Skip to main content

How to set strategic goals that drive your business forward

Every business owner strives for success. While ambition is certainly a necessary factor in achieving success, business owners also need to set goals. Determining what’s most important and creating a plan for how to reach those goals requires careful consideration. Using the SMART method for goal-setting, you can steer your business, messaging and marketing more thoughtfully toward outcomes that make sense.


Imagine you’re planning a cross-country road trip. You have an end destination in mind, but you haven’t chosen a specific route to follow. Without a clear plan on where you want to go and what you want to see, you could end up getting lost, taking long detours, and running out of time or resources. Think about what that trip could have looked like with directions and an itinerary.

Now imagine your business without specific goals. Having distinct objectives gives your business a clear direction and focus. You’ll be able to make purposeful decisions, allocate resources effectively and review your performance. So, you want to increase sales. A specific version of that goal would be that you want to increase sales by 15% by the next quarter with a 5% increase in your digital advertising budget.


If you’ve ever been on a fitness journey, you know just how important it is to check your progress. That’s why we turn to fitness trackers. Recording and monitoring physical activity trends helps us see how close we are to achieving fitness goals. We get alerts if we are behind on progress, allowing us to make adjustments to our routine as needed.

Just like a fitness tracker gives us a clear, unbiased view into our progress, your business should have goals that can be measured and monitored. You can set reasonable time-bound goals, see what advancements you’ve made and what changes you need to make. For example, say you want to improve website traffic by 20% over the next six months. You can use tools like Google Analytics to track webpage performance through this period and compare it to baseline data.


Say you open up a local burger joint. You’re just a small hole-in-the-wall, but customers keep coming back for your high-quality ingredients, unique menu and great customer service. Business is booming, and you can swing a move to a bigger, better venue and add two additional locations. The catch? Your estimation says you have to cut back on your food and labor budget by 10-15%, all without negatively impacting product quality, customer satisfaction or employee morale.

In reality, those kinds of cuts almost certainly would have an impact, leaving behind a bad taste in both customers’ and employees’ mouths. It’s a great thing for business owners to have big dreams, but they also have to be realistic and attainable. A more achievable version of this goal would be to move to a larger, more centralized venue and save plans for future locations at a later date. The same is true for digital marketing. Setting a goal beyond your budget or capabilities isn’t that much better than not setting one at all.


Good goals should align with your business’s core objectives and priorities, especially because of the effort and resources it takes to accomplish them. If your goals aren’t relevant enough to your current needs, you could end up wasting valuable time, manpower and money trying to accomplish them. Ultimately, that could actually set your business back.

If your business focus lies in, say, tutoring for teenagers, you wouldn’t suddenly try to add classes for adult learners. If your aim is to gain more students, you could expand the number of classes for middle and high schoolers. That way, your goal is aligned with what your business currently provides and excels in. While you can switch directions, changing tactics requires more planning and resources which could be outside your scope of means.

Summer Phillipson / Copywriter
Summer balances a knack for telling a story (thanks to a stint in journalism) with copy that tells readers exactly what they need to know. Her experience, which includes everything from industrial ad copy to small business websites, is evident in every project she takes on for Parkway’s clients.