A goal without any kind of timeline can be endlessly postponed. Sometimes circumstances determine your timeline. Even without external pressure, however, it’s good to set your own deadlines to meet important business goals.
After getting less than spectacular results from online advertising campaigns, last summer I resolved that, by the end of the year, we would acquire at least a dozen new clients from online traffic. As it turned out, we actually surpassed this goal, netting fifteen clients.
Here’s what we did and why it worked.
Brainstorm ideas and talents
When you have a challenging goal that takes you beyond what you’ve accomplished so far, be open to new strategies. You may find that people on your team have ideas and skills that can help in more ways than you realized. Actively ask for suggestions and remain open to new possibilities.
In the case of our goal, it turned out that someone on our team had experience as a copywriter and was adept at writing compelling ads. He was especially skillful at creating ad headlines that worked well with pay-per-click (PPC) ads. Since this wasn’t his job at my company, I hadn’t been aware of this ability. This knowledge came out at a meeting where I prompted people for suggestions on improving ad performance. This team member soon became instrumental in helping us create more profitable ad campaigns.
To meet this objective, we also pooled other talents, including graphic arts and skilled salespeople. This brings up another crucial aspect of completing difficult projects on schedule: consistent communication among team members.
Identify obstacles that block yours goals
When setting a goal with a deadline, it’s important to know what might stand in the way. In this case of our goal to obtain new clients via online campaigns, I identified several problems that I had encountered in the past. My team and I came up with strategies to address each of these obstacles.
Inefficient budget management: During past campaigns, we had invested money in advertising campaigns that didn’t produce the desired results. This really came down to insufficient ad campaign tracking. I found that by monitoring campaigns more closely, we could make changes and drop campaigns that weren’t profitable.
Lack of focus: Past efforts at obtaining clients online had been sporadic and not well planned. In this case, simply defining the goal and setting a deadline created focus.
Insufficient follow-through: Our campaigns were not designed to produce immediate sales, but to open communications with potential clients. Past efforts had produced some interest, but we hadn’t followed through in a way that produced sales. We developed a process that included emails, phone calls and supplying prospects with educational material about our services.
Be willing to rework your approach
When it comes to completing a project on time, you need self-discipline, focus, and perseverance. At the same time, you don’t want to be rigid. You even have to be willing to abandon a project (or revise your goals) if circumstances warrant it.
In the case of my own goal, it was necessary to change course a few times. We had been using a certain advertising platform and found that it wasn’t ideal for reaching our ideal clients.
It’s best to keep objectives broad so you can achieve them in a number of ways. Otherwise, you run the risk of investing time and money into a strategy that simply doesn’t work.
For example, if my goal had been to obtain a dozen clients using advertising platform X, it’s not likely that we would have been successful. I had to try a few different platforms and approaches before finding the right formula.
Make timelines work in your favor
Timelines are a fundamental aspect of business. If you look at it the right way, you can use this to your advantage.
Rather than seeing deadlines as something that causes you stress, think of them as an opportunity to up your game and come up with the best possible solutions. Knowing that you must complete a project or a certain phase by a specific date forces you to combine focus with flexibility.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Yan Revzin is the Co-Founder of Fortune Cookie Advertising, a non-traditional and out of home media placement company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States. Connect with @fortunecookiead on Twitter.
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