The Ultimate Guide to SMART Planning

Let’s begin with a short history lesson.

Back in the 1700’s Benjamin Franklin is believed to have coined the famous phrase “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

And it’s safe to say, even today, this remains true.

For many businesses, planning is the key to success. But for others, marketing activity can be reactive or ad hoc. The result is a lack of direction, motivation, and metrics to build upon.

If planning is new to your business, or if you are an avid planner who wants to advance your goal-setting expertise, then we recommend SMART planning to get the very most out of your activity.

Check out our ultimate guide to learn everything you need to know about SMART planning.

  1. Why planning is essential to success
  2. What is SMART planning?
  3. Benefits of SMART planning
  4. Using SMART goals
  5. Working with the experts

Why planning is essential to success

Firstly, for businesses that don’t practise regular planning, let’s look at some of the main reasons why planning can be essential to your success.

Builds focus

We all know how easy it can be to become distracted by exciting marketing trends, new platforms, and what competitors are doing. But if you let these dictate your marketing, you will be left with a strategy that has more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Yes, flexibility can be highly beneficial, however, without focus you may never see goals and opportunities through to their potential. A lack of focus also means a lack of direction, which can be highly demotivating.

With the use of planning, marketers have solid direction. Focusing them on what they need to achieve, and when, to truly benefit the business and department.

Saves time


It’s something every marketer wishes they had more of (along with budget, but we’ll get to that in a moment).

A lack of time is what prevents a marketer from starting new projects, making changes, or being able to reflect and strategise.

With the use of planning, marketers can ensure that time is spent on the activities that make a difference, as opposed to those hours, minutes, and days that are wasted on meaningless and time-consuming tasks.

Saves money

No matter what a marketer’s budget, it always feels tight. And for a surprising amount of businesses, there isn’t even a dedicated marketing budget available.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

For those without a budget, a thorough plan is exactly what’s required to convince business heads to secure a dedicated marketing budget.

And those with tight budgets can ensure they are spending their money on the activity that matters. Whilst avoiding unnecessary budgetary waste on areas that won’t meet goals.

Outlines progress

By identifying specific goals and deadlines, marketers can easily review how they are progressing with their activity. Allowing them to make necessary adjustments before the deadline looms, thus helping to maintain motivation.

Without a plan, it can be easy to get lost in activity and focus on the areas that don’t benefit the business and marketing department. This can lead to missed deadlines (if any have even been set), overwhelm, and poor results.

What is SMART planning?

SMART planning is a process for ensuring the goals and plans that you are setting are clear, achievable, and will move your business forward. The process ensures that businesses avoid focusing on meaningless or vanity metrics that make little or no impact on the business. And instead, focuses on metrics that contain the most value.

SMART is actually an acronym for each element that should be included within these goals:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable)
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

Benefits of SMART planning

We will go into more detail on what each element of SMART means for goal setting, but first, let’s discuss the benefits of using this planning process.

Easy to implement

Due to the specific nature of SMART goals, they provide a clear foundation for everyone in the business to begin working from. With little room for confusion, error, or misunderstanding. Instead, everyone is working towards the same goal and the same deadline.

Clear prioritisation

SMART goals get to the point, making it far easier for businesses to identify the goals that meet their immediate priorities, and those that can potentially be put on the back burner.

Measures progress

The elements of SMART goals mean that businesses can measure tangible progress and performance towards their goals. Helping them to identify the strategy and tactics that will be most successful in achieving what they want.

Highlights weaknesses

Assessing roadblocks or bottlenecks is a more straightforward process with SMART planning. Businesses can clearly identify timing, management, or targets that are unrealistic with the help of their clear goal setting.

Aligns to business goals

Successful marketers and departments need to ensure their goals are clearly aligned to wider business goals and focus areas. The systematic nature of the SMART planning process makes it straightforward to relate every goal back to the wider business, without getting distracted by less meaningful metrics. 

Optimised for success

All of the above results in the main benefit of SMART planning; the process is optimised for success. Simple.

Using SMART goals

We hope by now you are convinced as to why your business should be utilising SMART planning. And to get you started, we’ll talk you through the process element by element, utilising examples that are relevant to email marketing strategies.


It’s surprisingly easy to create goals which are a little ‘fluffy’. However, the first rule of SMART planning is that goals should be specific and clear, enabling you to focus your efforts on activity that will really make a difference.

This can take a little practice, so we’d recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources, costs, and challenges are involved?



Improve customer engagement


Improve customer engagement through the use of email marketing


Without adding a specific metric of measurement to your goals, you will remain uncertain about whether or not it has been achieved. With a measurable goal, you can track progress and maintain motivation to hit a target.

Measurable goals should address questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know the goal has been achieved?



Improve customer engagement through the use of email marketing


Improve customer engagement by sending a newsletter that generates 1,000 website visits.


We’ve all been guilty of getting carried away with setting goals but soon realising that they’re simply not achievable. Whilst SMART goals should stretch your ability, they should remain realistic. Unrealistic goals can mislead management and the wider business, as well as damage motivation and morale.

When setting a SMART goal, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will I achieve this goal?
  • Is this goal realistic?
  • What are the challenges and bottlenecks that I could experience?
  • Who else needs to be involved to achieve this goal?



Improve customer engagement by sending a newsletter that generates 1,000 website visits.


Improve customer engagement by working with the design team to send a newsletter that generates 1,000 website visits.


The fourth step is focused on ensuring that your goal actually matters to you and the business. Relevancy helps us to focus on the goals that will make a difference, without becoming distracted by vanity metrics, or goals that sound exciting but are simply irrelevant.

To identify whether your goal is relevant, consider the following:

  • Does this align with business and departmental objectives?
  • Is it worthwhile?
  • Is now the right time?
  • Am I the right person to achieve this goal?
  • Is it achievable in the current economic climate?


Ensuring relevance isn’t necessarily something that will be written into your goal. However, it is something that should be considered for every goal you set.


It can be tempting to leave a goal open-ended to ease the pressure of deadlines. However, this can result in goals which are never achieved, usurped by daily tasks, or that drag on whilst using up valuable time, resource, and budget.

Plus, having a realistic deadline helps with motivation. And xx the feeling of success when it is hit.

When setting a deadline for your goal, ensure the following have been considered:

  • When do I need this goal to be achieved?
  • Is this deadline realistic?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?



Improve customer engagement by working with the design team to send a newsletter that generates 1,000 website visits.


Improve customer engagement by working with the design team to send a monthly newsletter that generates 1,000 website visits by the end Q2.

Working with the experts

Planning is arguably the most important part of your marketing strategy and activity.

Without it, marketers are blindly throwing money, resource, and time at tactics which are less likely to generate the results the business needs.

That’s why, if you’re new to planning or struggling to implement SMART goals, now is the time to work with the experts. By doing so you can set solid foundations to confidently build your activity from.

So, why not get in touch with us to explore how we can help you with SMART planning, and develop a strategy that really excites you? We specialise in email marketing strategies and planning, and offer our expertise