What are SMART goals? And how to set them

It’s the New Year and you know what that means? Time for New Year’s resolutions and SMART goal setting!

Did you know, though, that it’s estimated that only 9% of Americans make resolutions and keep them, with 23% dropping out in the first week and 48% by the end of January? And this isn’t just applicable to New Year’s resolutions either — it goes for any goals we set. Case in point, a recent report found that in 2023, 91% of sales teams missed their quotas. Of course, there are any number of reasons that sales targets might be missed, however, one of the biggest is failure to set goals intelligently.

Luckily, unlike other factors that might hamper work performance, strategic goal-setting is totally within our control to change. In this blog, we go over the SMART approach to setting goals and how you can use this framework to give your business the best chance possible of following through on your 2024 goals! 

What are SMART goals?

First devised in 1981 by George T. Doran in his paper “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”,  Doran outlined a new framework for more successful goal setting.

What are SMART goals?

This framework is based on the acronym SMART, standing for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Interestingly, in the original formulation of the SMART framework, the A actually stood for Assignable — i.e. who the goal would be given to in a company. However, this has mostly been swapped out for the Achievable that we are more familiar with today.

Why are SMART goals important?

The SMART goals framework was originally put in place to help set company-wide goals and targets and give management a repeatable formula for both setting and tracking goals. With this framework, whether the goals you are setting are for your entire business or a particular area, there is a clear structure to follow with defined objectives, purpose, and an end date. This provides a natural strategy to follow and greatly increases your chances of meeting your goals.

So, with that in mind, let’s go through each of the SMART steps in turn to explore how best to set your 2024 goals.

How to set SMART goals

How to set SMART goals

It might sound obvious, but the easiest way to set SMART goals is to just follow the framework and ensure you are applying each of the points to your goals properly. We’ll go through each one with an example:


As with New Year’s resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “get better at cooking”, the goals businesses set are often non-specific. Things like, “Increase sales” or “Decrease lead times”. The problem with goals like this is that they are too broad and do not have a specific target to reach.

Instead, make goals specific and focused. For example, instead of “Increase sales”, you could set the goal of “Increase online sales by 20%.” With this new goal, you have both a specific target to focus on that helps guide strategy, as well as a specific target to aim towards. Which brings us to the next point…


You need to be able to measure your goals if you are to have any hope of achieving them. Without a suitable metric by which to measure your goals, it is impossible to track progress or know when you have achieved your goal.

In the above example, by specifying that you are looking to increase online sales by 20%, you have a clear target to aim towards. You can now track your progress towards this target and have a clear end goal in mind.


How many times have you missed out on a target or quota because you were simply too ambitious? It’s a natural thing to do — we set fantastical targets that will completely change the way we work and live and then invariably fail to hit them because they’re too ambitious.

Try setting smaller, more achievable targets this time around to give yourself the best chance of reaching them. If ultimately you’d like to increase sales by 20%, start by setting a goal of increasing them by 5%. You are far more likely to reach this more realistic target, at which point, you can set the goal of increasing by another 5%. Then another, then another, and so on. 


This might sound like a strange one but often, we set targets that are not relevant to our overall strategy. For example, if your goal for the year is to increase online sales by 20%, is a target of sending emails to 20 new in-store carriers a week really going to be that helpful?

Yes, this target will help your overall growth but it won’t help you achieve your specific long-term target. Keep any goals you set focused and relevant to your strategic aims to give yourself the best chance of success.


So, you have the specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant goal of increasing online sales by 5%. The final question to ask yourself is: when do I want to achieve this by? Without a clear end date in mind, it is impossible to know whether you’ve achieved your goal or not. It is crucial to set a cut-off date that you can work towards. 

Then, when that date arrives, you can readjust your targets and move forward, whether you’ve achieved your goal or not. It is also better to set smaller targets with closer dates, rather than huge targets over a longer period. This builds off of the Achievable aspect and greatly increases the chances that you’ll actually achieve the goals you set.

SMART marketing goals

Now we’ve been through exactly what SMART goals are and how to set them, here are a few marketing-related SMART examples to give you some inspiration for the year ahead. Bear in mind, these are just a few ideas we’ve come up with to illustrate how you can use the SMART system. Feel free to adjust to suit your needs!

  • Increase Instagram engagement by 5% by March 1st
  • Publish three blogs per week during Q1
  • Spend one hour per week learning how to use a new marketing tool
  • Identify one new lead every day in January
  • Read and discuss one piece of marketing-related news with your team each week for six weeks  

Hopefully, these have given you a few ideas for what your 2024 SMART goals might look like. Remember, this framework is there to help make your life easier, so use it in a way that best serves your business. Don’t be afraid to set small targets and build towards bigger things — it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Looking for more marketing tips and insights? Look no further than the Scribly blog! We’ve got everything you need to help take your content marketing to the next level in 2024 and beyond. Hope to see you there!