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If there's one thing that keeps many solopreneurs stuck, its lack of clarity.
You know you're so much happier being a solopreneur instead of spinning your wheels at a soul-sucking job. But many days you aren't clear on what steps to take next in your business.
You want to travel to that awesome conference, or the solopreneur event at the beach, but you aren’t sure how to make it happen.
You've been a solopreneur for a while, things are ok, but you think you need to “grow” your business. But honestly, you aren’t even sure what that means.
Those goals are kind of vague and ambiguous. They could stay on your wishlist for months or years. They aren't clear, and neither are you.
With clearer goals we know what to do with our marketing actions and we make, well, smarter, decisions!
You’re less likely to jump on a new social network, or spend weeks (or more) on trying to rank for certain keywords, or wishing your Facebook Page would go viral, or any number of things you could do – but that aren’t the wisest choice for your business right NOW.
I’ve talked about marketing goals and planning before, I’ve mentioned SMART goals in posts, emails, webinars, training, and workshops, and you’ve probably seen the term elsewhere. Because it’s a smart (pun intended!) way to think about planning for ANY type of goals but certainly for laying out the path for our businesses and how we market or promote them.
It’s great to have a vision for what you want to achieve, who you love helping, and how your solopreneur biz can make a difference in your own life. But just sitting and dreaming or creating the vision doesn’t get us there – we need a road map and action plan. That’s where SMART goals come in – a formula that’s been around forever because it WORKS.
A quick refresher for what SMART stands for:
Most of your dreams and wishes for your business don't turn into reality because there's no clear plan to follow and your goals remain vague or open-ended instead of SMART. Let's fix that by digging to what makes a goal SMART and how yours can get smarter. 😃
Your goals need a WHY along with your who, what, when, and how. The more precise and clear your who, what, when, how, and why are – the better you’ll be able to not only see your goal but the path to achieving it.
Why is this particular goal important and how will it help your business right NOW? If you aren’t clear and detailed when you write down a goal, it’s much harder to plot a path to, or reach, that goal.
Instead of saying, “I want more clients this month”, get more specific.
More Specific = “I want to bring on 5 new, perfectly on-target clients in the next 90 days.” (oooh, that adds in the T part of goals too!)
How will you track progress and know you reached your destination? If you can’t measure a goal, it’s not truly SMART, nor a fully realized goal. We need some quantifiable measures – metrics, analytics – to hold our goals up against. This has to be part of the specificity of your goal and tied to the time element as well.
Another piece of advice – measure what matters and what will affect other decisions and parts of your business. In other words, just because something CAN be measured, doesn’t mean it really matters. You might also need to look at several metrics together, in context, to see if it’s telling you that you’ve made progress on something that matters. A single metric often doesn’t mean much.
A popular example in current marketing trends – what gets measured in social media. It’s easy to measure followers on Twitter and Instagram, or fans of your Facebook Page, or the ‘likes' on a post – but those numbers have come to be known as “vanity metrics.” They make us feel nice but they don’t really matter to our business goals or bottom line. Don't pay so much attention to the “vanity metrics.”
Look instead at metrics like engagement (the % of your followers and fans actually interacting with you), or your followers compared to your top competition, or click rates, actions that matter more. Measure engagement, not likes.
Look at what content converts – do your social fans click to your sales pages? or to an email opt-in page to join your list? Do they click on posts that lead to a workshop, ebook, or something you sell? Do pay attention to conversion metrics.
“Measure outcomes not outputs”
For example, merely counting web page hits is rather meaningless.
WHO is doing the hitting or visiting? Bots or your ideal customers? WHAT are they doing when they get to your website? Bouncing off the home page, visiting one or more other pages, opt-in to your free offer? Conversions are outcomes – we want conversions. We want actions that lead to buying.
Measurement HAS to be in the goal and it along with specificity is what I see missing in so many business or marketing plans or when people tell me their goals. Don’t be vague or wishy-washy and say ‘more’, ‘increase’, or ‘grow.’ What amount of “more” is meaningful and achievable for your business right now?
More Measurable = “I want to add $100 of income per week and I can accomplish this by selling two, 500-word blog posts to my health coach clients each week.”
Even experts use both of these for the “A” in SMART, but it comes down to being able to DO what you intend with your goal. To be actionable, you need to be able to break a goal up into tasks to accomplish that get you to (or closer to) your desired goal. Actionable ties to ‘measure what matters' from above- will be you be able to take action on what you've learned from what you did in the past? If you make your goal, will other important actions be possible?
An Achievable goal is one that you can reasonably reach with a little stretching. You don’t want to set a goal so lofty that you’ll get frustrated and likely to stop before you get there. Be accurate about the resources needed, the effort, and the time it will take to reach your goal.
A not-so-great goal might be to say ‘I want a massive following on social media'. Ummm, what does that mean?
Even if you reframed that as, ‘I want to grow my Instagram followers by 1000 over the next 5 months, to coincide with my new course launch' – it might not fit the SMART guidelines. [e.g. for me, that's not a relevant goal; for others it might not be very actionable]
More Achievable = You want to decrease the time it takes you to respond to your customers on social media, and be able to answer all serious queries within one hour. (you don't have to solve their problem in 1 hour always! But you will respond to them and let them know you're working on it.)
More Actionable = Over the next 6 months, you'll increase your email subscription conversion percentage by 50% vs. what it is now – by focusing on your headlines, placement of opt-in opportunities, A/B testing types of forms and CTAs, and testing at least two different free offers.
Speaking of taking action … here's a great one to take right now and further improve your solopreneur goal-setting skills – claim your FREE, short email course from me on SMART goals.
Both Rs fit and are important for goal-setting. When creating a new goal it’s important to take stock of where you’ve just been, what’s going well or not in your business, and what’s on the horizon. Given that assessment, is it realistic to think you can achieve the goal you are setting? Do you need to tweak it? Do you have the resources you’d need to achieve this goal – if you don’t, it’s not realistic, time to adjust.
Relevancy means remembering your WHY and larger business goals – don’t pick marketing goals that don’t move you towards that.
I could write a goal that says “I will take at least 10 well-composed, artistic photos each week in order to make at least 5 Instagram posts, and then comment on 10 other posts”. It has a number, a deadline, a how and where – BUT it’s not relevant because I only use Instagram with my friends, not for business. 😉 Likewise, I have solopreneur clients who sell services to C-suite executives in a mostly B2B environment, so setting a goal for securing 500 Instagram followers and posting 3 times per week would be highly irrelevant – their customers aren’t looking for their services via Instagram.
If you were getting 1000 visitors per month to your website and set a goal of 100,000, that’s not very attainable or realistic (and if that traffic isn’t the right audience or you can’t convert it, it would be wasted even if you did hit a huge number). It may never be a realistic, or relevant, goal for you.
Another un-smart goal might be setting an income target that is overly optimistic or unrealistic. For example, if you’re currently making $500 a week, it’s not realistic (or very achievable) to say you will increase that to $10,000 per week in 90 days. Admirable and awesome! But not realistic.
More Realistic = Your goal is to add $300/week in income from all client and product sources in the next 30 days.
Once you hit $800/week consistently, you can raise your goal to $1000-1500/week by the end of the 90 days. A stretch maybe, depending on your circumstances, but achievable and realistic.
To measure, we need a beginning and an end to measure against. To be achievable, you need to clearly see your milestones and deadline and that you CAN get there. While we can – and should – have some bigger, longer term goals (12 months, 5 year plan, lifetime bucket list), I’ve found it better to break things up. For goal-setting and planning as flexible solopreneurs, think in 90-day and 30-day chunks of time.
If you want more help in creating your own SMART goals I have two worksheets to help: a self-interview set of questions to help you get clarity on your goals and a worksheet to spell out each part of the goal you're working on – you can download them free right here.
“Marketers who set goals are 429% more likely to report success than those who don’t”
(wow, that’s a highly specific figure – but CoSchedule ran the research to back it up)
But even a specific, realistic goal can look a little daunting or overwhelming. That’s why creating the path to the goals, your action plan, is just as important as the SMART goal.
You need to break bigger goals into milestones, check-points, and smaller, bite-sized pieces. If it’s a 12-month goal, what does your progress need to measure at month 6? At month 3?
If you wanted to achieve something by the end of the month – like 5 new clients – how would you break that down week-by-week, and even day-by-day? How many calls do you need to make to get a warm lead? How many contacts to past clients to get a referral? How many emails will you need to send to contacts and your list to get traffic to an offer page for new clients? How many website visitors to a landing page turn to conversions to an offer? You need to know those measures so you can work out what effort it will take to get towards your nicely specific goal.
You need to work backwards from that SMART goal to come up with your equally smart action plan. If you're feeling a little stuck on working out the details, maybe you'd like to grab a Borrow My Brain session with me and we can work that out for you!
Your goals won't be perfect and won't always feel so smart. That's ok! Don't waste hours or days, or worse stay stuck, thinking you have to come up with a perfect SMART goal. If your goal is specific, has a deadline, and you wrote it down – you're already way ahead of most folks and you have more clarity than you did before. Congrats! Now put it into action, test it out, and then adjust. See where you are in a month and at the end of the quarter. Then come up with even SMART-er goals! You're moving forward and that's always wise.
HubSpot – 5 Reasons Why Your Marketing Goals Suck – one of the best points was #2, after their recap of SMART – aligning your marketing goals with your business goals. If you have a revenue or income goal for the year and your marketing efforts don’t directly lead to making that $$ target, then what good were they? Great, you got to 5,000 Facebook Page likes by the end of the year, but if none of those people turned into paying customers and you missed your income target, that’s bad.
CoSchedule – How to Set SMART Marketing Goals – shows difference, with examples, between business goals and marketing goals. They’re like me, they use the destination-map analogy when talking goals! [FYI – this is a meaty post that is a chapter in a lengthier guide on marketing – they are living the content marketing mantra]
Alexa – How to Define and Measure Marketing Objectives – a start-to-finish guide – besides recapping what SMART means and why marketing goals should support overall business goals, this post nicely breaks out TYPES of goals in marketing. For example, you have a lead generation goal, a ‘grow your online presence’ goal, a launching a new product or service goal, or a retain existing customers goal. Each of those would look different, different paths or steps to achieve them, and different marketing tactics or actions. For example, spending a lot of effort to get new social media followers and have them engage with you would NOT be an effective strategy to meet a Retain Customers goal.
Smart Insights – How to Define SMART Marketing Objectives – there’s some fuss among experts as to what’s a goal vs. what’s an objective – don’t let that or the business terms of KPIs, dashboards, or more throw you. Post even has a chart showing the alternatives for the letters in the SMART acronym. It’s just another source that backs up what we covered above – hey, I’m a researcher, I cite multiple sources! 😁
I want all of my solopreneur pals to feel confident and mighty in their marketing - sharing what makes their work special and so vital to their clients. No B.S. or fluff here. I do the digging and research for you, translate "marketing-ese" into simpler terms, and help you avoid marketing headaches.
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