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What I’ve Learned Talking to 100+ Startups

Over the past couple years, I’ve been a mentor on GrowthMentor for startups. And I do independent ad hoc consulting when people ask.

I’ve talked to over 100 startups and businesses…

Solopreneurs building their first MVP. Established SaaS products. Multi-million dollar startups who are successful and want to grow more. Businesses that used to be successful but are falling apart. B&M stores transitioning to online.

There are so many similar questions no matter the scale and size:

  • “How do I get more customers?”
  • “What feature should I build next?”
  • “How do I know what I’m building is the ‘right’ thing?”

No matter the size or success of the business, there’s one HUGE issue I notice with 95% of any business…

They rarely have a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

They might have a broad, ambiguous goal of “getting more customers” or “making more money”. But, these goals don’t help startups or businesses understand if they’re successful.

It’s similar to driving a car with an ambiguous hope of going somewhere cool. If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know you’re going to end up somewhere you want?

My friend and mentor Noah Kagan always taught me the importance of a specific, measurable goal in business. Using the S.M.A.R.T. framework is one of my favorite ways to dial in on a more helpful goal:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Everything in business — every decision for your product, every idea, every hire, every feature, every question — should cascade from a specific S.M.A.R.T. goal. Everything.

At our $3 million business AppSumo Originals we have a specific goal for the number of new customers we want to bring into AppSumo this year.

And then, we break that goal down into monthly numbers so we know if we’re on or off pace.

Our S.M.A.R.T. goal model for AppSumo Originals

Many startups get overwhelmed at coming up with a yearly goal, and I get it. You don’t have to establish a yearly goal if you’re a new business. Your goal can be much simpler:

  • I want to get 5 customers this month
  • By the end of the year, I want to make $2,000 on this idea
  • I want 10,000 people to visit my website this quarter

Break your goal down into something that’s exciting and clear for you.

If you do that, you’ll be ahead of 95% of startups and businesses out there who fly blind in a direction hoping they’ll end up somewhere nice.

Instead of flying blind and hoping, put in the effort now to set a clear vision. You’ll arrive at your destination much quicker (and build that business of your dreams).

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