by Melissa Piper Nelson
When you are the owner, operator, production chief, marketer, delivery person and sales manager all wrapped up into one persona, taking the time to set business goals may seem like just another task that can wait a bit longer. Besides, goals are just subjective ideas which are part of a general business plan, are they not?
Goals outline expectations and set the path toward achieving the level of marketing and sales success you anticipate for a given period — usually, at least a year and sometimes as a part of a five or 10-year plan. You can simplify goals, but the better option, is to clarify goals.

Clarifying goals points more directly to specifics you want to achieve rather than following vague ideas about business expectations. You can say you wish to achieve a percentage more of sales in a given year as a simplified goal, while a clarified goal notes how and where you will target your efforts to achieve the sales you want. Clarified goals are distinct in setting out the stepping stones you will follow.
Determining goals is part reviewing the past as well as looking forward. You need to understand what happened during your last business cycle, what adjustments you had to make or will need to make, and what you will do to improve and gain more return on your investment.
Market research is a key to goal clarification as it shows you where you need to make wise adjustments to sales strategies.  If you missed out selling to a key target audience last year, market research will provide more clear answers on sales trends, age groups and buying habits, and where to place emphasis on advertising and promotion.  Analyzing person-to person and online strategies yields insights into how to set reasonable and attainable goals in the future. Did more millennium-age buyers respond better to your marketing than adults or seniors?  If so, which group spent more dollars per sale and how did that influence your overall business plan for the year?
As always, goals need to be measureable. If you can’t quantify your achievements, strategizing and clarifying new goals is all the more difficult. Even if you reach a percentage goal, you may have spent more on marketing in one area than you anticipated or missed out on an opportunity elsewhere.
Clarifying goals is the straight arrow directed at a specific target. The exercise challenges you to more accurately pinpoint what you are trying to achieve, what measures it will take to achieve the specific goal, and how you will measure the accuracy (or success) of meeting the goal. You are not just saying you plan to sell more produce this summer, but plan for where you will sell more, how much more you will sell, and to what customers. As an entrepreneur, direct marketer, small business or family-run operation, you are asked to wear many hats and manage many parts of your business. Taking time for market research and planning strategies may seem like a back-burner priority, but clarifying what you want to achieve is a top-priority. Without goals that are specific, attainable, and relevant to your business, you can muddle down different paths trying to anticipate where sales will be best, or you can plan for following a more specific route. Goals, as well as business plans, are fluid and need adjustments along the way. You may need additional or new clarifications throughout the cycle. Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, however, always gives you a direction in which to move and act.
The above information is presented for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business and legal counseling.