SMART Goals Explained with Examples

SMART Goals Explained with Examples
Understand how to use SMART goals to improve the chances of achieving goals in anything, from your personal life to your business planning. Learn more here.
by Square Sep 28, 2021 — 5 min read
SMART Goals Explained with Examples

Want to get better at goal setting, and more importantly, achieving the goals you set? SMART goals give you the platform to accomplish anything.

What are SMART goals?

The idea of SMART goals dates back to 1981 when a fellow named George T. Doran introduced the concept in a paper about writing and achieving management goals. Since then, the concept has been widely adopted across all levels of business planning, and people also use it to improve the chances of achieving goals in their personal life.

What does the SMART acronym stand for?

The SMART acronym stands for:

Read on to learn more about each of these factors in detail.

How to use SMART goals

You can use SMART goals for basically anything you want to achieve. Identifying SMART objectives can be part of your business planning, small business marketing campaigns, or even your personal life. SMART goals are also extremely useful in performance evaluations, to help staff take ownership of their goals and performance. The important thing is to analyse all goals and objectives honestly. If your goal doesn’t fit into the SMART methodology, it may require more thought. By the same token, remember that these are goals you want to achieve, so approach the process with positivity.

As we go through each step of the SMART formula, you’ll see that there are a lot of questions to answer. Gathering these answers is important because it helps to demonstrate your goal is worthwhile and achievable.

1. Specific

All of your goals should be clear and easy to understand. This helps you focus your efforts on achieving a result, without letting other things get in the way. If your goal is too broad, you’ll find there are too many smaller goals to achieve along the way. Often, it’s worth breaking a larger goal into smaller SMART goals to keep things moving in the right direction.

Ask questions such as:

For example, you want to open a second retail location for your business. This may look like, “I want to open a second retail outlet, because there is a gap in the market for this region. To get this done, I will need a business planner, financial analysis, stock, point of sale hardware and a lawyer. We will have a budget following financial analysis.”

2. Measurable

Make sure your goal is measurable, because this is the best way you’ll know if you’ve achieved it. Even if you have smaller milestones along the way, make note of these to ensure you can tick things off as you progress. This is great for staying motivated while working towards your goal. Ask questions like:

Let’s look at the retail store example again. To make this viable, we need to be able to access rent at $600 per week. We also need our sales forecasts to reflect a weekly total revenue of $2000 to break even. Then, the store fit-out and opening need to meet our designated budget. If the figures all align, the goal will be achieved when we open the doors.

3. Achievable

You also need to make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. It’s easy to veer off course and not stick to the plan if goals don’t feel attainable. You need to ask questions like:

In our retail example, let’s imagine their first goal of opening a new location turned out to be too risky. As such, they pivot and decide to start an online store. They determine that the goal is more achievable because setup costs are much lower, and at the same time they can reach a larger audience. Using software like Square Online, they can set up the store quickly and begin promotional activities much faster than a new brick-and-mortar store. This goal is much more achievable.

4. Relevant

Naturally, your goal needs to be relevant and tie into your overall business direction. This is where you can consider some of the more non-financial factors that might affect your goal’s viability. Ask questions like:

When considering building an online store, you could ask yourself these questions and determine it is relevant because it adds another income stream without changing your products and services. Expansion is another key goal, and with online retail booming right now, it’s a good time to go down this path.

5. Time-bound

Finally, every good goal needs a time limit. This is more to keep you motivated than anything else. It gives you a deadline to strive for and keeps you pushing forward. Your deadline may be influenced by external factors, but you can plan for this. Ask questions such as:

Our retail business does their research and determines building a website with Square Online Store is pretty quick. Also, they already use Square Point of Sale for their retail operation, meaning they can import an inventory and product list quickly. The process of setting up the store should only take a month in total.

Smart goals template

Let’s put this methodology into practice with some SMART goal examples. Remember, you can use SMART for all types of goal setting, including personal and business goals. For this example, we’re going to use it to complete a project, but you can apply it to other goals such as learning a new skill, increasing revenue or anything else you’d like to achieve.

In this example, we’ll imagine our goal is to build a website for our small business. The first step is to use the SMART formula to map out our goal.

Goal: To build an online store for my retail store.

Specific: We need to develop a website to enhance our online presence. We currently only use social media to attract customers, but we need to generate organic traffic through Google search results. Building the website will involve planning product landing pages, integrating a payment processing system, formulating a compelling content management plan and hiring a website development company.

Measurable: In 6 months, we want to be selling 100 of our products per month through our website.

Achievable: We have allocated a budget for website development, and we will appoint a staff member to manage the project and associated tasks. A website development company should be hired within 2 weeks.

Relevant: One of our broader business goals this year is to increase revenue and attract new customers. The website gives us a new channel to generate new business.

Time-bound: Since we want to be selling 100 more products in 6 months’ time, the development of the website should take no longer than 2 months.

Now that you’ve outlined how your goal fits into the SMART formula, you can create one basic SMART goal, where the deliverables and timeframe are very clear. For example:

SMART Goal: To build an online online for our retail business

Description: We need to open up new channels for selling our products, because one of our major goals this year is to increase revenue. We have an aim of selling 100 products per month in 6 months’ time. To do this, we need an active website that is beginning to rank well on search engines.

Milestone: Hire a website development company within 2 weeks.

Completion date: 2 months from now

As you can see, you’ve confirmed that your goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Not only does this ensure it’s a valuable goal to pursue, but also sets some accountability for the achievement of the goal.

The Bottom Line is brought to you by a global team of collaborators who believe that anyone should be able to participate and thrive in the economy.


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