I’m a big fan of setting goals. Monthlies, weeklies, 2017, 5-year goals – there’s something about setting my mind to something and then checking it off that feels gratifying – kind of like collecting achievements on a video game. It’s a big way I keep myself motivated.
So at the beginning of 2017, the first thing I put on our team agenda was some goal setting for the year. I asked how did we do last year?, what could we have done better?, and most importantly: where do we want to be a year from now?
The goals that we set were probably pretty unsurprising to most of you. Increase our revenue, talk to more users, build more cool stuff, take more time off. Pretty standard goals for a company like ours, but here’s the thing: those are terrible goals.
If we had set those exact phrases as our goals for 2017, they’re not actually useful. There’s no point at which I can definitively say, “hey, we increased our revenue. Check.” I suppose that if we sell more from one month to another, that’s increasing revenue. But what about the month after that? The other goals are even worse. “Talk to more users.” At what point do I say we finished talking to more users? We’re never done talking to users!
Useful goals promote the reasons for why we set goals: motivation and structured plans on how to get there. I get zero gratification out of a goal I can’t accomplish, and as the saying goes, “a goal without a plan is a wish.”
What is the SMART goal framework?
General Electric famously noticed this problem and their approach to it was the SMART goal framework. So SMART stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and timely*. Each one of those words represents a characteristic of a goal that makes it a good goal:
- Specific refers to pinpointing a single thing. “I want the business to be more successful” is not specific. “I want to increase yearly revenue” is specific.
- Measurable is the pain point that I outlined above. Goals work for me because a sense of accomplishment is a key motivator for the way I work, and accomplishment has to be measured. “I want to increase yearly revenue compared to last year” gives me a number that is now the benchmark for my goal.
- Assignable refers to the idea that a goal is nothing without an owner. The company can’t achieve something – only its people can. “Josh and Christie want to increase yearly revenue compared to last year.” Alternatively, I’ve seen this written as agreed upon. I like it – after all, Josh or Christie can’t increase yearly revenue by themselves. Assignable is about communication.
- Realistic means “I want to increase yearly revenue to $10 billion dollars this year” would set up our entire team for failure. Last year’s number is a better benchmark.
- Timely is about deadlines. You’ll hold on to a goal forever if it doesn’t have an end date, so to develop a plan on how to achieve something, you need a deadline. “Josh and Christie want to increase yearly revenue compared to last year by the end of 2017” is my final, SMART goal.
Once we’ve defined a goal, now we can draft a plan to get there. We know that we can increase revenue by efforts like providing better service, doubling down on our marketing efforts, and encouraging people to tell their friends about us. These are actionable items upon which we can create smaller SMART goals throughout the year, and even smaller items from those.
On To Goal-Oriented Contact Forms
Given the nature of our business, one of the smaller goals we’ll land upon inevitably is “build a contact form.” Now, because of the exercise that I just did, I can definitively say that I need a contact form, and I can probably outline what my contact form needs, based on my goal. “I’m trying to increase yearly revenue compared to last by the end of 2017 by providing better service to prospective customers” means I need a presale form that asks for a name, email, and “how can we help you?”, for example. I know I need a mailing list integration, I know I need it separate from my more direct sales portals, and I know what it doesn’t need: a phone number field, for example. I’m not calling you unless you’re my mom. My user probably doesn’t want to be called unless I’m their mom.
However, this isn’t common practice. Without a clear sense of what kind of message we’re expecting from this form, and a defined funnel that we want these messages to go through, a contact form becomes a chore, instead of what it is supposed to be: the front line of your suite of solutions that capture, nurture and convert your leads.
So how do we build a goal-oriented form? Ask what you want to achieve first, then define what the form should look like – not the other way around. Do you want more emails in your mailing list? Do you want more leads for your agency?
Then, apply the SMART framework to have a specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and timely goal. So the SMART version of “I want more emails in my mailing list” could be something like “I want to grow our primary Mailchimp list by 1,000 subscribers in the next 6 months.”
Once you have that, you can work backwards. So from here comes the process of asking yourself what you need to get those signups. If a significant channel of acquisition for you is social media, maybe you want to drive more traffic to your pages with valuable content and a subscription box at the bottom by running an advertisement.
“I will create and buy 4 different ads on Facebook that drive traffic to my second blog post in the next 2 months.” So then you ask yourself what you need to get that: I imagine the SMART goal there looks like “I will set up a form that integrates with Mailchimp at the bottom of my blog post by the end of the week.”
I love goal-setting because I’m a concrete thinker, and I once I understand where I’m going, I can easily conceptualize the steps required to get there. I also don’t like spending my time on things that don’t further my long-term vision of myself and/or my business, and I don’t want you to do that either. If there’s anything Team Caldera would love to help you with this 2017, it’s to create more goal-oriented contact forms.
What do you think? Is this tired, super-corporate method a little much for you? Or are we blowing your mind? Do you have a different, favorite framework to set goals? Let me know in the comments.
*This is one of the founding block of Management By Results (MBR), one of many frameworks from Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of management science. Y’know, if you care about that kind of stuff.