Goal setting is a vital activity to help your marketing team members take control of their career growth. The most dedicated people could still feel directionless and discouraged without milestones to help them improve. The SMART framework is a popular tool for creating feasible goals.

They must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. People often try to achieve things that don’t have those characteristics. For example, they might say, “I want to become a better content marketer.” That’s admirable, but what does “better” mean, and how would someone go about verifying their success? SMART goal setting helps people avoid aiming for victories that are too vague.

Here are practical ways to create yearly SMART goals with your marketing team members.

Show Flexibility When Necessary

A good starting point for making SMART goals is to have a person think of some major things they want to achieve over the next year. Then, use the SMART criteria to narrow the focus.

Perhaps a marketing team member hopes to get more clients. Shaping that aspiration with the SMART framework might involve a statement like “I want to secure 25% more clients in 2022 than I did in 2021.” It checks all the boxes. However, not all SMART goals will, and that’s usually okay.

People mention consultancy president George T. Doran as the person who launched the SMART goals concept. However, even he confirmed it’s not always possible to make a goal that has all five SMART aspects. In the first published content about the topic, Doran wrote, “It should also be understood that the suggested acronym doesn’t mean that every objective written will have all five criteria. However, the closer we get to the SMART criteria as a guideline, the smarter our objectives will be.”

Understand That the SMART Framework Complements Other Methods

Some company leaders get unnecessarily stressed by trying to determine which goal-setting method is the “best.” Fortunately, you can apply the SMART framework after using other goal-creation approaches.

For example, managers often meet with team members to set OKRs, or objectives and key results. A significant benefit of OKRs is that they emphasize task value rather than the duties themselves. The OKR framework is as follows: “I will achieve [objective] as measured by [key result].”

That example shows how the SMART aspects could build upon OKRs. Imagine if your OKR is “I will increase client satisfaction as measured by a 15% increase in contract renewals.” That’s specific, measurable, relevant, and hopefully, achievable based on a person’s past results. You could turn it into a SMART goal by adding a time-based element.

SMART goal

If your marketing team is working with SMART goals for the first time, keep in mind that there’s no need to stop using other mechanisms to create employee milestones. Some of them could help set the foundation for what eventually becomes a SMART goal.

Recognize What’s Within the Team Member’s Control

SMART goals remove the ambiguity that can restrict goal achievement. Imagine if, during an annual review, you challenge a team member to act more carefully so that marketing campaigns stay within their budgets more often. Without the details a SMART goal provides, the team member may have a different idea of what constitutes success.

While reviewing whether the team member met a SMART goal, assess all the factors in and outside of the person’s control. Perhaps a campaign that the team member led went over budget because they waited too long to get materials printed and had to pay rush processing fees. That’s an issue they could correct in the future. However, perhaps the COVID-19 crisis necessitated moving an indoor installation outdoors, and the team member had to adjust for associated extra expenses.

Variables like those show why it’s valuable to set smaller SMART goals that tie into the larger annual one. Life has lots of unexpected aspects, and people often respond more favorably to goals they perceive as more manageable from the beginning.

Don’t overlook the reality that a team member may do everything right and still lose clients or deal with other adverse outcomes. Perhaps a long-term client must end their relationship with your company for financial reasons, although they’re still highly satisfied with the overall outcomes. The idea is to evaluate all factors that influence whether a SMART goal gets met, then help a team member positively shape the ones they can control.

Review a Team Member’s Past Performance When Setting Goals

Remember that achievability is a key aspect of a SMART goal. One of the most practical ways to ensure one is genuinely feasible is to review what a team member has done over the previous year. Doing that makes it more likely a created goal will challenge them without making them feel overwhelmed or discouraged.

Looking at statistics related to previous achievements could spotlight where there’s room for improvement, which may kickstart the all-important process of bringing a goal to fruition. However, it should also help clarify what’s realistically in a person’s reach over the next year.

For example, if campaigns the team member worked on over the past year caused a 15% increase in average sales, it’s probably too much to get to a 30% boost in the next 12 months. Chat to the employee and get their input about what would put them out of their comfort zone without causing burnout.

Ask them about past shortcomings they’d like to focus on, too. Nobody’s perfect, but past challenges can pose excellent opportunities for growth.

Provide Ongoing SMART Goal Support

SMART goals are not as useful when you set them and don’t revisit them until after 12 months pass. That approach could make a team member feel alone as they deal with the obstacles that inevitably occur when striving for something desirable.

Aim to meet at least every few months to gauge the person’s feelings about how things are going for them. Ask about their recent wins and any lessons learned while working towards the SMART goals. Research shows a person is more likely to achieve a goal if they talk about it. Those findings make these ongoing conversations exceptionally important because they set the stage for success.

Emphasize to the team member that you’re always available for advice, even outside of the formal meetings, too. Encourage them to bring up any concerns and take the time to work through them. If the team member gets upset about perceived setbacks, remind them that progress almost always happens gradually. Plus, there are virtually no cases where a person achieves a milestone without dealing with prior difficulties.

SMART Goals Make Your Organization Stronger

All organizations depend on diligent employees who collectively contribute to a company’s success. Explore how you could connect SMART goals to what your business aims to accomplish in the next year. Doing that keeps employees motivated and helps them see they’re critical for keeping the business resilient and competitive.

Eleanor Hecks is the editor-in-chief of Designerly Magazine.