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Get the most out of your planning by setting SMART objectives

Business and Marketing planning is a lengthy process that leaves most of us running for the hills in a vain attempt to avoid it. But with a little focus you can speed up the process and make your planning all the more effective. Here’s how.

Before you start planning, set some objectives, SMART ones. What do I mean by SMART objectives? Well, it’s one of those business acronyms taught in all business and marketing qualifications, but unlike many others, this one is actually worth bothering with.

S is for Specific

Your objectives should be specific, detailed, well defined and results orientated. They should include exactly what has to be achieved and by who.

M is for Measurable

Objectives are far more effective when they have a measure. For example ‘to increase sales’ has little effect but ‘to increase sales by 25%’ gives you a specific measure to work to. This measure can then be evaluated and used to help form new objectives in the future.

A is for Achievable

Your objectives must stretch you, but at the same time be achievable. There is no point in setting objectives that you won’t be able to achieve for years, as you will soon lose motivation.

R is for Realistic

Closely linked to achievable, realistic relates more to resources. Do you have the man-power, money, time and opportunity to achieve them? Is there something else that has to happen before you can make a start on that objective? The key here is to prioritise. Put your objectives in a sensible order, after all achieving one objective may help you to achieve 3 or 4 others.

T is for Timed

Perhaps most importantly set deadlines for achieving your objectives – time frames are great at prompting action. Going back to the earlier example ‘increasing sales by 25% by September 2007′, leaves no dispute as to what you need to achieve.

Now obviously there is some cross over here. Your time frame must be achievable and realistic, and the measure should be specific. Perhaps try applying the SMART acronym in this order. Choose your objective (to increase sales), add your measure (by 25%), add your time frame (by September), check is it is achievable and realistic, then add any other relevant specifics such as who and what product lines.

Some Ideas

Objectives differ depending on the size, nature, industry and personnel within a business. However, below are some examples that you can take and apply to your business circumstances.

  • Increase sales revenue by 5% by the end of this financial year.
  • Increase market share within your industry to 30% by the end of December 2008.
  • Increase profitability by reducing expenditure by £3,000 per month within the next 3 months.
  • Converting 2 new customers per month to repeat customers from now onwards.
  • Achieve 1 news story in the local press per quarter throughout 2007.
  • Develop 1 new content page for the website each month throughout 2007.
  • Generate 6 new referrals from existing customers this year.
  • Attend 2 industry exhibitions this year and gain 150 new leads at each.
  • Increase e-newsletter click throughs by 10% over the next 2 issues.
  • Cross sell new lines to existing customers generating £10,000 of new revenue by end of the financial year.

Summary

By writing clear and compelling objectives you will never be confused about what to write in the rest of your plan, which leaves more time to achieve them and less time spent writing about them. Look back over your objectives at regular intervals in the planning process, they are not set in stone, you can alter and add to them as you complete the rest of the planning process.

But the most important thing to remember is to reward yourselves when you achieve them!