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Setting SMART Goals for Your Small Business

With goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely, you can take the steps needed for long‑term success.

With goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely, you can take the steps needed for long-term success.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only about half of new small businesses survive for 5 years, and only one-third make it to 10 years. To stand the test of time, it’s important to set goals for your business that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely—in other words, goals that are SMART.

Small businesses tend to interact with their audience more directly, and on fewer fronts than corporations. Although you may have fewer resources, small businesses have many advantages if used wisely. Creating SMART goals to connect with your audience can make all the difference.

What are SMART goals?

The SMART acronym stands for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. The SMART goal system is impactful for business marketing strategies, project management and overall growth, because it encourages you to look into your market and evaluate how your business stacks up. It provides a model to identify strengths, track progress and room for improvement.

Here’s a more detailed SMART goals definition:


Having a clear, specific outcome in mind is key to making a SMART goal. Making a specific goal means that you can narrow your focus—whether this is on marketing, data collection, sales, or customer relationship management—and get a concise picture of exactly what you want to achieve and thus, what steps you should take to accomplish this goal.


When you set goals, it’s important to make sure you know what metrics you will use to evaluate whether and when you’ve met your goal.

Measurable goals and objectives can be quantitative, like how many returns or outputs you receive or produce; or they can be qualitative, based on the quality of those same returns or outputs.


It’s important to prioritize achievability when you set business goals. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t dream big, but a goal that you can take feasible steps towards will tell you more about the nature of your business, the way you run it, your customers, and the goal itself, rather than working towards something outside your capacity. By defining achievable goals, you’re also allowing yourself to experiment with what works best for reaching this goal, based on your measurements.


Relevancy, in the case of SMART business goals, refers to the pertinent characteristics of your business. Most businesses want to attract a bigger audience and increase their revenue, of course, but relevant goals help you identify what you will do specifically to grow your business.

If you run an online magazine, for example, a relevant and timebound goal is to increase the number of monthly subscribers by 25% this quarter. Subscribers are relevant to the success of your business, and thus the goal meets SMART criteria.


Having a timeframe for when you want to achieve your goal makes the process of planning and executing clearer and more organized. A deadline can be a powerful motivator, and it will help your team work together towards a clear finish line and better time management. Plus, working towards timely goals can give you insight into a certain time of year or the seasonality of your business, which might inform future goals.

Why are SMART Goals Important?

Why is being SMART important, and where does it factor into your small business plan? SMART goals enable small business owners to take actionable steps towards improvement, measure outcomes, and ultimately achieve scalable success.

Vague goals (like, “Find more customers”), can leave you at a loss when it comes to implementing changes to your current marketing campaigns or business models. Vague goals can also leave business owners feeling over-extended without a clear focus, or unsatisfied without substantial evidence of achievement.

Actionable, achievable goals that are relevant, timebound, and have measurable outcomes are crucial for surviving the inception years of your new business. They can lead to sustainable growth and innovation throughout the life of your company or your career development.

How to set SMART goals

You can start writing your own SMART goals in a few ways:

  • Use the SMART acronym as an outline. Write down a goal, then break down how the goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Provide details about your goal for each letter in the acronym. You can use a list format, a flow chart, or an outline—whatever keeps your thoughts organized and helps in reaching this goal.
  • Use a past/present/future question model. Ask yourself questions like: What have I already done? What is the current outcome? Where do I want to be at the end of this month/quarter/year? Although this model prompts you to look to the future, make sure to keep the goal timely and focused.
  • Use marketing software data. Marketing software can provide a foundation to set SMART goals. By collecting your current campaign reports and analytics all in one place, you can start writing your SMART goals based on the quantitative data you’ve already collected. Remember, the data itself is only a starting point; its usefulness is determined by what you do with it.

Use this SMART goal framework that will help you to define a better action plan with the steps you'll need to take, resources necessary to get there and milestones to track progress along the way. With SMART goals, you're more likely to achieve your goal efficiently and effectively.

SMART goal examples

What is a SMART goal? Let’s imagine a small business with the impressive goal of becoming completely carbon neutral or reaching net zero emissions. The goal is laudable, but how will the company achieve it? One step toward that objective might feature the SMART goal of switching 50% of plastic packaging materials to compostable packaging materials by the end of the quarter.

The goal is actionable and brings the company closer to its overall goal of operating as a carbon-neutral entity. Compostable packaging alone won’t get the company to complete carbon-neutral status. Still, it will help get the company closer to that end goal, and it’s an excellent selling point on the company website and sales literature.

Below we’ve listed a few more examples where we take some common small business goals and make them SMART:

  • “Build more customers” vs. “Secure 6 new business accounts before the end of the quarter.” Six is specific, securing new accounts is relevant to the ultimate goal of the business, having a quantitative goal correlates to measurable success, it’s small enough to be achievable, and “end of the quarter” is timely.
  • “Make more profits” vs. “Increase revenue 10% each quarter until the end of the fiscal year.” 10% is a specific, measurable amount that’s relevant to the goal of increasing overall profits. It puts “increase revenue” into achievable terms, and using quarters of the fiscal year is a timely measurement.
  • “Be more present online” vs. “Increase unique blog views by increasing social media marketing content over the next month.” Unique views are a specific audience metric that is captured by your website or marketing platform, increasing social media marketing is measurable quantitatively, and it’s an achievable, actionable item, while “over the next month” is timely.

SMART business goals are about building focus, deepening relationships with your audience, achieving your goals and improving your strategies as you grow. By using the SMART framework, you can improve your business operations, project management and start achieving the goals that matter most.

You can also write SMART goals for personal use, whether you want to improve your career development or achieve goals outside of your professional life. Using the SMART goal framework can organize the process and provide structure before you begin any projects for your small business.

Start setting SMART goals with Mailchimp

Mailchimp helps your company manage customer relationships, generate leads, and grow your small business with an all-in-one marketing platform for email campaigns, content management, and data analysis. Create and achieve your SMART goals by leveraging marketing tools from Mailchimp.

Frequently asked questions

When should I set SMART goals?

SMART goals are best set when the company aims to achieve a particular objective or milestone. By taking advantage of SMART goal setting from the get-go, your company can increase productivity, increase profits, and improve client or employee retention.

What is the value of creating SMART goals?

SMART goals take the vagueness out of company operations and help the organization reach its yearly goals with precision. SMART goals can improve resource allocation, time management, and employee morale.

SMART goals help business owners figure out where their teams are succeeding or when they need additional guidance. Grow your small business using achievable SMART goals that will add up to greater success over time.

What are good SMART goals?

In order to set good SMART goals, you must determine what you hope to achieve in the long run, either as an organization or professional.

Learning how to write SMART goals requires creating goals that meet every letter of the acronym. Below are some SMART goal examples that you can use as inspiration:

  • Grow the company Instagram page by gaining 100 followers over the next 6 months.
  • Find a qualified graphic design intern by the end of the quarter by creating job listings on at least three unique career sites.
  • Strengthen the sales team by ensuring that at least 80% of salespeople in your organization complete an inbound sales training by the end of the quarter.
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