When running your own business, setting business goals is one of the fundamentals of staying on your A game. It helps your improve your customer experience, broaden your reach, and streamline your process. If you aren’t setting goals, chances are you are either sitting stagnant or you are holding on for dear life, both of which we hope to avoid.
But setting realistic business goals can be a bit tricky, especially when you don’t have a ton of experience to fall back on or when you are not sure how lofty your goals should be. I’m all for setting high standards, but what if they are totally unreachable? All that is doing is setting you up for not reaching your goals and feeling like a failure. But setting easily attainable goals, while helping your check things off a list, are not going to actually help you get anywhere.
The key to setting realistic goals is simple if you know what you need to be looking for.
Know Your Customer
This should be a given but honestly it’s so easy to get in the mindset of where you want to go and forget about what your customer actually needs. We talk a lot in the blogging/entrepreneural world about defining your ideal customer. The main reason behind this is to get you thinking like your ideal audience. In other words, it gets you out of your own way and helps you better serve those that you ultimately want to work with. When setting business goals your customer should be the main reason behind every goal you put down. Even if a goal seems self serving like “Build an Email List”, you still have to break down that goal into smaller, actionable steps that get people to want to sign up for your email list. No one is just going to enter their email just because a sign up form is on your main page. You have to provide value to these readers and potential clients so that they want to be a part of your community. If you don’t know who you are selling to, chances are you aren’t doing much in the way of selling.
Track What You Accomplish in a Day, Week, and Month
One of the main reasons it’s so hard to set realistic business goals is because so often we either overestimate or underestimate what we can accomplish long term. Without looking at anything, do you know off the top of your head the areas that you’ve improved upon this last year or the areas you need to grow? Do you know how you’ve spent your hours each day, week, or month? Usually we have a general idea, but rarely do we know specifics. When working for a larger company, this isn’t usually something we have to think about because how we spend our time doesn’t directly impact our salaries. But as an entrepreneur, every single task and how long it takes to complete can make or break the bank. Tracking your accomplishments seriously tells you so much about how your business operates from day to day and where you can improve. Simple things like keeping a to-do list everyday can help you see the tasks that you are able to complete each and every day. Having a planner that allows you to track what you accomplish in a week and in a month will be even more beneficial as you set longer term business goals. Having a clear idea about what you can accomplish will help you set goals that push you but that are also attainable. It also helps you plan out your day to day tasks with more purpose and clear actionable steps.
Track Your Stats
This is very similar to tracking your accomplishments, but this is where we get more into the numbers that run your business. You ABSOLUTELY should be tracking your income and expenses, if for nothing else than your taxes. But there are other numbers you should be tracking as well, especially if you run an online business.
Followers on Social Media: I’m sure most of us track this one, because who doesn’t want a big following on all their channels? Seeing how quickly you are gaining followers (or losing followers) can be a good indication of where your business needs to head.
Your Engagement Rate: Engagement can be anything from profile views to actually purchases, depending on what kind of business you run. While having a lot of followers is great, it doesn’t mean much if they aren’t engaging with your material. And since Instagram and Facebook continue to change their algorithm, this is more important than ever.
You can easily track followers and engagement rates by activating the business capabilities for any social platform. Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram all have fantastic business analytics.
Popular Posts/Products: This is something that actually needs to be accounted for. Seeing what your readers are really interested in can help you set goals and boost that area of your site. Same with products. If you know your best selling products, it’s an easy leap to decide to amp up exposure and hopefully sell more of said product. You can also use these stats to go the other way and see what isn’t so popular and come up with new ways to present it to your audience in hopes of pumping up it’s popularity.
And of course,
Expenses & Income: While the first few years of a business can seriously take their toll financially, there comes a time where your income should definitely out weight your expenses. If you start to see too many business expenses and not enough return there needs to be a serious overhaul on how your are running your business and how to get out of the negative.
One of the best ways to track all of these is to have a business account on Instagram and Pinterest as well as Google Analytics set up on your website.
Know Where the Market is Headed
Things change quickly, especially in the internet age. No matter what business you are in, do some research on current trends in the industry, tailor them to your current business plans, and make sure that your business will be at the forefront of where the market is headed. There’s nothing worse than realizing that you are late to the meteorically party and that your business looks outdated or less professional than others in your industry. Pinterest can be a great place to start researching what ideas are being pinned and by who. Also looking through trending hashtags on Instagram can give a day to day trend report of sorts.
Plan Big and Small
I like to set both ‘big’ long term goals as well as ‘small’ short term goals. The long term goals are were I dream big and plan a year to 5 years in the future. Granted, it’s hard to realistically plan for what my business will look like in 5 years, but knowing what I’ve accomplished in the last year and half, I have a slight outline of what I can feasibly accomplish in that time frame. The short term goals serve as a way of breaking down the these larger goals into actionable goals that get me step by step closer to my big goals. A big goal like “increasing my Instagram followers by X amount” can be broken down into smaller goals like “every day post a relevant image, in my branding style, with a call to action in the caption” and “every week research relevant and trending hashtags to help boost my reach” while still tracking how quickly I gain followers each month and what they are liking and clicking on. All of this will give me great info about my followers, how to gain more just like them, how to turn them into paying clients, and how to keep them coming back.
To help track and plan all of this and more, I personally use Saffron Avenue’s printable planners. They are seriously a god send for entrepreneurs and planner addicts.
What kind of business goals are you setting this year? What steps are helping you reach those goals?