Deciding that you will sign up and run a marathon tomorrow, without any planning or training, will ultimately end in failure…and pain. Advertising is like a marathon – are you ready to go the distance? A solid plan for both successfully running a marathon and successfully advertising a business needs to be devised before diving head first into the activity. But as any marathon runner will tell you, your plan is only as good as the goals it is based on.
Marathon runners have a goal. Whether it’s to run a sub 4-hour race or simply get across the line in one piece, they always set out with a clear goal in mind. Everything revolves around achieving this goal. A week-by-week training plan, a nutrition plan, and a race day plan – each one is specifically devised to prepare the runner for success.Now think about your advertising goals. Maybe you want to attract new customers, get more business from existing customers or increase awareness in your local market. Sounds like a worthy goal – but how smart is it? And when we say ‘smart’, we really mean SMART.
SMART is a framework for setting goalsthat can be achieved and easily measured.
It’s an acronym for:
Imagine you’re running a marathon. You have a distance (42.2 kilometres) to aim for and a time you want to finish in. This is specific. On race day, you carry a timing chip to measure your finishing time to the exact second. This is measureable.You set out to attain your goal using a carefully scheduled training plan, which helps you run longer and further each week. Your goal is achievable. You know you are physically and mentally fit enough to finish the race. Perhaps you have completed a marathon before or you have witnessed people who are less fit than you finishing a marathon in the same time. This means your goal is realistic.Finally, the date of the marathon is set. You have exactly 10 months and not a day longer to get ready to hit your goal. It is time-bound.
The SMART model works because it is grounded in reality. If you’re setting unrealistic goals in your business, or life for the matter, you maximise the risk of failure.
So how does this work for your advertising?
- Specific: Set real numbers with real deadlines.For example, you might want to achieve a 5% increase in sales leads every month. Or a 10% increase in customers per quarter.
- Measurable: Make sure you can track the goal.Making your goals measurable will help you know when you’re making progress, when you’re on the right track, and when you’re not. It will motivate you to take action you veer off course. The important question to ask is: How will I know when I’ve achieved my goal? For advertising this can be as simple as putting in a special offer code on your letterbox flyers, or setting up analytics for your website.
- Achievable: The goal needs to be ambitious, but you have to know it can be done. Consider the resources and budget available. Don’t set a goal of achieving a 50% increase in customers if your budget doesn’t allow you to advertise in every channel available.
- Realistic: Don't aim for something you know in your gut is unrealistic – such as trying to double your customers in a month. There’s optimistic and then there’s unrealistic. And however great your product is, you need to keep real factors in mind when you’re setting your goals.
- Time-bound: Set a deadline. For example, when do you want to generate the new leads by? Work to a shorter deadline first, such as three months, so you can revisit and review your goal sooner. If you wait 12 months, you risk losing focus and momentum.
When it comes to setting your SMART advertising goal, it helps to first consider the big picture before you get down to the nitty gritty. Do you want to increase awareness? Do you want to increase your profits? Do you want to drive more sales leads through your website. Once you have the big picture end goal in mind, you can nut out the details. Break down your goal into smaller actions that are as specific as possible and will help you fulfil your SMART criteria. This is your advertising plan
Just like a marathon training plan details the extract distances and times you will run each week, your advertising plan should include the advertising channels and frequencies on a week-by-week basis. It should also include the messages and offers you’ll be promoting to your target audience. The plan doesn’t need to be set in stone – it’s important you can adapt it as new factors come into play, such as a new competitor or a change in sentiment amongst your target market.
Finally, once you are working towards your goal, be sure to track your progress. Schedule regular goal check-ins that will help you review your progress, adapt your approach and celebrate your wins.
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