March 22, 2023 By Max Freedman

Great goal-setting processes may help you and your team focus, be more productive, and stay engaged and motivated. Annual goals are typically great for business owners and management, but your employees may fare better with related short-term goals that more clearly lay out tasks and timelines. This can include weekly goals, monthly goals, and quarterly goals. Below is a sample quarterly goal-setting template and guide.

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What is a quarterly goal?

A quarterly goal is a goal you plan to achieve during any of the year’s four quarters. Each year’s quarters are:

  • Quarter 1 (Q1): January through March
  • Quarter 2 (Q2): April through June
  • Quarter 3 (Q3): July through September
  • Quarter 4 (Q4): October through December

All your quarterly goals should aim to serve your long-term goals, particularly your annual goals. 

Quarterly goal examples

Below are two examples of quarterly goals that a small business might set.

Client acquisition

Let’s say your company aims to bring on 10 new clients during the upcoming quarter. A task list and timeline you could plot out to reach this goal might look as follows.

  • Month 1: Embark on a lead generation campaign. Gather all collected leads’ contact information. Reach out to meaningful prospects. Prepare a new pitch deck or revise your current pitch deck.
  • Month 2: Set up introductory phone calls or video conferences with these prospects. Follow up with service proposals.
  • Month 3: Start signing prospects. Prepare them for a launch date toward the start of Month 4 through new client orientation, onboarding sessions, and other personalized events.

Social media audience expansion

Maybe you’ve noticed that some of your competitors have larger social media audiences than yours. A task list and timeline that could get you on your competitors’ level might look like the below.

  • Month 1: Identify the platforms on which your audience engagement is highest. Upload and promote content on these platforms. Begin seeking out influencers familiar with your product or niche. 
  • Month 2: Sponsor your content on the relevant platforms so that it appears more prominently in users’ feeds. Contact influencers to arrange sponsored content campaigns. Run user-generated content campaigns for content to feature next month.
  • Month 3: Launch influencer marketing campaigns. Ask for reports on content engagement and how much of the influencer’s audience now follows you. Share user-generated content gathered last month. 

How to set quarterly goals

Consider implementing the following tips to come up with important goals for each quarter.

1. Set goals for the year ahead

Quarterly goals should be connected to your annual goals, so the latter should generally come first. Ask yourself: What goals can you set for the year ahead? For example, maybe the upcoming year is your time to grow your annual sales volume by 30%. This corresponds to 7.5% growth per quarter, inherently giving you a quarterly goal.

2. Create a task list

All business goals should be SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. This means a goal such as sales growth needs metrics, a timeframe, and a connection to your products. 

For example, “grow sales” isn’t enough. Instead, it should be “grow sales volume for Product X by 7.5% per quarter.” This is specific to a product, and it’s inherently measurable, relevant, and time-based – it’s on you to judge whether it’s attainable. With your goal finalized, you can set tasks such as improving your product packaging, retraining your sales team, or launching an online advertising campaign.

3. Assign tasks to months

You can do goal-oriented tasks concurrently or in sequence – either way, each task should be assigned to a month. In the example above, you could start developing packaging in the first month as you retrain your team. You could also start coming up with images and copy for an advertising campaign you’ll launch in month two. 

4. Set timelines for each task

Some tasks will carry over from one month into another, and that’s okay as long as your task timelines feel realistic. For example, you may need to brainstorm your packaging’s redesign, sketch out possibilities, test the packaging, and roll it out. That’s a months-long process, though each step may occur on a shorter timeline.

5. Assign tasks 

With your tasks and timeline set, it’s time to delegate work to your team. For example, you can assign the initial design mockup to one person and packaging testing to another person. You should also make sure everyone knows each other’s tasks. This way, the tester knows to check in with the designer if they’re waiting too long for a mockup, and everyone remains accountable.

How to track quarterly goals 

You can use the following tools to track quarterly goals.

Quarterly goal-setting templates

Adding your goals and tasks to a checklist template like a Gantt chart inherently includes progress tracking in your process. You’ll see your tasks and their ideal timeline, and when you plot out your actual progress against this timeline, you’ll know your true progress. If you’re ahead of schedule, you can slow down and take a breather. If not, you should strategize to get where you need to go.

Project management and task management tools

Project management and task management tools combine task lists with accountability features for seamless goal tracking. In most platforms, you can view your task and timeline as Gantt charts and ping team members for status updates. The whole team can see your timeline and team member updates, encouraging a dialogue that pushes progress forward. In times when progress is stalling, you can quickly create and assign new tasks to recalibrate.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software

CRM software (a.k.a. “a CRM”) can be your business’s home for key customer information, including your company’s recent history of contacting the customer. This history may be useful if your goals are sales-oriented – you can review it to see if your sales team is on track. If not, you’ll know adjustments are necessary.

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5 reasons why you should set quarterly goals

Quarterly goals are important for the following reasons.

1. Shorter timeframes may yield better results

Short-term goals are typically narrower in scope, meaning there are fewer ways your team can deviate from them. This makes quarterly goals important for yielding better results across your team. With fewer opportunities for error or confusion, your team’s achievements will likely remain aligned with your long-term vision.

2. Quarterly goals are easier to celebrate as a team

Celebrating team wins can be key to employee recognition, which in turn can be key to high employee morale. It’s typically easier to celebrate wins with clear finish lines that are within reach. Quarterly goals and the tasks within them are thus a great conduit to strong employee recognition.

3. Managers can more clearly track employee progress

It can be tough to know before the end of the year whether your ambitions to increase annual sales by 30% are coming to fruition. It’s much easier to see before the end of a quarter whether your team is performing well enough to reach 7.5% growth. Shorter timelines can give you more time to identify potential problems and act on them.

4. Employees can more easily keep doing great work

The clearer goal definition that comes with quarterly timeframes can encourage employees to keep pushing forward. If they already know they’re close to that 7.5% sales growth target, they’re more likely to keep pushing than if it feels far away. Quarterly goals can show your team their purpose, which is great for morale.

5. Employees can start contributing to goal-setting

The more often employees work toward clear goals, the more likely they might be to suggest their own goal ideas. For example, after a few successive quarters of 7.5% sales growth, your employees might tell you that 10% feels realistic. Or they might say that the tasks you set for sales growth didn’t feel relevant. In that case, you can involve them in the goal-setting process, which may be helpful – when team members set goals, they’re often more attainable.

How many quarterly goals should you set?

Roughly five goals per quarter is a solid starting point, though you can go higher or lower. The number of goals you set should depend on the following.

  • Your annual goals. Chances are that two or three quarterly goals typically won’t be enough for you to properly tackle all the annual goals you’ve set. Five, or more, may do the trick instead.
  • Your track record. Consider your previous quarters’ goals and whether you achieved them as planned. If you did, you can set a similar number of goals this quarter. If not, you should scale back. And if achieving all your goals during the previous quarter was a cakewalk, you can take on more this quarter.
  • Your resources. All goals should be reachable given your current resources. This means that if you have enough team members to decrease your customer service wait times by 15%, that’s exactly what you should target. Going for 20% instead will spread your team thin and sap motivation enough that even the easy 15% falls out of reach. Another solution may be feasible, though: obtaining outside funding.

Fund your quarterly goals with SmartBiz® 

Obtaining more resources can change your perspective on what is and isn’t attainable for your quarterly goals. Through SmartBiz, you can apply for SBA loans, term loans, and custom financing that may broaden the horizons of your ambitions. Check now whether you pre-qualify* – in five minutes, you’ll know whether outside funding (and larger goals) are within reach.

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