“A goal properly set is half way reached.” –Abraham Lincoln

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So often entrepreneurs—even seasoned ones–start their marketing initiatives backwards. Often, when asked to identify their marketing goals, small business owners will say something along the lines of, I want to start using Twitter. Or they’ll say, I want more customers. Neither of these are in fact goals, begging the questions what makes a goal a goal, and why do you need to set some?

Why you need goals

First, why is it important to set goals? Many small businesses very often don’t take the time to set goals. Yet, large corporations live and die by them.  Here are a few of the top reasons for taking the time to set your goals for the year, and beyond:

  • Clarity: To get where you want to go, you first need to know where you want to go. Really know.
  • Focus: As an entrepreneur there are lots of responsibilities pulling at you. But to truly accomplish anything in business requires focus. Not everything you do is equally important. Setting goals keeps you focused on what you set out to achieve.
  • Self confidence: Setting and reaching goals is extremely satisfying and a real confidence boost, enabling you to set and achieve even greater goals as you progress.
  • Results: It’s simple, people who write their goals down, are far more likely to accomplish them. Note, the operative words are write it down. Writing it down commits you to the goal in a way that simply thinking about it doesn’t.

What is a goal? And what isn’t?

What is a goal, and what isn’t? This is a good place to start in identifying your own business goals. A goal is something that you want to achieve, someplace you want to end up, but that alone doesn’t make it a goal. There are distinctions after all between wishes, dreams and goals. Goals have a certain set of criteria that make them goals. An easy way to discern if a goal is in fact a goal is to ask yourself if it’s SMART, as in specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. SMART goal setting is a tried and true approach to setting and accomplishing your goals, and can be the difference between spinning your wheels, and having the business you dreamed of.

SMART Goals

  • Specific. Goals are not vague, as in I want to more customers. They’re specific as in I want ten new customers by January 1. You can make this goal even more specific, I want ten new retainer clients by January 1. The more specific the better.
  • Measurable. A goal isn’t a goal unless it’s measurable. In other words, what does success look like? A measurable goal will usually answer, how much? When? How do you know when you’ve reached it?
  • Attainable. Goals should stretch you, but they should not be unrealistic. This doesn’t mean think small. On the contrary, think big, but keep it steeped in reality. What is realistic? That’s something that you need to answer for yourself. What’s realistic for you, may be unrealistic for another and vice versa. Ask yourself, how can this goal be accomplished? It doesn’t have to be easy, but it should be possible within reason. For instance the goal of I want to lose 40 pounds by next week may not be a realistic.
  • Relevant. Your goal should be relevant, meaning it represents an objective that the you are willing and able to work towards. When thinking about your goal, ask yourself, does this seem worthwhile? Being relevant also means that the goal represents the current environment around you. Relevant business goals are based on realities of the business climate. You may desire to double revenue, but if a recession is looming and 5 new competitors opened in your market, then your goals aren’t relevant to the realities of the market.
  • Time bound. Finally, your goal needs to be tied to a calendar. In other words, by when will you accomplish your goal? Increase business this year, isn’t a SMART goal. Increase business by 50% by December 2012 is.

Of course, setting your goals is just the first step in accomplishing your goals, albeit a very important first step. Once you write your goals down, next you’ll want to create an action plan, and finally, you’ll then need to take action.

Additional resources:

Check out these videos and sites to increase your knowledge, and to get you excited about goal setting.

Video: How to follow through / persist with your Goals? – Tony Robbins

Video: Formula for Setting Goals — Zig Ziglar

Site: Brian Tracy International —  a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations.

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