With a new year comes a new chance to double down on success and define the goals that will help you grow. But to make this process worth it, you need to do more than just come up with a list of moonshots.

Every organization should enter 2018 with a strategic plan that profiles current health, lays out clear goals, and pinpoints the metrics to measure success. Documented and distributed internally, this plan will align the company in a unified direction and help create clear benchmarks for 2019.

While the details of your strategic plan will be unique, there are three components you have to include. You need an honest SWOT analysis, SMART primary and secondary goals, and measurable key performance indicators.

SWOT Analysis

swot matrixA SWOT analysis is an established strategic planning tool and a great place to start the process. It will kickstart your problem-solving mindset and create the framework for the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that the rest of your strategic plan will address.

The easiest way to perform a SWOT analysis is to build a simple SWOT matrix, dividing a square into four equal parts. Or, download our easy-to-use worksheet with the matrix already created.

Fill in each quadrant with 4–5 bullets that address the topic. Focus on core issues, keep each bullet concise, and if you’re not willing to admit to important weaknesses or threats, you’re setting up a false foundation for the rest of the plan.

If you need help getting started, answer some of these questions for each element:

Strengths:

  • What are your unique differentiators?
  • Do you have any specialized expertise or established thought leaders?
  • Do you have any proprietary technology?
  • What is the most profitable or fastest growing aspect of your business?
Weaknesses:

  • What are you lacking education or experience in?
  • What resources do you lack — whether human, financial, or physical?
  • What is the least profitable aspect of your business?
  • What aspect of your business is not performing as well as you are hoping or expecting?
Opportunities:

  • What new audience do you have the potential to reach?
  • What is the most time consuming aspect of your role or your business? Are there ways to streamline this?
  • What product or service, that you don’t offer, does your existing client base consistently ask for?
Threats:

  • What is your biggest obstacle to growth?
  • What are the biggest strengths of your competitors?
  • What are your competitors doing that you’re not?
  • What recent changes have occurred in your industry that you haven’t made deliberate efforts to accommodate?

Primary and Secondary Goals

After you complete a SWOT analysis, you should already have some ideas on what you want to accomplish this year. This is good — any goals you define from this point on will have a basis in where you are, where your competitors are, and where you want to be.

However, just as you limited your selections in each SWOT quadrant, you need to limit the number and scope of the goals you set for your organization.

To focus your efforts, select 1–2 primary goals and 4–5 secondary goals. The primary goal represents your main thrust over the year and serves as a guide to all decision-making along the way. The secondary goals will work to support the primary goal, directly or indirectly.

SMART parameters are a great way of paring and refining the goals you select. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-related.

  • Specific: You need to convey the exact purpose of the goal and the desired outcome.
  • Measurable: You must be able to clarify how progress and success will be measured.
  • Actionable: You need to be able to identify who will execute the goal and confirm with them that it is possible.
  • Realistic: Your goal must be achievable according to the most accurate estimates or expectations of everyone involved.
  • Time-Related: You must have an expected date of completion and, if possible, a timeline for milestone objectives.

Pro Tip: Relying solely on sales figures or revenue to measure success will return an imperfect view of how your business is performing. Try to mix financial goals with others, such as employee turnover rates or customer satisfaction.

See these examples of primary and secondary SMART goals for Software Services, a fictitious B2B SaaS start-up company founded three years ago.

Primary Goal:

  • Increase annual recurring revenue by 75% by the end of the year, to $4.4 million from $2.5 million, building off a 60% increase in the previous year.

Secondary Goals:

  • Produce two meaningful additions or refinements to the software in the calendar year, up from one the previous year.
  • Produce four new pieces of content a quarter — two blog posts, one ebook or infographic, and one whitepaper — up from two a quarter in the previous year.
  • Convert 50% of customers using a newly-introduced free version of the software to a paid version. Because there is no company benchmark data, the 50% conversion rate was determined from industry benchmarks.
  • Reduce average time to customer service resolution by 25%, to 15 hours from 20 hours in the previous year.

Key Performance Indicators

One reason why many businesses fail to follow through with their strategic plans is that they can define their goals but they can’t measure them. Or, they select the wrong metric to measure success.

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value used by an organization to determine the success of a goal. Quantifying success is key to creating benchmarks for future plans and providing internal feedback on what is not currently working. Ideally, this feedback can be delivered in real time so that optimizations can be made as the year progresses.

When matching a KPI to a goal, you have to answer two questions:

  1. Can I actually measure this KPI?

Do you have the tools and human resources required? What investments in time and capital do you need to make to set up the measurement process? Will successful goal completion be worth the investment?

  1. Will this KPI actually determine the success of my goal?

For example: if your goal is to increase the number of leads generated from paid search, your main KPI will be the number of landing page conversions with a ‘paid search’ source (as measured by your marketing automation platform). Other KPIs may factor into your optimizations toward this goal, such as cost-per-click, but by themselves they cannot accurately reflect success.

Do your research to determine the best KPIs, but realize that some will be specific to your organization.

Taking Software Services’ goals from the previous section, see how these can be measured:

Primary Goal:

  • Increase annual recurring revenue by 75% by the end of the year, to $4.4 million from $2.5 million, building off a 60% increase in the previous year.
    • KPI: Annual recurring revenue will be calculated based on the total committed and fixed subscription or recurring fees less one-time fees for support services.

Secondary Goals:

  • Produce two meaningful additions or refinements to the software in the calendar year.
    • KPI: What constitutes a ‘meaningful’ addition or refinement will be determined by the Director of Product Development.
  • Produce four new pieces of content a quarter.
    • KPI: Content additions will be summed in the existing content calendar, based on approvals from the Director of Marketing.
  • Convert 50% of customers using a newly-introduced free version of the software to a paid version.
    • KPI: Successful software upselling will be marked using a custom account property in each customer’s CRM record.
  • Reduce average time to customer service resolution by 25%.
    • KPI: Time to resolution will be measured by the current customer service software, used to determine average resolution time in the previous year.

As you develop your goals and assign your KPIs with your team, ensure that you’re creating an actual working document. Communicate to everybody involved so they all understand the direction of the company and how the goals they’re assigned complement other departments and directors

Final Thoughts

A well-put together strategic plan is an incredible advantage for your business. It should be the foundation for every current and standing initiative you execute this year.

Now, it’s your turn to get started — there’s no better time! Download your free copy of our easy-to-use worksheet that will help you stay organized and provide a shareable well-documented plan for your business.

Download the Worksheet