How to play it SMART for your small business in the new year

At this time of year, most small business owners and marketers are caught up in winter holiday campaigns: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas—it’s a whirlwind of big shopping days and ad campaigns.

But the end of the year is also a time to take stock and review your strategy for the future.

Think SMART.

We’re big fans of the SMART goal system: setting targets that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. SMART goals turn abstract business ideas into concrete results. And because each goal has a specific timeframe, you and your team are held accountable.

SMART goals

The new calendar year is a golden opportunity to set new communications goals and targets, centered around business goals. What might those business goals be? According to Small Business Trends:

  • Focus on inclusive leadership: Creating a gender-diverse and ethnically diverse workplace.
  • Build an internal knowledgebase: Developing resources so that your internal team grows and learns equally and progressively. Professional development helps unite teams and promote loyalty.
  • Adopt a nonprofit: Making a philanthropic connection is good for the soul and for company morale.
  • Assess quarterly: Take time to review the past quarter so as to better prepare for the next one.
  • Grow your network: Improve external relationships, connect with those within and—especially—outside your industry, and bring people together not just for gain, but as a means to make human connections. You never know how those people might play into your future.

If you’re looking for inspiration, this article from Fit Small Business has some great case studies from real business owners about how to use the SMART framework to shift your goals from idea to reality. One example follows:

Get the team involved.

When you’re thinking about business targets, it’s easy to get lost in abstract ideas. SMART goals are useful ways to bring your ideas down to earth. But if you really want to hit those targets, you need to involve everyone on the team.

Start by reviewing the resources you have for employees, such as style guides, social media handbooks, and your communications strategy document. Is everything up-to-date? Is everything clear?

Next, get everyone on board with your goals. Try to present your new targets as New Year’s Resolutions for the whole team. That could include resolutions like:

  • We’re going to produce one piece of video content every month.
  • We’re going to post on Instagram at least twice a day.
  • We’re going to have a team debriefing after every PR event.
Ideally, your team will contribute ideas for New Year’s resolutions. They may spot areas that you’ve overlooked.

Once your team is personally invested in each and every one of your SMART goals, they have a much better chance of success.

Review what worked this year—and what didn’t.

Too often, small businesses burn through capital tossing money at marketing tactics that work for their competitors but that simply aren’t paying off for them. Study your ROI. If you spent $10,000 in Facebook ads and generated only $2,000 in sales that you can attribute to those ads, rather than spending countless more hours trying to find the right combination of copy and targeting on a platform that isn’t performing well, consider perhaps abandoning pay-per-click ads in the coming year.

You should already have a comprehensive communications strategy for your small business in place.

  • Is the plan easy to implement or does it need tightening up with some specific, measurable goals?
  • If you had SMART goals in the past year, did you achieve them all, or drop a few? Why?

Try to engage your clients and customers with a survey, either in-store or via an email newsletter. Check your online reviews on sites like Trustpilot and Yelp, and identify any areas you could improve.

Customer feedback can be a great source of inspiration for SMART goals; for example, “We will get six positive reviews each month.”

If you need more guidance on planning for the new year, check out our small business programs and resources.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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