S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting: The ultimate guide to getting it right

Successful businesses need clearly articulated and achievable goals to reach specific objectives, and yet so many of them fall down in this area. Ambition is wonderful, but to achieve any ambition you need to get S.M.A.R.T.

Building a sustainable and profitable business is obviously important to you, so throw out those vague goals and get planning for specifics.

In the late 1960s, after a period of research into setting goals for performance, Dr Edwin Locke published an influential paper called “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives”. From this paper, Dr Locke established that goal setting, when carried out appropriately, results in high levels of organisational performance. As stated on his website, his work has also been supported by many research grants and is a fantastic way for online selling businesses to cement success.

Over time, academics, consultants and theorists have built on this sort of work, and the term ‘S.M.A.R.T’ is a perfect way to capture this theory and translate it into something you can use and apply in your Amazon business.

If you struggle with productivity when dealing with taking on a new project for your business it can become overwhelming, here’s where setting smart targets and employing S.M.A.R.T goal setting will make your life infinitely easier.

So what are S.M.A.R.T goals?

A S.M.A.R.T goal needs to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

But what do these actually mean for you and your business? Let’s take a look.

Specific

A great way to ensure you create goals that are specific to your needs is to use the 5 W’s.

Who are you targeting and who needs to be involved to achieve your goal?

What do you want the outcome to be?

Where will it be located or where will your goals come from? This may not always be relevant but, if it is, identify it here.

Why are you doing this? What is the reason for your goal?

When will this goal be completed? You should set a time frame – covered more fully in time-setting.

And a bonus sixth W is also important to ask:

Which limits are involved? This question is extremely beneficial in establishing whether your goal is a realistic one.

Measurable

How are you measuring your progress on the way to achieving your goal? What metrics will you use? For instance, if you want to increase your customer satisfaction by a certain percentage, will you use a survey to gauge progress?

Creating a measurable goal also ensures you can track progress and stay motivated.

Achievable

Always keep in mind that your goal needs to be attainable in order to be successful. Ask yourself how you can accomplish this goal (just realize you may not have the answer of HOW you will get it down just yet, but it should be achievable).

Realistic

An extension of achievable, your goals definitely need to be realistic. Ambition is a fantastic attribute to have, but you really do need to be able to keep your feet on the ground to ensure success. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is not the same as the longer-term successful vision of your company. It will be set towards the more immediate future. So, it should be realistic even if your long-term vision seems much harder to achieve. As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.”

Time-based

What is your time frame for achieving your smart objective? You will need to set a target completion date and milestones along the way to keep things moving. A good way to think about this is choosing a time period between when you want it to be achieved (usually straight away) and what is the longest it should take. For example, if you say it will at most take you two years, and it is something you want to achieve now, you might pick a time goal of nine months to make it more immediate and give you the ambition to get it done.

Now, how are you going to write up your S.M.A.R.T goals?

Firstly, be prepared to ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to also query those questions during this process. What do you want to achieve? Your answers are the key to honing in on your strategy, so you need to avoid wishy washy terms and identify what you really mean by what you’re saying.

Setting a goal of ‘I want my Amazon customers to be happier with my service’ isn’t going to get you anywhere – you need proper S.M.A.R.T targets. How are you measuring that? How will you achieve that? The sentiment is obviously great, we all want customers to be happy, but it’s lazy terminology and could spell the downfall of your goal.

This goal is so vague but can be worked up into a great smart objective for your business if you use the principles to hit the nail on the head.

So here we go…

Goal: I want my Amazon customers to be happier with my service

Specific – I would like to achieve a 95% customer satisfaction score over the course of the next 12 months. With increased customer satisfaction I will create new and returning business and lift my profitability.

Measurable – I am going to produce a percentage score based on a Customer Service Satisfaction survey.

Achievable – I am going to set aside a period of time each day to reply to customer queries and process orders to get them sent out in a timely manner.

Realistic – I will maintain my allocated customer contact time each day, but I will be flexible with when this is, understanding that no two days are the same. As long as my designated period of time is met each day, I am still on track to achieve my ultimate goal.

Time-based – The survey results should show the full 95% satisfaction score by the end of the year.

What now?

Now you’ve written up your smart objectives, you have three things left to do to make this objective really work for you and your business – they are:

  • Measurement
  • Performance standards
  • Actions

How will this new objective look broken down?

Objective:

Increase customer satisfaction by 95%

Measurement:

Produce a percentage score based on a Customer Service Satisfaction survey.

Performance standards:

90-94% – partially met

95-97% – met

98%+ – exceeded

Actions:

So now you need to figure out how is this going to be achieved. You need to work out what actions are needed and set out your steps to reach your goal.

Remember!

  • Your objectives must be achievable
  • Use positive language and describe what you want done rather than what you don’t
  • You need to leave yourself wiggle room – don’t use terms that limit margin for error
  • Be flexible! Just like anything else, your S.M.A.R.T goal could evolve – in this instance, think about S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals, adding in ‘Evaluate’ and Redo’

And that’s it! Write your targets and objectives the smart way and your business will be firmly on the path to success.

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