How 16 Marketers Set and Hit SMART Goals

Author's avatar Marketing UPDATED May 6, 2023 PUBLISHED Aug 15, 2018 17 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Most marketing teams have goals. But are your goals specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-bound? And if they are, how do you go about meeting them?

    Since Databox is the first-of-its-kind tool that enables businesses to automatically track attainment of their SMART goals, we’re all about helping businesses set and hit theirs.

    But, as smart as our system is, we don’t capture exactly what marketers do to reach their goals. To uncover what goes on behind the scenes, we asked marketers in the real world what they’ve done to hit specific targets.

    Below are examples of SMART goals shared with us by smart marketers, along with the strategies that helped them achieve them.


    SMART Goals for Increasing Website Traffic

    Getting more website traffic was the most common marketing goal in our survey sample. Based on the variety of the responses, there are clearly loads of ways to go about it….

    Syed Irfan Ajmal from Ridester  told us how they more than doubled their “organic search and social traffic from 253,000 visitors/month to 650,000 visitors/month within 7 months.

    To hit their goal, they created a lot of content and frequently updated it, leveraged Facebook Groups to promote it and sometimes used paid Facebook ads to get their new content in front of influencers and previous website visitors. Here are more of the details:

    1. “Facebook Groups. We joined a few groups related to our niche. We engaged in conversations with group members for awhile before sharing our own content. More importantly, we engaged with members who respond to our posts. This works because when Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm sees a high level of engagement, it considers the post highly relevant and will show the post to more members of the group.
    2. Organic Search. We used a keyword research tool (ie Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush) to find out what competitors are ranking for, then created similar content that is more robust. Keyword tools tell you exactly what a URL ranks for and how people are finding it, so there’s no reason to publish content hoping it will work. We also updated our content regularly to maintain or further increase our rankings. We have some posts that are over two years old that still hold number one rankings on Google.
    3. Paid Traffic. We also use paid traffic to boost our organic efforts. For instance, we may use paid ads to see if a particular topic is gaining popularity, and if it is, we will work on making our article on that topic more detailed. Also, we sometimes use paid traffic to get some initial traction on a piece of content before reaching out to influencers, bloggers, and media outlets. We also used retargeting by inserting a Facebook pixel on our site, then promoting a high-value article to previous website visitors and members of the aforementioned groups. We achieved a very high engagement level with this approach.”

    Tim Jones, founding partner of Eternal Works, laid out a great small business example for growing traffic too. His agency’s goal was to grow their site traffic from just 200 to 1,000 sessions per month. They gave themselves four months to do it.

    Here’s what they did.

    First, they realized that their website was in need of a serious redesign. The bounce rate was over 90%. Inconsistent navigation and buried details made it hard for visitors to figure out what the company did. And harder to determine the next steps they should take.

    With better navigation and clearer calls to action, they brought the bounce rate down to just over 30%.

    (Editor’s note: this is a clear redesign success. But it’s not always this obvious. Check out how other marketers measure the success of their redesigns.)

    After the redesign, Eternal Works start blogging, did some on-page SEO for their website, and used both social media and paid ads to drive traffic. They split up their content like this:

    • Blogs for sharing company culture and answering industry questions.
    • Paid ads for focusing on the company’s current offers.
    • Social posts to share company culture, blog posts, and reinforce paid ads.

    Did it work? It certainly did—they blew their target out of the water and hit 1,900 sessions/month within their four-month target period.

    Kenny Lange, founder of PHNX21 Creative, identified two things to keep in mind when setting your SMART goals. First, be realistic about setting them. Second, be intentional about reaching them.

    His team stayed realistic “by picking a number that we thought was reasonable, but just out of our reach,” he says. This pushed the agency to keep innovating to hit their goal.

    As for intentionality, “Don’t set the goal and leave it on the back burner!” You’ll need to consistently put effort toward it if you’re going to make it. If you can do those two things, you’ll hit your SMART goals.

    It’s clear that in both of the examples above from Ridester and Eternal Works, they were intentional about their efforts. By combining different methods of traffic generation and tracking them in detail, they were able to figure out what worked for them. And then they could focus on it.

    Bureau Kraken’s founder Casper Kraken put his site’s traffic goals into their 12-month marketing plan. This kept it top-of-mind and made sure that the team would review it throughout the year. Making a plan is a crucial step in meeting SMART goals.

    Editor’s note: Simplify your goal-setting process with the help our marketing reporting software. Visualize your most important metrics from any data source, set alerts, track goals and more.

    SMART Goals for Increasing Search Traffic

    Content marketing strategist Estelle Pin told us that they used a customer focus at TINYpulse to guide their SEO strategy. “When brainstorming ideas, I was thinking: What value can I give today? What information would make my audience better off after reading this than they were before?” As a result, they were able to rank on page one for their chosen keywords within three months. 

    Cory Sarrett from Online Optimism also set a goal for growing website traffic via SEO, “Grow web traffic to our client’s website by at least 100% in six months with SEO efforts.” To hit the goal they, “created blog posts that used carefully selected specific keywords to improve SEO rankings and we redid the content on the main part of our client’s website so it included more keywords.”

    Need help tracking your keyword rankings? Read our keyword rank tracking guide.

    SMART Goals for Getting Online Reviews

    Actioned founder Fiona Adler discussed her work on an online reviews platform. She set specific, aggressive goals for three-month periods in an effort to get more people to leave reviews on the platform.

    By using a referral program to encourage users to refer their friends, she was able to significantly grow the user base of the site. She also told her users how useful their reviews were, to hopefully encourage more word of mouth.

    Vince Lefton of Bulldog Marketing also set out to improve their online review footprint, “Our goal was to  generate 45 spectacular Google Reviews of our company in one month.” To hit it, they, “made a contest in the office- whoever got the most clients to leave reviews got a bonus.” They also launched a referral program, “Each person who left a review got access to a referral program where they’d get $200 for referring a friend.

    SMART Goals for Offline Marketing Too!

    Not all marketing occurs online. As marketers, we tend to think of SMART goals for online marketing because digital marketing is instantly measurable.  But, offline marketing can be measurable too.

    In the case of iHeartRaves‘ — an e-commerce store for rave clothing, digital marketing strategist Brandon Chopp set specific goals in an effort to grow his company’s Unicorn Crew, a group of people dedicated to spreading positivity at music festivals.

    Our goals included increasing the amount of Unicorn Crews nationwide by 20% and streamlining the selection process of representatives from the community,” he said.

    So iHeartRaves set about figuring out how to do that. The tactic they settled on was identifying 20% more music festivals to target and opening up applications to a larger community. This let them scale their recruiting process and ensure proper execution at each festival.

    SMART Goals for Growing an Email List

    Of course, traffic isn’t the only thing you need to make marketing work for your business. You also need to capture interest in your products and services. Often, the first step in doing that is building an email list.

    Akash Karia, keynote speaker and author, set an ambitious goal: to grow his email list to 15,000 subscribers in one year. And his methodical approach serves as an effective lesson.

    “To hit this goal,” he says, “I had to understand exactly why and how people sign up for email newsletters.” He found that there are three crucial steps. You need to

    1. get people to your website;
    2. offer a lead magnet;
    3. communicate to people that you won’t spam them.

    To complete the first step, Karia wrote short books and self-published them on Amazon. Those books performed well, and each included a link to his website. Readers were offered a free ebook related to the topic of the book they were reading.

    Once they got to Karia’s website, they needed to enter their email address to download the book. He noted that adding a note saying “I will never spam you, ever” was crucial in increasing the conversion rate.

    By setting out a clearly defined plan, Karia met his SMART marketing goal.

    While a slightly more modest goal, Stacy Caprio from Deals Scoop set a goal for growing her email list too — by 2,000 subscribers in 3 months.  “We hit it by optimizing our email opt-in header using the free Sumo plugin, adding more email collection pop-ups and started collecting emails on a network of sites.” she added

    Track your email list growth with Databox using one of our free templates for Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, HubSpot, Active Campaign or Marketo.

    SMART Goals for Starting to Generate Leads

    Getting email signups is great. But, for companies with a sales team, generating leads is usually the most critical marketing activity.  We gathered some great SMART goal examples for lead generation from our respondents, too.

    Strategic IC found themselves in a similar situation, says inbound digital marketing executive Natasha Hemmings. Their client was getting a solid amount of traffic, but not capturing any contact information. “We set a [top-of-funnel] goal to convert and capture at least 1,000 leads over the first three months,” she says.

    So Strategic IC looked at the resources they already had. The client had an online quiz that was popular, so they put it behind an email gate to capture contact details. Once contacts were stored in the company’s CRM, they received quiz results and follow-up content addressing their specific challenges.

    In addition, Strategic IC started a remarketing campaign encouraging customers to return and the take the quiz. They also used an exit-intent widget to give people another chance to take the quiz instead of leaving the page.

    In those three months, Strategic IC gathered almost 2,000 leads, nearly double their goal.

    SMART Goals for Increasing Visitor to Lead Conversion Rates with Existing Content

    Many marketers are already generating traffic and leads. A few smart marketers shared how they increased their conversion rate for the content they had already produced.

    And that’s a great place for SMART goals, too.

    Spiralytics‘ content strategist Pierre de Braux walked us through his method to meet a very aggressive goal: increase monthly blog conversions by 100% in three months.

    “[T]his may not seem like an huge increase,” he says, “but for a very high-value/low-volume B2B product, it is a meaningful one.” So he set about increasing the site’s conversion focus.

    “The main thing I did to achieve that was to ensure all their blog posts were conversion-focused, complete with a prominent subscription box as well as an attractive CTA driving users to downloadable longer-form content.”

    At the end of the period, the company’s attribution model made it clear that the newly optimized blog posts were behind the significant increase in leads and conversions. (The company more than doubled its view-to-conversion rate.)

    It’s amazing what a strong focus on conversion will do.

    Jumpanzee cofounder David Denning shared a similar story. His group aimed to achieve an over-10% conversion rate and less-than-30% bounce rate on a client’s landing page in less than six months.

    Their main tactic was to improve the UI and UX to drive visitors to the page’s call to action. Adding an explainer video greatly reduced the bounce rate as well.

    In the end, the conversion rate skyrocketed, breaking 25%, and the bounce rate plummeted to less than 20% within two months.

    SMART Goals for Increasing Your New Customer Acquisition Rate

    Denning and Jumpanzee weren’t the only ones to mention improved UX flow as a way to improve conversion rates.

    But, in this next example, the conversion rate that mattered was the visitor to customer conversion rate. Leadfeeder‘s head of marketing, Christina Hall, also placed an emphasis on reducing friction via UX. Only 18% of customers went through the entire trial signup process at Leadfeeder, a software as a service company.  The company wanted to get that number over 25% in three months.

    The trial signup process included signing into a Google Analytics account (so LeadFeeder could pull in data), which caused 20% of users to drop out of the flow. So Leadfeeder took action.

    They completely redesigned the signup pages as part of their new app interface. They added links to the signup pages so users could proceed to their preferred conversion path, like a call with the sales team. And they created automated emails that encouraged people to get back into the signup process after dropping out.

    Free trial signup flow conversion has gone from 18% to 22%, which was an impactful improvement. Leadfeeder is still working to increase it to 25%.

    Ian Evenstar, founder of UNINCORPORATED, shared an interesting strategy for meeting a client’s goal of increasing student enrollment in an online master’s program by 33% in six months.

    By focusing on their advertising budget, UNINCORPORATED was able to determine their target cost per acquisition and optimize their paid advertising campaigns accordingly. They also began scoring leads.

    “By scoring our leads we were able to focus our limited internal and external resources on providing concierge-level service to the people most likely to apply and accept the university’s offer,” says Evenstar. And that level of service helped them hit their SMART goal.

    Based on these examples, marketers can obviously have a big and very direct impact on sales for SaaS companies and universities.

    But, as Patrick Dodge from Creative Side Marketing shared, it’s just as relevant for B2B marketing when the sale is offline ,”Our goal was to attract enough leads to get our client 40 new customers in the first three months of our B2B marketing program. We started the campaign in April, 2018, and now have 49 new customers confirmed to date.” To hit the goal, “We used a methodology and template that helps us determine the revenue gap we needed to hit, then we found the milestones needed to get there. For instance, we calculate the number of customers, opportunities, leads, and website traffic needed to fill the revenue gap, based on inbound marketing averages.”

    SMART Goals for Increasing Revenue from Existing Customers

    Too often, companies forget that marketing’s job shouldn’t end after the customer is acquired. Most of the SMART goals that marketers shared with us were typical pre-sales or top-of-the-funnel marketing goals, except one.

    Joe Sinkwitz from Intellifluence – a marketplace for brands to recruit influencers — shared a goal they’ve set for growing a new revenue stream of “$XXX,XXX in transaction revenue by September.” To hit this goal, there is team wide coordination between their product team and marketing efforts. First, they had to launch the new software capabilities then begin to market them. Their marketing blitz involved a bunch of activities including email marketing, public relations, demos to the existing influencers and brands on the platform, podcast interviews and content marketing.

    How to Ensure Your Company Hits Their SMART Goals

    While many of the marketers we surveyed explained the marketing tactics they used to hit their goals, some also shared the management approaches they take to ensure they hit.

    For example, Fractal Solutions founder Jacob Fenuccio used a new Kanban management platform to schedule and track work for his entire team. By implementing the Kanban system at his firm, he says they were able to hit all of their goals of increasing traffic, generating more leads, qualifying more leads, and making more sales.

    INTO THE AM‘s hiring manager Darren Schreher pointed to his company’s goal-setting practices for their success. Instead of creating SMART goals for the marketing team, they create individual SMART goals for every team member. Then, they display them graphically so everyone can see how their personal goals relate to company priorities.

    At Databox, we follow a similar process, as our CEO, Pete Caputa, shared in the post, “The Goal-Setting Process We Used to Hit $1M in Annual Revenue.” While not a Kanban board, we do have a view of all our goals that every employee can track whenever they want and that we review in our team and company meetings. By  having one view, we can see exactly how everyone is performing, which motivates us all to work smarter and harder. 

    As you can see, there is no right or wrong way to set and track your SMART goals.  While some companies will have similar goals, your priorities, challenges, resources and constraints are going to be different from everyone else’s, so the way you pursue your goals may be different, too. But, hopefully these stories gave you a few new ideas on how you might go about pursuing what’s important to you and your organization.

    Ready to set and track your SMART goals? Visualize your goals against current performance with Databox now. 

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    Article by
    Dann Albright

    Dann is a freelance writer who helps B2B companies reach their audiences more effectively. With an emphasis on organic traffic and conversion, he takes big ideas and turns them into highly practical content that keeps readers hooked.

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