Before I dive into this, I think it’s important to mention the fact that I’m not the biggest “goals” person. Around November or December, as I start to get excited for the upcoming year, I always think about my goals and set them for myself. But a few months later, things always start to go a little…differently…than planned. And I end up chucking those goals out the window, or at least heavily adjusting them. So today I want to talk about some different types of business goals that you can set for yourself.
I’m not talking about this subject because I’m the best at goals (I’m super not!). But I want to open up about my thoughts on goals. Because I think that the whole “goals” process is a little misunderstood.
Maybe it’s just me. But I think that a LOT of people struggle with this… You set a big ol’ goal for yourself — yay! And then a few months down the road it doesn’t seem to fit in with where you are anymore.
I used to have this problem all the time, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it. So in this post I’m going to share some of my best tips for setting different types of business goals. Ones that may work better for you than traditional goals!
But, Like, Why Should You Even Set Goals?
When it really comes down to it, I actually think that the power of goals is not in the regular process of:
- Set a goal.
- Work to achieve it.
- Achieve the goal.
This is how we’re told to think about goals, and what to expect when we set them. And sometimes goals do work like that — and that’s awesome!
But a lot of the time it’s not so clear-cut. The journey to achieving a goal doesn’t look quite so picture-perfect. And you may not even achieve it at all. 🤷🏻♀️
And…guess what? That’s okay!
Because I think that the REAL power of goals is all about the progress you make as you work towards them. It’s also about what you uncover about yourself and your business along the way.
An Example of The REAL Power of Goals
For example, I once worked with a client who used to set REALLY unrealistic revenue goals for all of her launches. The first time I participated in one of her launches, it really threw me off! I was used to creating calculated “perfect” goals based on numbers and past performance.
Like the Type A crazy person I am, I looked at the data…looked at her goals…and thought “Ummmmm okay.” I even tried to talk her out of it, but she was adamant and not willing to budge.
So I shrugged my shoulders and rolled up my sleeves. I knew it was unrealistic, but I’d be damned if I wouldn’t at least try to hit it for her. We’d just started working together, so I wanted to make a good impression! I thought of new out-of-the-box strategies we could use, put in my absolute best work, and at the end of her launch…we didn’t even come CLOSE to hitting that goal. 😂
I was so disappointed. I went to the launch debrief meeting with my chin at my chest, ready to get blamed for the lack of results or maybe even fired. But as I hopped onto Zoom, my client was…throwing confetti in the air. I was a little confused (was she insane?). I nervously stared at her waiting for the other shoe to drop. But no — she was actually ecstatic!
And that was the day I learned about the power of goals. Whether or not you achieve the goal isn’t what’s important. What actually matters is the progress you make.
Since I hadn’t worked with her before, I didn’t know this, but that was actually her most successful launch ever (by far). She had purposefully set a wild and crazy “dream big” type of goal because (a) that’s just the kind of person she is, and (b) she wanted to shoot for the stars…because she knew that even if we didn’t hit the goal, we’d still have an amazing launch. The goal had inspired me to work harder and more creatively than I’d ever done before. And that is what propelled us to have her (and my) first-ever $50k launch.
This is what goals can do for you. Even though we didn’t even come close to reaching the goal, during that launch, I learned a LOT and we still had a fantastic outcome.
Now, while this is a really good example of my point on setting goals, this is NOT a good example of what it’s like to work with a client. Not all clients are like this. In fact, in my experience, most of them aren’t. When clients have unrealistic goals it’s a HUGE red flag, as they will typically be very upset and blame your performance when you don’t achieve them. So just keep that in mind if you’re a service provider!
6 Different Types of Business Goals to Set
Although that was a good story, I want to make this clear. I don’t think that having crazy unrealistic goals is the correct way to go about every situation. In fact, I actually do not recommend it at all. 😂 Maybe it’s the Type A in me talking, but I still believe that setting realistic goals based on numbers and data is important. That experience taught me a lot about goals and what they really mean and can do for you, but I’m still always going to be a more realistic type of person.
But you do you! If big crazy dreams are more your thing, then go for it. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all goals strategy. For me, I like realistic goals. For my client, she likes absolutely insane goals that we’ll never hit in a million years.
Honestly? Both types of goals have merit.
But just keep in mind as I review some of these goals that, personally, I try to be as realistic as possible when I set goals. As a recovering perfectionist, I don’t love it when I feel out of my depth or pressured, so having goals that feel achievable (while still stretching me out of my comfort zone a little) is important to me.
Your personality might be different. Just realize that different types of business goals work best for different types of people!
4 Types of Business Goals That Will Keep You On Track
I know I literally just said 6 goals, but I’m actually going to break it down into two sections for you. Later on, I’m going to talk about 2 other types of business goals you may want to set.
This first list of goals are things that I find to be the perfect types of goals that keep me accountable and motivated, but aren’t things that (at least for me) will change too much throughout the year. So if you struggle with picking types of business goals that won’t feel “weird” a few weeks or months later — these are for you!
Launch or Project Goals
We already talked about this a little bit in my story, but launch goals are one of the types of business goals that anyone who does launches should have!
This might look a little different if you’re doing more evergreen-style promotions or are a service provider. But basically, it’s a short-term project-based goal that shoots for a certain outcome from a particular project.
For example, let’s say you’re releasing a brand-new service. Some launch- or project-related goals for this could be:
- Acquire 25 prospective client leads
- Make 5 sales
- Generate $10,000 revenue
A tip for these is that, personally, I don’t like to set these too far in advance. Because the more data you have to base it on the better. So if you’re planning to launch something in 10 months, unless your business is very large (like 7+ figures), extremely consistent, and/or your promotional schedule is set in stone…don’t set a goal for it quite yet. Wait until it gets closer so that your goals will be as accurate as possible.
Revenue goals are one of my favorite types of business goals to set!
Every year, I sit down and create an annual revenue goal for the year. It’s based on the prices of my services and the number of clients I have. I find it so fun to project a number for the year, because it lets me get a birds-eye view of what my revenue will look like that year. I try to be really realistic when setting these, and typically they are fairly spot-on!
I have a spreadsheet template for setting your annual revenue goals inside of The Systems Society if you’d like to check it out!
Something this always makes me think a lot about is where my revenue is coming from. As I’m planning out what I think is realistic for the year, I break it down based on where the revenue will be coming from — some from packaged services, some from custom/hourly clients, some from passive income, etc. That helps me see how the different types of revenue will break down. It can also help you decide where to focus.
For example, if you really want to bring in a lot of revenue from a particular packaged service, that revenue goal will dictate what your marketing efforts will look like that year. This can help you decide what type of content you want to talk about and where you need to focus your attention, which is super helpful (especially if you have shiny object syndrome!).
I like to set annual revenue goals, but you can also do quarterly and/or monthly ones, too! It depends a little bit on how your business is structured, how consistent it is, what your “busy season” looks like (if at all), etc. The longer you’re in business, you’ll learn how best to set your revenue goals in a way that works for you.
Having packaged services and/or retainer clients really helps you have a consistent income throughout the year, which makes it easier to set realistic goals and predict your revenue! I talk more about how to create packaged services inside of The Systems Society.
Profit Margin Goals
This kind of goes along with revenue goals, but lately I’ve been really into setting goals for my profit margin. In the past, it wasn’t something that I focused on as much, because I thought “as long as I’m making enough to pay the bills — that’s all that matters.” But when I did start to focus on it, I realized that there was a LOT that I could do to increase my profit and decrease my expenses, resulting in quite a bit of extra income that I could use to boost our savings or give myself (and team members) a pay raise!
A good place to start is by Googling the industry standard for profit margin in your industry. But sometimes this isn’t a great number to follow, because large companies tend to have super low profit margins, while smaller companies have bigger ones.
Now, I’m not a bookkeeper or even very good at math (actually I’m terrible at math 😂 ), but I would start by identifying your average monthly revenue, the amount of profit you need to make to pay the bills, and then making that your “bottom line” profit margin (like you want to stay above that). This isn’t a perfect science if your revenue tends to fluctuate a lot, but it’s a good place to start. Then, try to identify some areas you can address to improve your profit margin, like by streamlining things in the backend, reducing expenses, and increasing your revenue.
Once you’ve tracked your profit margin for a while (I do mine every month!), you’ll start to notice patterns. Then you’ll be in a better place to start actually setting a goal for your profit margin moving forward.
Another one of the best types of business goals to set is for your metrics, stats, and analytics. Anything that involves numbers — you should be tracking! And then you may want to set goals around them, too.
Some metrics-related types of business goals might revolve around your:
- Website traffic
- Social media followers
- Email list subscribers
- Conversion rates
It may be tempting to set goals for ALL of those things. But having a goal for every single metric in your business might be a little overwhelming at first. If you’re just getting started with tracking metrics, I recommend picking 1-2 to focus on improving first. Try to tie these back to your revenue goals!
For example, if you want to generate $X amount of affiliate revenue and your main source of affiliate revenue comes from your blog posts…focus on improving your website traffic! (There may be other numbers that could help you identify ways to do this — like your bounce rate, website speed, and traffic sources — which is why I recommend tracking as many numbers as possible even if they don’t have associated goals.)
When it comes to the metrics that don’t have goals attached or you’re not focusing on right now, it may be a good idea to at least put a “danger zone” number in place. For example, even if you’re not focusing on your newsletter open rates as a main goal right now, if you set a “danger zone” number and they start to dip below that, this could notify you that you may need to jump in and solve an issue. It could also be an indicator of a deeper problem, like say a deliverability issue, that could be affecting other things, too.
2 Other Types of Business Goals to Think About
Now that we’ve covered the more Type A numbers-oriented goals that someone like me lives by, let’s also cover two other types of business goals that work a little differently. These types of goals are less regimented but are also the ones more likely to shift and change after you set them, so that’s why I’m including them in a separate section.
For me, the above goals are easier to set. I think it’s because they’re all based on numbers and you can be realistic pretty easily. The numbers don’t lie! But these goals are trickier because they aren’t as clear-cut.
But, again, goals are different for different people. If you are more of a Type B person or a visionary…these will be right up your alley. Just keep in mind that they are harder to track and may need to be frequently adjusted. You can’t rely on them as much, if that makes sense.
A lot of people talk about setting goals that are S.M.A.R.T. If I hear that one more time, I’m just going to… ugh. Can I just say that I honestly hate S.M.A.R.T. goals? 😂 Does anyone else ever feel like that? Those are the types of goals that always, always, always never happen for me. Every single time I’ve ever set a S.M.A.R.T. goal, a few weeks or months later it just doesn’t work for me anymore. So, this is really going against my rule-following nature here, but — maybe S.M.A.R.T. goals aren’t quite so smart.
I actually think it can be really powerful to have some abstract, completely not-S.M.A.R.T. goals. When I set these types of business goals, they are more like feelings or concepts or states of mind that I want to achieve.
For example, one big goal of mine is to have better time management. Now, that’s not a S.M.A.R.T. goal, and I’m not freaking going to make it one. I simply just want to have this goal in mind, because it helps me make choices that will ultimately lead towards better time management.
Like, taking time to delegate tasks to my team, following a daily routine or schedule, listening to my body’s natural rhythms and energy levels. Because I know that time management is important to me and a “goal,” I know that I need to make a dedicated effort in those areas.
I think it’s important that, when you’re thinking about all the different types of business goals you have, to also keep these more abstract concepts in mind. Like maybe you want more financial freedom or you want to spend more time with your family.
Even though these goals aren’t S.M.A.R.T., they’re important and should be taken into consideration!
“Dream” Long-Distance Goals
This is another type of goal that, when I set it for myself, it just doesn’t ever seem to happen. I think that sometimes this is one of those types of business goals that DOES work for some people or in some situations. Like when I set a goal for myself to launch The Systems Society — that was a “dream” goal and I did it! And if I hadn’t set it in stone, it might not have happened.
So in some situations, these can really work. But then, at least for me, there are other goals that I have that are just…a little farther off in the distance. It can be so tempting to map them into my calendar for the year, even though I know I’m probably not going to get to it, because I just don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to it right now.
For example, I’d LOVE to write a book someday. I’d love to release a coloring book. I’d love to go all-in on my YouTube channel.
These are long-distance “dream” goals that I do think it’s important to keep in mind, but aren’t necessary front-and-center. It’s not like I’m giving up on them, but I need to be realistic about it and make educated decisions about what I’m going to focus on and what I’m not going to focus on. What’s going to be a revenue-generating activity for me, and what I actually have time for.
Someday I do hope to write a book. But it’s not going to be this very second. And I have to be okay with that because it’s the best decision right now. I just can’t focus on it right now. 🤷🏻♀️
One day, though, I will.
For these types of business goals, I think they are so important to have. And so important to keep in the back of your mind. But you also have to be smart about it. Only make it a priority when you actually can dedicate the time to it. Because it’s also a really bad feeling when you try to half-ass something because you’ve got too much on your plate. Your dream goals deserve extra time and attention, so pick and choose their timing wisely!
(But, seriously, go after your dreams. Don’t keep them all on the shelf forever.)
Tracking Your Progress
Lastly, I want to talk about tracking your progress. Because if there’s any activity with a spreadsheet involved — I’m there. Like, if you wanted to invite me to a spreadsheet party, I would show up with a delicious 7-layer dip and my white glasses like “HI, IT’S SPREADSHEET TIME!”
Seriously, though, tracking your progress is so important. Remember that story earlier about how working towards goals isn’t about the end result, it’s about the journey? That’s where tracking your progress comes in.
And whether that’s a 10-tab spreadsheet with formulas and strategic highlighting — or whether it’s a simple journaling session — you should be tracking the progress somehow.
I like to set aside a certain time every week, month, quarter, and year to make note of and track my progress on certain goals. (When you track each of the different types of business goals you have kind of depends on what the goal is).
It’s also important to not just track your progress but to actually review the data, too. Make sure you’re looking at the numbers or looking at your notes and thinking “what does this mean?” Think about what you can take from it and what you can learn from what’s happened.
Then, use that data to make better, more accurate, and realistic goals moving forward!
Now, again, I’m not claiming to be an expert on goals. I don’t even like goals very much, as I made pretty clear. 😂 But I hope that you at least found this information somewhat helpful. Because I know that setting all these different types of business goals can be kind of a frustrating process.
If you’d like extra support with setting and tracking your goals, make sure you check out The Systems Society for additional resources, templates, and more!