Planning season can be one of the most exciting times of the year. It’s the time of year we get to dream about what’s possible, and then develop the path to act on these dreams.
Goals keep us on track. More importantly, they help us from kidding ourselves that if we just stay busy, everything must be OK.
For goals to be of any value, they need to be specific, measurable, and well-defined. Taking a SMART approach really does make a difference (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely). But we can’t stop here.
To be successful, it’s important that each of our goals measure up to three basic principles:
- Is it desirable? Is it the type of work we want to do?
- Is if feasible? Do we have or can we acquire what it takes to deliver this work?
- Is it viable? Can we profitably deliver this work and delight our customers?
If our goals don’t meet these principles, we risk being unhappy in our work, delivering work our clients are unhappy about, or going out of business because our margins don’t support the business.
Here are five areas to consider when creating business goals for your agency:
1) Financial Goals Based on Net Income vs. Gross Billings
My preference is to start with the outcome we want to drive. I’ve heard business owners talk about wanting to grow to become a 20-person agency or have $2 million in billings. Yes, these are elements of a financial goal, but they should not be the goal itself.
I had a boss early in my career that explained it the best. He didn’t care what we billed — he only cared about what we got to keep.
The financial goals should be very straightforward:
- What is the target profit or EBTDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciations and amortizations)?
- What are the project profitability targets?
- What are the margin by service targets?
2) Product Planning That Looks at What to Add and What to Delete
Marketing is an industry of change.
This is why it’s important to work out goals and plans around products and services you provide clients. Ask yourself:
- What services will differentiate our business from others?
- What services do we need to start adding due to trends in the industry?
- What should we stop offering because it has become unprofitable or it is work we no longer want to do?
3) A Talent Plan That Delivers
Service businesses live and die by the quality of the teams they are able to build.
Sometimes it’s about hiring or outsourcing, but other times, it’s about developing the talent you have. You need to be clear about the talent, experience, and attitude your agency needs to deliver great work and delight your clients.
Talent plans aren’t just about deciding between hiring and outsourcing. It’s also important we think through how you will develop your internal team. Ask yourself:
- Do we need a formal training program?
- Can a guided, hands-on training program work?
- Are there outside resources, such as HubSpot’s certification programs, we can leverage?
Remember: People want to grow. If you don't help them, they will grow with someone else.
4) A Marketing Plan You Will Actually Execute On
Agencies can completely fail when it comes to marketing themselves. As soon as they get busy with client work, they put off their own marketing to work on “paying work.” If your marketing isn’t paying, it’s time to change, not stop. Consider:
- What strategies can we use to improve our ability to attract more potential clients?
- Which tactics do we need to convert more visitors to contacts?
- Which members of our team will be responsible for which elements of our marketing?
Bottom line, the marketing plan needs to include both what you want to do and who will be doing the work.
5) Targeted Sales Plans With Defined Success Metrics
Not everyone that makes it into a contact list is a qualified lead. The first part of sales planning should be deciding the criteria to use when deciding if a lead is worth nurturing. The second part should be building a defined process to connect and close these qualified leads, then measuring this process to look for opportunities to improve. Think about:
- The industries or company sizes your agency should target.
- The activities you use to connect (phone, email, social, etc.).
- How you tracked, measure, and improve these activities.
Establishing your business goals and objectives can seem like a lot but taking a systematic approach will make all the difference.