The 5 Keys to Making Smart Business Decisions

In business, the SMART model of decision-making is an important tool for drawing conclusions. The model relies on several steps that lead to setting goals and making decisions. The "S" in SMART is for specific or significant information, the "M" is for measurable or meaningful data, the "A" is for agreed-upon or actionable intelligence, as well as achievable standards, the "R" is for relevant information, as well as realistic goals, and the "T" is for time, as in the amount of time needed to make decisions and reach goals.

Clearly, one of the most important elements of making any well-informed business decision is actionable data. As you pursue your online masters in Communication Management from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, you will have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to use data to make smart business decisions.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the SMART model, and reflect on the keys to making to making smart business decisions:

1. Set Clear Objectives

Using the SMART mentality, you should be able to set clear business goals and objectives. An example of a business goal may be in the marketing department: to increase audience engagement. You’ll need to consider what this means and how to accomplish your objective.

First, you need to be specific and determine how you're going to measure success. What does audience engagement mean? Is it the amount of time a visitor spends on a specific page, the number of return visits, or whether they sign up for membership or follow you on social media, for example?

Next you need to consider actions you can take to reach your goal of increased engagement, such as revamping your website or your marketing campaigns to increase interest. From there you'll have to gather relevant information through testing, surveys, and metrics to see if your efforts are having the desired result.

Finally, you need to set a time frame for action, data collection, and review. Setting clear objectives, including gathering applicable data, is the overall best way to make smart business decisions consistently.

2. Rely on Evidence

Making smart decisions requires that you have as full an understanding of a given situation as possible. In most scenarios, this means collecting data from a variety of sources.

Returning to the objective of increasing audience engagement, gathering evidence on what isn’t working may be your first step. Experts in marketing and sales may provide information on why the copy or layout of a web page or an ad isn't engaging audiences as anticipated. Metrics analysts can spot trends over time to pinpoint which efforts aren't working and potentially why they're falling short of expectations. This information is essential to making decisions about your strategy moving forward.

3. Understand Your Audience

Communication is an important part of any decision, whether you're communicating with coworkers or with an audience. Of course, opening a dialogue with your audience is much more difficult than carrying on a conversation with coworkers.

In order to speak to your audience in a meaningful and productive way, you have to first understand them. There are several ways to go about accomplishing this goal. If at all possible, it's always best to go right to the source and speak with audience members directly, which is why focus groups, commentary, and reviews are so important.

However, you can also track a variety of metrics to get a sense of what your audience likes and dislikes based on their responses. Suppose you see a lot of click-through on targeted ads, but very little follow-through once visitors reach your site. Your metrics might indicate that the content in your ad doesn't match up to your landing page, that your landing page isn't attractive and engaging, or that there is a disconnect between customer expectations and the content you deliver.

This information can help you discover the problem and determine how best to go about fixing it in order to reach your business goals. It will help you interpret audience response and channel it into communication initiatives that speak to your audience. In short, it will help you make smart business decisions surrounding audience engagement.

4. Learn from Your Mistakes

Every undertaking has a learning curve, but mistakes only become failures if you don't learn from them. It's called a "decision-making process" because you will constantly learn and grow, incorporating experience and information into future goals and decisions, honing the process as you go.

The MCM program provides you with a solid foundation on which to base strategic, professional decisions, preparing you for continuous learning and productivity.

5. Create Contingency Plans

The more you know, the better equipped you are to handle any situation with confidence. This begins with learning the tenets and techniques of proper communication so that you can plan accordingly and prepare for any outcome.

Making smart decisions that lead to success is ideal, but having a backup plan in place is just good business. You can never account for every potential roadblock or setback, but with proper education you have a starting point from which to begin building experience.

MCM students gain access to guidance from experts and leaders in the communication field, who offer a marriage of research and theory with practical, day-to-day business operations. This drives students to develop the knowledge, skill, and confidence needed to make smart business decisions.