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If you run a business, you need an action plan to grow in a smart way, which is where SMART requirements come in.

Considering about 219 million people will shop online in 2023, a number expected to hit 230 million by 2026, you'll want to be "smart" in how you tackle ecommerce (or any business) growth to see tangible results.

In this article, we’ll go over what SMART requirements are and how to work them into your business plans.

What are SMART requirements?

SMART is an acronym for setting goals for growth that actually gets results. The SMART acronym stands for: "specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely." Think of these as the guideposts for keeping your growth goals realistic and effective. Lots of managers want to grow, but just wanting it doesn't get it done.

SMART criteria lay out a path for setting goals and actually getting them done in a sustainable way. Here's what each element of the SMART framework means and how it works for you: 

Specific

The first part of the SMART action plan is specificity. It's all well and good to say you want your ecommerce site to grow, but that's more aspirational than actionable. Be specific.

What are your SMART objectives, specifically?

  • Do you want to see a 10% increase in online sales?
  • A 15% drop in overhead?
  • 50% more site visitors?
  • Double your social media following?

Get specific about what you need and write it down so you can keep your eyes on a concrete, traceable target rather than a vague set of desires.

Of course, before you get specific, you need to know what your goals actually are. To set these, pull together your stakeholders and brainstorm ideas for where you want to be. This can be you, shareholders, employees, and even customers.

Pick out the most appealing targets you can grow your business toward and make them your stated objectives.

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Measurable

Once you have your goals articulated, figure out what the path between here and there looks like. Objectives that can't be measured are just moods, after all, so you need a series of metrics and KPIs to gauge your progress.

If your goal is to boost your social media follows, for example, and you've got the specific target of a 100% increase across all platforms by year's end, what are your signposts to know it's working? 

Let's say your ecommerce site currently has 30,000 followers on Twitter, and you want 60,000 by this time next year. That breaks out into about 2,500 new followers a month, assuming nobody unfollows you. That's around 650-700 new followers a week, which is something measurable to bring up at your weekly meetings. 

Attainable

Your goals have to be achievable. Some day maybe your ecommerce business will be bigger than Amazon, but it's a long road from here to there. Deciding that your Etsy store should do $1 billion in sales is a fun exercise, but it's not really attainable at the moment. Instead, practice the discipline of setting actually attainable goals.

Ironically, this might be easier for smaller and more agile businesses than for large and established ones. If last year's sales volume was $1 million, doubling that next year can be done for sure. It's harder to double sales volumes of $20 million, $100 million, or more. So, in an odd way, you actually have more freedom to set wildly optimistic goals for small businesses than you would at a bigger company.

Relevant

Every business is different, and your SMART goals should reflect that. A woodcraft retailer is going to have different needs from a wedding planner, after all, and neither of them has the same set of objectives as a dropshipper moving T-shirts and machine tools out of China. The SMART goals you set should be as relevant to your own brand as possible.

Imagine Coke and Pepsi are small ecommerce sites. They're technically in competition, but they're going after different markets.

Coke, the brand that targets an older and more conservative public, sets SMART goals as an increase in sales volume and a reduction in carrying charges at the warehouse. Pepsi, the choice of a new generation, decides its goals should be doubling its followers on Twitter and hiring a new sales management team on LinkedIn. Both companies will pursue different goals that are more appropriate for their brands. 

Timely

Your goals need expiration dates on them.

No matter how specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant your SMART goals happen to be, without a specific timeframe for getting them done, they're meaningless.

Given stable growth, your business may eventually double in size, but unless you set a target of this date next year (or whenever), you're not going to feel the pressure you need to make it happen. Goals that don't have time-bound deliverables inevitably get bumped back behind more pressing issues. Eventually, you're not even working on them anymore.

Set a defined start and end date for every one of your SMART goals. There's should be a day when you come to work and say to yourself: "Today I will begin the process of doubling my brand's Twitter follows," and there should also be a date in the future when you can say for certain whether you've succeeded or not.

Think of your deadlines as the walls that hold up your building. They hem you in, but without them, you're just wandering outdoors in a field.

How to Work SMART Requirements Into Your Business

Okay, so you've seen how SMART requirements work and have an idea of what they can do for your business. But how do you do it? What's the best (i.e., least hard) way to start working SMART methodology into your growth plan going forward? Well, you have a few pretty easy ways to get started.

Hold meetings

Yes, we know. Meetings are boring, and they don’t seem to get done. But a central part of SMART is getting cooperation from all the stakeholders. Set weekly meetings to draft goals, set timetables, perform management reviews, measure progress, and get validation that you’re on the right track.

Ask for help

Sometimes the talent you need isn't in the building with you, but it's available if you ask. Consult with legal, sales, marketing, and social media experts wherever you find them. Bring them into your meetings in person or via video. Reach as far out as you need to to get firsthand accounts of others' experience implementing SMART project management into major projects.

Cheat with templates

Never be shy about taking shortcuts if they help. Using smart online templates to manage the specifics of your growth plan. Plenty of these are available online, and some of them are even free.

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Francois Marchand
By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, ecommerce professionals, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in ecommerce, marketing, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School.