2014 is YOUR year! This is the year you’re going to ramp up your brand and your business and really show the world your stuff. You’ve probably received a bunch of email offers for New Year business specials—but where do you even start? The next few weeks we’ll be exploring everything you need (SMART goals, a business plan, a marketing plan, and a brand plan) to take your business to the next level this year and GROW in 2014!

After all, 2014 will bring many new opportunities, and if you expect your brand to get better traction than it did in 2013, you’ve got to MAKE that happen. Even if 2013 was an incredibly good year for you (which I hope it was!), you’ll still want to improve your business and your brand in 2014. That’s the real key to success: continual growth and improvement.

So, how can you guarantee continual growth and improvement with your brand in the New Year (and every year to come)? Well, it all comes down to setting goals. (And some goals are just SMARTer than others.)

What do we mean?

Let’s break it down…

The BIG Difference

There’s a genuine difference between, say, a New Year’s resolution and an actual SMART goal. A New Year’s resolution might be something like: “I want to be more successful in 2014.” A SMART goal will be MUCH more detailed, specific, and, most importantly, measureable. For example, a good SMART goal might look like this: “I want to change my brand to better reflect my business over the next 6 months. I will contact a brand identity manager to start the process by February 1st.”

What makes this goal SMART? It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a resolution—in fact, resolutions are a great way to motivate yourself in the New Year. But the key to SMART goals lies in the acronym.

  • S stands for SPECIFIC
  • M stands for MEASUREABLE
  • A stands for ATTAINABLE
  • R stands for RELEVANT
  • T stands for TIME-BOUND

Do you see the difference now?

Simply ‘being more successful’ in the New Year is non-specific, difficult to measure, may or may not be attainable, and while relevant, it is not time-bound in a very specific way. At what point will you measure your success? What method will you use to measure it?

See the problem here?

Conversely, contacting a brand identity manager by February 1st to begin the process of brand improvement is most certainly specific, undeniably measureable (did you reach out by February 1st? If so, you hit your goal!), definitely attainable, relevant to boot, AND, you’ve identified the timeframe in which to complete your goal.

Don’t Just Plant the Seed—Measure Your Growth!

We recommend setting a series of small goals to help you achieve a larger strategic vision in the process. Your next step toward brand improvement may be “I want a new logo by March 15th.” A series of smaller SMART goals will allow you to hit those big picture quarterly or yearly goals that are a part of your business and/or marketing plan for 2014. But we’ll tackle all those big important plans another day. TODAY—we’re standing firm and setting SMART goals.

Get this: A Specific goal is actually much easier to accomplish than a general goal, because you know exactly what it is you’re working toward and how to measure your success. The key to staying specific with your goal setting is to answer the 5 ‘W’s, where applicable:

  • WHO is responsible?
  • WHAT will you accomplish?
  • WHEN will this take place? (also a component of Time-Bound)
  • WHERE will this take place?
  • WHICH requirements and guidelines will apply?
  • WHY did you set this goal? (also known as ‘What’s the freakin’ point?!’)

It’s All Part of the Plan

Once you’ve answered your 5 ‘W’s, you’ll need to identify the criteria with which you’ll be judging your success. Check each of your SMART goals. Does each goal cover all the SMART criteria? Ask yourself, for EACH goal: how will I know I’ve achieved success? For example, if you have your new logo by March 15th AND you love it—then you know you’ve reached that particular goal!

Building a better brand for your business might be hard work and it might include a bunch of smaller SMART goals to hit along the way—but it’s not impossible!

Start by setting SMART goals and stay tuned for our advice on how to continue to drive your brand’s success by developing a business plan, a marketing plan, and ultimately, an all-important branding plan. Keep reading this January as we help you RAMP UP your business and your brand in 2014!

Happy New Year!