail Store for Vacuums
Phone call to store traffic conversion rate
Store traffic to purchase conversion rate
Total register receipts
Custom Equipment Manufacturing & Installation Company
Number of cold calls
Number of leads from marketing campaigns
Total Contracted Sales
Product Manufacturing Company
Dealer Satisfaction Rating
Number of orders
Number of Emails sent to Dealers
Why would a number of outgoing emails be a KPI? These status update emails keep dealers informed about raw material availability and current production schedules for their orders. With the supply chain issues and constant price increases in many industries, communicating well with regular customers will help them stick with you instead of jumping ship for a slightly lower price or shorter lead time. Communicating increases confidence and that is something we all crave in an unstable business environment.
You may want to set a KPI that is related to each of your goals. For example, years ago I had a friend in the shoe business. He took a pickup and trailer of shoes on location to large manufacturing plants. The safety plan of the plant had a list of approved footwear. The key to selling more shoes was finding plant safety managers in other plants who would agree to let him bring his shoe trailer regularly. A SMART goal could have been: Acquire 4 new plants in the next 12 months. The resulting KPI: number of cold calls to plant safety managers.
Keep in mind the difference between leading and lagging indicators. To use an example from outside of business, the number of calories you consume is a leading indicator, and the amount of weight you gain or lose is a lagging indicator.
Leading indicators are metrics that you track that lead toward your goal. They happen in advance of achieving your goal and directly influence your results. Leading indicators are usually something you can influence mid-stream. For example, a leading indicator could be the number of sales calls or visits your sales rep makes or the number of email addresses or leads you collect each week.
A lagging indicator measures the end goal (for example, revenue or profit) while leading KPIs measure activities that you take to reach that revenue or profit goal. Leading KPIs are an advanced signal of whether a lagging KPI is on track. Dollars sold is a lagging indicator. The number of cold calls or sales presentations is a leading indicator.
Each KPI gets its target number, a mini-goal. For example: if our SMART goal is to acquire 12 new accounts by the end of the year, how many cold calls do we estimate we will need to make each week to reach that goal? Or how many sales presentations will we need to make? You could track both of those numbers.
It may take some time for you to find the best numbers to track. Start small, experiment, and refine it until you know you are in control. Following are a few more pointers related to KPIs:
- Keep it simple: 3-7 marketing-related KPIs should be sufficient.
- If possible, have someone such as your bookkeeper compile the KPIs and report them to you.
- Keep a running history of at least 90 days so that you have visibility on trends.
- Review KPI’s annually. Are they still relevant? Any new ones needed?
Use the information you collect to adjust your day-to-day, week-to-week priorities to keep your business healthy. If you see a number or trend that seems headed in the wrong direction but don’t do anything to correct the issue, you are wasting your time.
Goals and KPIs are the means to an end, but what is the end? Jesus told us about a prosperous farmer who had big expansion plans. But he was not a good steward of his time and resources. Instead, he wanted to “eat, drink, and be merry.”
I envision our Anabaptist businesses also growing and expanding. The point of stewarding our time and marketing resources is not to eat, drink, and be merry but that we can serve and bless others.