Not long ago, in a place way down under, a well-meaning supermarket chain asked Twitter followers to fill in the blank for the following statement, “I became an ALDI lover when I tasted ____ for the first time.”

  Predictably, the outcome wasn’t great. What followed was an onslaught of jocular wordplay one user called “the bitter tears of social media gone wrong.” Twitter trolls replied with everything from “horse” to “cheap beer” to worse (that I won’t repeat). The tweet was deleted before the situation got crazy but it does make you wonder. What was the brand thinking?

  Yet, history is filled with massive but predictable marketing blunders that could have been avoided if only someone had asked better questions. And one of the best times to ask those questions is when you set goals for your campaign. At least if you set them strategically. In this case, the brand clearly hoped the tweet would boost Twitter engagement. Unfortunately, it neglected to consider its audience first. Anyone who has spent time on Twitter understands that its users can be a rowdy bunch.

  More than 30 years ago, management consultant George T. Doran introduced S.M.A.R.T. goals as a way for managers to quantify employee performance by ensuring that goals were Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. It has been a favorite for employee appraisals ever since.

But it would be a mistake to limit S.M.A.R.T. goals to annual performance reviews. They can be applied to all kinds of projects. You can set them for New Year’s resolutions, for instance, or academic performance or marketing or, perhaps more effectively, digital marketing.  I say “more effectively” because digital marketing makes it easy to set benchmarks, track progress and target your objectives – all big components of smart goals.

So, how should you apply S.M.A.R.T. goals to your digital marketing program?


Make goals SPECIFIC

Be sure that you not only understand what you hope to achieve but also how you want to achieve it and why. For example, you may be certain that you want your campaign to “increase applications for a new auto loan product” but that isn’t nearly as clear-cut as a goal to “leverage social media to increase applications for a new auto loan product and grow revenue by 10%”. Being specific will help you understand if the goal is greater than the sum of its parts and identify what did and didn’t work when doing reconnaissance.


Always MEASURE your efforts

If you think this one goes without saying, you’re terribly (and unfortunately) wrong. While lots of digital marketers regularly track campaigns with metrics like email click-through, page views and ad impressions, few make the effort to effectively tie those metrics to ROI. And the marketers who do may find results frustrating because they’ve failed to set benchmarks or properly weight the campaign’s influence on their final objective. This is one reason you should also ask yourself whether your goal is attainable.


Shoot for ACHIEVABLE outcomes

Lackluster results with past campaigns? You may be in need of serious soul – ahem “goal” – searching. Think about whether the results you expected were ever really achievable in the first place. Consider whether you’ve seen a return on investment with a similar effort. If not, were you working with a digital agency, partner or vendor experienced enough to gauge the results for you? Or was there some competitor benchmark, you were trying to mime? If you can’t answer any of these questions beforehand, you only have yourself to blame afterward.   


Personalize and segment for RELEVANCE

Knowing and targeting the right audience is practically a digital marketing requisite. In fact, this likely the reason for digital marketing “fail” noted earlier. Twitter was not the right audience for a fill-in-the-blank style engagement ploy. Had the brand truly considered the audience for that tactic, it may have avoided its fate. Interestingly enough, the same campaign ran pretty seamlessly with Facebook’s much less feisty users. Even within each digital platform, there are few reasons not to target your audience. From Facebook to Google Ads to MailChimp, nearly every marketing platform comes complete with tools to help you segment and personalize. And if you don’t know your audience in the first place, you need to get going on buyer personas.  


TIMING is everything (except when it isn’t)

The time is now. Or, is it? It isn’t if you’re publishing a Halloween-themed blog post on “frightening facts” two weeks after New Year’s Day. And it isn’t if you promised your manager that you would improve website conversion rates three years ago but you’re just getting around to it now. Setting deadlines helps to set the expectations of others and keep yourself accountable. Just remember that it’s a delicate balance between meeting deadlines and staying agile. Don’t get obsessed with arbitrary deadlines that mean nothing to everyone but you if it means sacrificing the quality of your work.


Need more help setting smart goals? Download our free smart goal checklist or get in touch to learn how we can help you achieve them.

(Updated July 2018 to reflect Google’s change of Google AdWords to Google Ads.)