You’re in the initial stages of launching your startup. Maybe you have an idea for a product or service. Maybe you even have prototypes for that product or service in place. But without a clear picture of your destination, and a roadmap to the future of your organization, that prototype may do little more than gather dust.
Getting your business past the idea stage and on track to being a viable startup means setting actionable goals and objectives to give you something to work towards. Even if you’ve got your business plan down, have done your hiring and have a few loyal customers in your portfolio, building specific targets to aim for will prove a significant factor in your startup’s wellbeing and growth.
The first thing you should understand is the difference between a goal and an objective. This distinction rings true at all levels of goal-setting, whether personal, departmental, or organizational.
A goal is typically a broad statement of a long-term outcome you or your organization hopes to achieve. They align with your company ideology, long-term business plan, and vision for the future.
Goals can be applied to very long term OR more short-term planning strategies. For example, one of your more aspirational goals may be to become a market leader in your industry. A more short-term goal might be to expand your marketing department this quarter.
An objective is a specific and action-oriented statement which outlines a goal as well as the exact steps you will need to take, and resources you will need to gather in order to reach the expressed target. Objectives should also align with your mission and business plan, however they are more often leveraged to address short-term problems.
One example of a common objective for startups might be creating your minimum viable product. Setting this objective should include the projected end result, as well as defining the standards for your MVP, team members participating in its production, and a timeline for turnaround.
Combining both goals and objectives provides a number of significant benefits for your organization.
Setting goals helps to keep you focused and in-line with the mission of your startup. And setting objectives gives you clear, actionable steps to take which keep you moving forward.
It is critical for you to have both long-term and short term targets in place to support you in making appropriate decisions for your organization as necessary changes or choices arise.
Here are a few examples of critical goals and objectives that every startup should set.
Goal – Cultivate brand awareness.
Brand awareness can be the difference between a startup that’s surviving, and a successful business which is truly thriving. Peak brand notoriety happens when your trademarked name becomes synonymous with your product or service – think brands like Band-Aid, Xerox, and Google. While this level of notoriety may be a long way off for your organization, setting this goal will give you something audacious to aspire to.
Objective – Deliver strategic marketing content.
Brand awareness is facilitated through a fantastic product, great customer service, and (of course) marketing. Your startup needs to understand how its going to reach its clientele, and how to appeal to their needs or expectations of your product. To reach this objective, you will need to find your message, create content, and establish a delivery platform and date for this project.
Goal – Increase customer retention.
Loyal, repeat customers are far more valuable than one-time or walk-in clients, and your success as a startup may hinge on building long-term relationships with those purchasing your product or service. Truly, increasing customer retention is a goal which your company should keep on the boards in perpetuity, as this is a target even businesses at the top of their game should want to hit.
Objective – Establish an ideal customer profile.
To better strategize marketing, customer service, your product itself for maximum purchase potential, you need to know who your ideal customers are. Who is most likely to benefit from your product? Answering this question will require researching the market, identifying your target audience, and understanding the values held by those most likely to engage your product.
Goal – Become market leader
Don’t be afraid to shoot for the moon. Having aspirational goals keeps organizations — especially new startups — motivated and innovative, and working harder than they may have ever thought possible. In the early stages of your business, goals like these may seem unrealistic. But setting aspirational targets is part of any good business plan and gives you an ultimate destination to work towards.
Objective – Create a sustainable budget
And this is one of the steps you can take towards becoming a market leader. Small, specific, realistic objectives are what allow you to eventually achieve your more long-term aspirations while remaining practical and grounded in the actions you take to get there. This objective requires you to take stock of your expenses, understand which aspects of your business are critical to operations, and determine what expenditures you can make while remaining profitable.
Your vision for your startup is what will get you through your first few tumultuous years. And setting both long-term goals and actionable objectives can provide you with the tools you need to meet the challenges of your industry and make a name for your organization in the future.
Is your startup beginning to think about creating a solid and brand-aligned company culture? If the answer is yes, head over to our additional content to get started: How to build a positive company culture with OKRs.
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