I pose this question to every client I work with. Then I have them answer it. Most answers cover branding, marketing message, or conversion. Sometimes clients will tell me that their missions statement or tagline are the most important keys to their business success. All these are good answers. None of them are wrong.

Yet most of my clients miss the most obvious, fundamental answer. The one thing that is the foundation to successfully creating a brand, converting prospects and writing a tagline.

Setting Clear, Obtainable Goals, what I call What and How.

Ah, you say. Now it makes sense. Of course, you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish before attempting to accomplish it.

I liken goal setting to traveling a long distance by car. For instance, let’s say I have a meeting with Steve Jobs at Apple. I live near Ann Arbor, Michigan and Apple’s located in Cupertino, Google Map between Ann Arbor and San FranciscoCalifornia. I have time before my meeting next week, so I decide to drive my car across the country to the meeting – this is my what. As you can see form the map, Cupertino and Apple’s Headquarters is a long way from Ann Arbor – about 2400 miles (~ 3800 km).

Since I know my destination, I can begin planning my route. I see that when leaving my house I need to get on I-94 west and follow that expressway until it merges with I-80 West. I-80 will lead me all the way to California. Then I take a series of other highways and streets until I arrive at Apple’s Headquarters. This is the how.

You set business goals the same way. First you clearly articulate your goals, such as generating $100,000 in revenue by the second year of business (what) Then you plan your route for achieving that goal (how).

Part of both what and how is when. Successful Business Goals must include a timeline. If I didn’t have the timeline of a week to arrive at Apple, I could very easily miss my meeting. So I have to be clear how long I have to reach my goals. And the timeline needs to be realistic. I can’t leave from Ann Arbor and expect to arrive 2400 miles later in Cupertino in six hours by car. Not going to happen. So timelines need to be realistic or your setting yourself up for failure.

The last thing is your goals need to be measurable. This is also both what and how. Because I’m driving and have planned my route by map, I can see my progress as I travel. Being able to measure my progress help me see whether my efforts are getting me closer to my goal in the time I’ve alotted. If so, great, I can continue and maybe even have time to stop and see a friend in Salt Lake City.

However if after a week of driving I’ve only traveled 500 miles, it would be good to know why. Did I select a poor route or did I waste time sightseeing too much? Was my goal of driving 2400 miles in a week realistic? Should I spend the money to hop a plane and still maybe reach my goal? Or do I move my meeting with Steve back?

You can’t know your progress without measuring it. And so you need to be clear in your goal setting what it is you need to measure so you can evaluate your success.

So let’s recap the What & How of Business Goal Setting…

  1. Clearly define the goal you want to reach with your business.
  2. Establish a realistic timeline for reaching your goal
  3. Establish a plan for reaching your goal
  4. Clearly define how you’re going to measure your progress as you work to obtain your goal.

Goal setting for your business is the most important key to your business success. It can be quite easy and it can be fun.

Here are a couple of helpful resources for developing your business goals:

  • Goal Setting for People Who Hate to Set Goals – Part 1 (pretty helpful)
  • Blogging Strategies: Goals (nice post on blogging strategies)
  • The Ten Commandments of Goal Setting (fairly helpful)

Tell me about your business goals for 2007. How do you plan on reaching them? Give me your comments

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