Quick pulse check: How is everyone feeling right now?
Are you still in hibernation mode after the holidays, already behind and struggling to catch up?
If you are feeling a tad rusty, you’re not alone. Switching mindsets from unwinding to ramping up can take some time. We’re only human after all.
Setting goals for your agency is one way to boost motivation and activate forward motion. In fact, studies have shown that ”the act of setting a goal releases the neurotransmitter dopamine and motivates you to take productive action.”
But before you do anything else, you’ll have to carve out space to think through your hopes and dreams. Often agency leaders and teams can be so laser-focused on their client's goals that they neglect their own. Getting stuck in this hamster wheel is what prevents smaller agencies from growing and being able to take on new clients and services.
So, consider this your permission to be selfish. Bookmark this post, schedule some one-on-one time with yourself (or your inner circle), and use these tips to get clear on what you want your business to achieve in the next 12 months.
Why are goals important?
Here are just a few reasons why goals are important to set at your agency:
Goals create purpose: Having goals to guide them can help your team members feel purpose in their day-to-day work. Every task is a reminder that their work matters (and so do they). That’s powerful.
Goals motivate your team: When your team has responsibilities and milestones to hit, employees feel more motivated to do their jobs. (Adding incentives along the way doesn’t hurt.). Every time a new goal is reached and progress happens, you are building momentum and that can have a positive impact on your team’s mentality.
Goals encourage focus: Without goals, your employees might find themselves taking on multiple projects at once without any method for prioritizing the most important work. Not only is this a sure way to lose your best clients but it also creates teams that are overstretched and primed for burn-out.
What having a goal won’t do is guarantee a particular outcome. It’s better to think of goals as a compass as James Clear, one of the world’s foremost experts on habits, suggests. “The goal is your direction, not your destination.”
6 Tips for Setting Better Goals for Your Agency
With goal setting, it’s less about “the right or wrong way” and more about finding what’s effective for your agency. The Entrepreneurial Operating System would have you set goals for your business looking as far out as ten years and as near as the next 90 days. Many agencies use OKRs (Objective and Key Results) which almost always have a quantifiable or numeric component.
In this post, we’re including tips that don’t subscribe to a single method or practice and instead can be adapted to work for you.
Let’s dive in.
1. Take your time and consider your agency's “why”
It’s important to take your time when setting goals to ensure that the goals you choose are aligned with who you are as an agency.
Consider these points when you think about what your goals might be:
Remember your North Star: Revisiting your agency's “why” may seem obvious but we can get so stuck in the weeds that we sometimes forget to look at the bigger picture. Taking a step back to remember your agency's mission can help you to choose goals that are in alignment with your values.
Take a look at your previous goals: What were your agency's top goals last year? Were those goals achieved? Taking time to reflect on the past year can offer great insight into what's working and what's not, it can also help you to choose relevant and realistic goals. If your agency is just starting out, do research to find benchmarks that seem reasonable for a business of your size. Many agencies have found a benchmarking application helpful to figure out where they stand in the market and determine what areas they are excelling, or falling short, in.
Use a SWOT analysis to help you determine your goals: A SWOT analysis can be used to determine your agency's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats. By doing a SWOT analysis, you'll gain insight into the areas in which your agency is exceeding, where you might need more focus, and what potential opportunities there are.
2. Follow the SMART framework when setting your goals
Following a framework when setting your agency's goals can help you focus on choosing the right goals. You’ve probably heard of the SMART framework before. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
If you’re already running your agency on the EOS operating system, then you’ll be familiar with setting Rocks. A Rock is one of the three to seven most important things you must get done in the next 90 days. Using the SMART framework can help you write more effective Rocks.
How to set goals with the SMART framework:
The more specific you get with your goals the easier it will be to break them down into actionable steps.
Ask yourself these questions:
What needs to be achieved, and what does the goal consist of?
Who is responsible for the goal?
What are the steps that need to be taken to successfully complete the goal?
Example: Increase blog traffic by publishing new blog posts and promoting the posts on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Once you’ve made your goals specific, it's important that your goal is measurable. In order to track the progress of your goal you should set clear dates and metrics so that your goal can be quantified.
Example: Increase blog traffic by 100% by publishing 10 new blog posts a month and promoting the posts on LinkedIn and Twitter.
We can all get a little ahead of ourselves when it comes to setting goals and sometimes this means our expectations can be unrealistic. This step is important, without realistic and attainable goals, it's likely that you will feel overwhelmed.
Take a look at the measurable aspects of the goal and check if they are realistic for your agency. If the goal set feels overwhelming, go back to the drawing board and look at historical data to help guide you.
Example: Increase blog traffic by 50% by posting 10 new posts a month and promoting the posts on LinkedIn and Twitter.
When it comes to relevance, it can be helpful to take a look at the big picture. Consider why you’re setting this particular goal. Every goal that you set should tie back to your overall agency mission and larger-scale strategy.
Example: Increase blog traffic by 50% by posting 10 new posts a month and promoting the posts on LinkedIn and Twitter because we want to establish ourselves as industry leaders in X.
SMART goals should have a clear timeline built in so that your entire team is aligned on when the goal begins and ends. Just like with client projects, when the timeframe is clear, it makes it easier to stay on top of the goal.
Example: We will increase blog traffic by 50% by August 2023. This will be achieved by posting 10 new posts a month and promoting the posts on LinkedIn and Twitter because we want to establish ourselves as industry leaders with our ICP.
3. Don’t overcommit
It’s great to have goals and strong ambitions to achieve them. However, it's important to be realistic when choosing the number of goals your agency will be focusing on. Too many goals mean that your team could become overwhelmed and find it difficult to hit milestones. Too few goals could mean that you're not getting enough of a challenge – in this case, your team may become disengaged and your agency growth could plateau.
While the number of goals your agency sets will largely depend on their size and the timeline for achieving them, aiming for 3-5 to start will help keep your team focused and aligned.
4. Make sure everyone at your agency is on the same page
For your goals to work, you need to make sure that your team is in alignment. According to research by Culture Partners, 93% of participants showed that a lack of clarity prevents them from aligning their work or taking accountability.
Here’s how to align your team around your goals:
Spend time explaining each goal to your team: Get everyone in the same room, even if it’s virtual, and walk through your goals for the quarter and their context. Not only will this help your organization stay on the same page, but you might also gather some new ideas and perspectives from your team.
Explain why each goal is important: If you want to build a motivated team, it's key that everyone understands the importance of each goal and how it impacts the agency's bottom line.
Create accountability: Goals are much easier to stick with if we have others holding us accountable. You’ve probably set goals in the past where you’ve kept the goal to yourself, making it easy to slip right back into your old habits. Sharing your goal with others is one of the best ways to create accountability and actually follow through. Holding regular check-ins is also a good way to stay on track.
5. Celebrate the wins along the way
It’s not always easy to recognize the progress you’re making when you have tunnel vision on the end goal. The artist Liz Fosselien of Liz and Mollie has a great series of illustrations to depict this phenomenon:
When you celebrate the small wins along the way, you’ll help your team to stay motivated and feel valued.
Maybe you decide to mark the small wins by taking your team out for lunch or buying a round of coffees – not only will this help them feel appreciated for their hard work, but it also shows them how committed you are to achieving those goals.
6. Digitally manage and track your goals
As James Clear says: “Goals are useful for setting the direction. Systems are great for actually making progress.”
To get where you want to go, you’re going to need both.
If you don't track your goals, how will you know if you're making any progress?
In a small agency where so much of your time and attention is tied up in keeping the business going, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal. In larger agencies – where you’re balancing new clients, existing clients, growing your team, and staying profitable – you can quickly become distracted and lose focus. When we consistently keep track of our goals and their progress, it allows us to make better decisions and get the results we’re aiming for.
Use a project management tool: Every agency, no matter how big or small, needs a way to digitally track their goals. Project management software will help you to stay on top of your progress and allow you to assess your team’s performance in real time.
Set up regular check-ins: Holding regular check-ins or stand-up meetings with all stakeholders will help the team to stay aligned and allow for open communication around any issues that pop up – before it’s too late.
Get started on your goals with Teamwork
Are you looking for a way to get everyone at your small agency moving in the same direction?
Teamwork’s got you covered. Track and assign tasks and create custom dashboards that give you deep insights into your projects. That’s how B2B digital marketing agency Pravda Media Group was able to increase team productivity by 40%.
The agency's CEO, Kfir Pravda, credits their success to increased focus across the board. “What both my team members and I can attest to is our work is much more focused now. We’re not wasting time finding information, or trying to figure out next steps, or get status reports of other people’s work. We’re all 100% aligned now and working at full power, pushing ahead towards a clear goal.”