Fun with Mnemonics: Set SMART Marketing Goals

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Ready, Set, GOAL!

Yes, new technologies have changed the face of marketing over recent years (and wildly expanded the possibilities). But regardless of the new tools available to us, essential marketing strategies are still the same whether the tactic is traditional or digital. Our ability to attract, capture, nurture, convert and expand our customer base still relies on our ability to set, implement, and track marketing goals.

Goal setting is a powerful process that helps you define and refine your thoughts and get motivated to turn vision into success. Without goals, we often lack direction and focus. But in order to reach your goals, either personally or professionally, you need to know first how to choose them, and then how to set them.

You’ve probably already heard of the term “SMART goals.” “SMART” is a mnemonic device (pronounced nəˈmänik); mnemonic devices are simply patterns of letters, ideas, or associations that assist people to remember something. SMART is the mnemonic for remembering a particularly effective system for goal setting. This approach helps you define tactics that can potentially help you raise your marketing game to a higher level.

Play it SMART

Let’s break down this mnemonic and identify why each piece is vital to your goal-setting success:


S: Specific

Setting specific goals allows greater opportunity for success. A goal simply stating “We will get more newsletter opt-ins in the EU” will not be nearly as successful as setting a more defined goal such as “In order to generate more sales leads in the EU market, the lead generation team will increase the conversion rate by 5% on newsletter opt-ins from the European region by the end of third quarter.”

To determine whether your goals are detailed enough, ask yourself the five standard journalistic “W’s”:

  1. Who: Who are we trying to reach, or who is involved?
  2. What: What, exactly, do we want to accomplish? Do we want more conversions, opens, clicks, likes, sales, etc.? Is there a specific number attached?
  3. Why: Why do we want to accomplish this goal? What business objective will it support?
  4. Where: Where are we going to do this? In online marketing, this may refer to targeting a specific platform or channel such as email, web, YouTube, etc.
  5. When: When do we expect to accomplish this goal? Set a specific timeframe for achieving the goal.

M: Measurable

How do we know if our efforts are successful if we don’t measure our results? Goal-setting without measurement would be like having a sporting event without keeping score. High performance marketers typically live and breathe by powerful analytics tools and technologies that quantify conversions. Measuring your success isn’t hard; just make use of the potent analytic tools available today. These measured results tell you what is working and can show off the marketing team’s effect on lead generation, lead nurturing, and ultimately revenue.

A: Achievable

It would be highly frustrating to set a goal that is unattainable or unachievable. Historical marketing analytics and data can help define what’s possible and practical. Be careful here, as setting a goal that’s too easily attained can be detrimental as well. If it’s too simple to achieve, it will be anticlimactic (at best) and not provide any sense of real accomplishment. This can be demoralizing for you and for your team. Set goals that are realistic but do require you to raise the bar. Achieving goals that make you stretch a little will bring the greatest satisfaction. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at striking that fine balance between determining which goals will be both attainable and challenging.

R: Realistic/Relevant

If you set a goal that’s relevant to the success of your company and your team, you’re more likely to get that all-important buy in. When execs know you’re working to achieve a business objective they hold dear, you’re more likely to get budget. When team members know you’re working on something that will help them meet the objectives they are responsible for, they’re more likely to pitch in. Everyone is more motivated.

Your goal also has to be realistic. If your statistics tell you that a 3% quarterly increase is average growth in a particular area of your marketing, shooting for growth of 4 or 5% might be more reasonable than trying to double it to 6% out of the gate. Run the numbers to see how a goal might actually work out extrapolated over time. A change from 3 to 4% doesn’t sound like much … but this expectation is actually 33% higher than average growth, and if the rate holds steady would account for 213% growth over four quarters.

Shooting for the moon, while optimistic, can just set you up for failure, which in turn discourages future progress and attempts at success.

T: Timely, Time-Bound, or Trackable

It’s vitally important that each goal has a deadline, target, or completion date. This can help set team priorities, and a sense of urgency. No timeline = no sense of urgency. This timeline should also be realistic and attainable. Having a set timetable lets you track progress at key points, which may reveal the need for adjustments (in strategy or timing) along the way. A target date provides the perfect opportunity to set a date on your calendar when you can celebrate your success in achieving your goal – cake for everyone!

shutterstock_221885332Lights, Camera, ACTION PLAN!

The first step is to decide to change. From there, you then create a SMART goal that aligns with your marketing mission and vision. So what is the next step? It is time to set in place the action plan for success! Here are five steps to consider when creating your action plan:

  1. Write down your goal/objective. Make sure it is SMART.
  2. What are the steps that need to be taken to succeed? Identify the responsibilities needed to accomplish the task.
  3. Analyze and delegate the tasks and determine who will be responsible for each piece of the puzzle.
  4. Double check that your plan is comprehensive. Use the handy SCHEMES mnemonic below to check whether all the bases are covered. (Of course not all of these pieces will be necessary for each goal, but this provides a parameter to at least make sure you cover all the moving parts.)




E- Equipment

M- Materials

E- Expertise

S- Systems

  1. Monitor your success: Determine specific increments along the timeline to check that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. If this is a type of project you do repeatedly, see how this timeline compares with ones in the past.

Hit the Targetshutterstock_30224806

How do you determine which targets, goals, and objectives you should try to reach? Set goals that relate to the highest priorities in your marketing vision and strategy. For example:

  • Is social engagement a priority? You could set goals for impressions, clicks, views, shares, comments, link backs
  • Do you want to lift your email response by 10%? Create three personas, and then use them in a three-step email campaign to 20,000 names.
  • Is brand awareness on your radar? Then be thinking about content creation, organization, re-purposing, etc. How many thought leadership pieces will you create? Where will you distribute them?
  • Do you want to grow your marketing list organically, by 15%? Think about what people can opt-in to: Newsletters, RSS feeds, etc.
  • Do you need to generate 10,000 new leads? Then be thinking about how you can use forms to get information, and the download bait that you need. How many eBooks, whitepapers, etc.? What about webinars (you can get away with more questions on a registration form)? And how many downloads will you need to get one good conversion?

Setting too many goals can be overwhelming for both an individual and for a team. One or two will turn out to be more complicated than you expect, so plan for that and keep the number manageable.

Now that you’ve set your SMART goals, get motivated and follow them through to realization. Write your goals down, send them to all stakeholders, post them on a wall in the conference room – you get the idea. Periodically review your objectives and make any adjustments that are necessary. It’s perfectly acceptable to repeat a goal if the desired results weren’t achieved in the first go-around. With some slight modifications, the next time will surely be a triumph! Get excited about your pending achievements, incite your team’s enthusiasm, and gain momentum to hit your targets. Getting your goals right to begin with is a SMART start to a successful program.



A high-performance marketing plan can help you understand how your programs are doing, understand their impact on revenue, and can help your team become more efficient. Get started on your plan today with our eBook, “The High Performance Marketing Plan,” and learn the six-step blueprint for developing a high-performance marketing plan.