In the previous post, we looked at sales planning within the context of a marketing plan. In this post, we're going to look at setting SMART marketing goals. If you know your business acronyms, you know that SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Based

The words sometimes change. For example, when business guru Peter Drucker originally coined the "SMART" term, he used "Assignable" for A, although more often the word "Achievable" is used in its place.

Ultimately, you’re looking to create goals that make sense for your company and can be monitored. It's a way to force your company away from unmeasurable, unachievable, "pie in the sky" goals. After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish, or so they say!

Within the realm of marketing planning, your goals may fall under any number of categories:

  • Advertising
  • Branding
  • Business Development
  • Collateral Materials
  • Content
  • CRM
  • Digital Marketing / Website
  • Direct Mail
  • Public Relations
  • Research
  • Trade Shows
  • [Insert Category Here]

I truly believe that smaller, action-oriented marketing plans for each of your core services, industries, or market segments make more sense than one over-arching marketing plan that is all-encompassing. Smaller plans are also less intimidating.

For example, let's take Content. It might be its own category, or it might fall under digital marketing (although a lot of content marketing is performed offline, like public speaking).

If you are working to establish your firm as a thought leader in a specific industry, content creation is an excellent tool to achieve this objective. An overall goal may be to have your company viewed as a leader in the design or construction of a certain type of facility. Perhaps, "Position company as a thought-leader in the design of higher education facilities." Unto itself, that goal is not SMART. Don't worry about trying to cram all five elements (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based) into a single sentence.

Sample Marketing Goal

I prefer an approach that provides the opportunity to dig deeper, adding strategies, objectives, and tactics to the goal. Consider this:


Position company as a thought-leader in the design of higher education facilities.


Author and publish articles in media targeting higher education facilities professionals.


Successfully place two articles in American School & University Magazine during 2016.


Obtain Editorial Guidelines for American School & University Magazine by May 1. Responsibility: Pam Publicity.

Author article about trends in educational furnishing selection; submit to American School & University Magazine by July 1. Responsibility: Adam Architect.

Obtain professional photography of School XYZ, with proper usage rights, by June 15. Responsibility: Martha Marketer.

And the list of potential tactics goes on...

The goal itself is pretty vague and not measurable. Far too many A/E/C marketing plans have high-level goals with no action to back them up. Do you have ten years to do this? Who's responsible? How will you know when you achieve it? By digging deeper, and adding strategies, objectives, and tactics, goals become SMART.

Specific: Submit an article to American School & University Magazine by July 1. This will help establish company as a thought leader (assuming that it gets published here or somewhere else).

Measurable: Successfully place two articles. Submit one article. Obtain photographs. Obtain usage rights. Either you did or you didn't.

Achievable: Although the goal is to position company as a thought leader – which unto itself may not be easily achievable – the outlined steps are: obtain writers guidelines; write article; obtain photographs. These are all achievable.

Relevant: Authoring articles for publication is a primary strategy to position a company – or an individual – as a thought leader on a particular topic. So within the goal, our strategy, objectives, and tactics are relevant.

Time-Based: There are several occurrences of time within this goal: two articles by end of 2016; submitting an article by July 1, etc.

Of course, two published articles alone does not make a thought leader. So you'll want to add other objectives here as well. Perhaps: "Author and publish case studies on company blog" could be a second strategy. As you drill down further, you'll want to identify topics (or creating a list of topics may be part of your goal), authors, dates, and responsibilities. And because this is a marketing plan, also consider adding information about how you are going to push your information out there, like via a regular email blast or through social media channels.

You're not trying to write War and Peace here, but there also has to be enough "meat" to each goal that it makes sense, can be monitored, and obtained within a certain time period. And even though we dropped "Assignable" within the SMART formula, this is still critical. Someone must have responsibility for achieving the goal (or multiple someone's), and thus have accountability for it.

Within your marketing plan, you should have a whole host of SMART goals for advertising, branding, public relations, digital marketing, research, collateral materials, business development, and any other tools within your program.

There’s nothing wrong with having a master plan; however, market-specific plans can be highly impactful and more focused. And you can always combine your market-specific plans into a single master document.

One word of caution: never develop a marketing plan in a vacuum. A marketing plan created by a CMO or marketing director, then forced upon others is a surefire way to fail. Engage the “doers” in the process – in this case, anyone who has accountabilities in the marketing plan can and should provide input into the plan. This includes principals, project managers, market champions, business developers, marketing coordinators, and others. Work together to create a plan.

If one of your responsibilities is developing the plan, by all means create an initial draft or a template. Use it to spur conversations. If possible, bring people together to discuss it, either in person or via web conferencing. No one has all the answers, but many great minds together can create a marketing plan. Plus, people are more likely to take ownership of their responsibilities if they were part of creating the plan in the first place. So it is better to create a framework for discussion.

Key to success, however, is continual monitoring of the plan. Make someone – or multiple people – responsible for it. Here perhaps a marketing manager, director, or CMO can take ownership for monitoring the plan. Or maybe the market champions can have accountability for their individual market-specific plans. In larger firms, marketing, communications, and business development directors may all have responsibility for monitoring different sections of the plan.

In most firms, marketing staff may not have the authority to ensure that staff members are following through on their assigned responsibilities, particularly outside of the marketing department. However, through continual monitoring they will be able to inform firm leadership where the company is excelling and where the company is falling behind.

Don’t badger people who aren’t living up to their responsibilities – that’s a surefire way to make enemies! A project manager assigned to write an article may simply not have the time nor the talent. So help them. Find someone (perhaps yourself) to interview them and ghostwrite their article. Then ask them to review it and make it better, since it is going out under their byline.

Most likely, there will be weak links in your marketing plan. But by stepping up, identifying the issues, and creating a plan to counteract the deficiencies, you’ll be able to have a greater impact on your firm and make some friends along the way. We’re all in this together.

A lot of technical and field professionals don’t truly understand their role in sales and marketing, much less the positive impact they can have. So be an educator and mentor throughout the process, which will help make sales and marketing cultural to your firm.

But remember, it all starts with a plan. And a SMART one at that!

What approaches have you found to be effective in creating and implementing a marketing plan in your firm?