Short-term vs. long-term business goals: comparison + examples

Not unlike the recipe for your mum’s famous chocolate cake, the recipe for business success calls for various ingredients and steps plus time and patience. It requires short-term work (baking) to yield long-term results (happy tummies). 

In business, short- and long-term goals are used tactically to help a business move forward. But what are they? And how are they set? We’ll define and compare short-term and long-term goals and show you 15 examples of what they look like in business. 

What is a long-term business goal?

It’s all in the name — long-term outcomes are what your company wants to achieve in the long term. They’re high-level goals or strategies you want to accomplish in the coming years, driving you closer to your vision. Good long-term goals should be adaptable to technological, political and other environmental changes.

No exact period defines long-term goals, but most organisations think of them as goals you aim to achieve in the next one to ten years. While ambitious, they inform short-term goals and day-to-day business flow and vice versa. Knowing a general direction is essential, but keeping a bottom-up approach that supports adaptability, creativity and more input into decision-making is still crucial.

What is a short-term business goal?

The term ‘short’ is key in describing short-term goals. They define business goals you want to achieve in the near future, which can span from a week to a year, depending on the project and organisational preferences. They focus on the present, promoting productivity and good time management.

Short-term goals are clear, easily actionable and geared toward individual or team efforts rather than overall strategy. That being said, short-term goals should still be set with long-term strategy in mind — to set short-term goals, you need to know generally where your business is heading. In simpler terms, short-term goals are the steps you need to take to get where you want to be and a tool to check you’re heading in the right direction.

Short-term vs long-term goals

Short-term and long-term goals may differ, but it’s not quite David and Goliath. Below we’ve listed three key factors that set short- and long-term goals apart.

Purpose

The biggest difference between short-term goals and long-term goals is their purpose. Long-term goals are strategic — they’re a plan for the future of the business. Short-term goals contribute to business success but have more to do with your current performance.

Timeline

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to defining what’s considered short-term or long-term, but generally speaking, short-term goals are more likely to be measured by weeks or months and long-term goals by years. Long-term business strategies require many short-term goals to meet.

Flexibility

Short-term goals and long-term organisational goals are also different in adaptability. Short-term goals are typically more clearly defined and actionable, whereas long-term goals are flexible to changes in strategy.

Examples of both short- and long-term goals in business

Looking for some real-world examples to help you write business goals? Using the SMART methodology — which requires goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound — we’ve compiled some examples of long- and short-term business goals that are easily adaptable.

Short-term vs long-term marketing goal examples

A long-term marketing goal might sound like this:

  • Drive more traffic to the shop tab on the website

And the short-term goals that support this long-term strategy might look like this:

  • Develop a social media strategy that boosts posting from 3 times a week to daily
  • Plan an email campaign that achieves an average click rate of 10% before new product launch 

Short-term vs long-term finance goal examples

The following might be a long-term finance goal:

  •  Reduce operating costs 

And to support the long-term strategy, short-term finance goals may look like this:

  • Automate 50% of payroll duties by adopting accounting software by June 30
  • Reduce cost of goods sold (COGS) expenses by 20% this quarter

Short-term vs long-term HR goal examples

Long-term HR goals would include:

  • Improve employee retention rate

Whereas the short-term HR goals for the long-term strategy may look like this:

  • Allocate 10% of HR budget to personal development training
  • Implement one feedback form a month for more visibility across company issues

Short-term vs long-term sales goal examples

A typical goal for long-term sales growth may look like this:

  • Increase total sales revenue 

In contrast, the short-term goals for sales might be as follows:

  • Generate 50% of sales from clients X and Y by the end of June
  • Make $30,000 in new deals by the end of the quarter

Short-term vs long-term customer service goal examples

An example of a long-term customer service goal might be:

  • Increase customer satisfaction

Whereas customer service short-term goals are more likely to be specific:

  • Increase the first-contact resolution rate by 10% by the end of quarter
  • Improve first reply time by 5% overall by the end of the month

How to set short- and long-term goals with OKRs

Whether you’re 20 years into trading or in the early stages of business, getting past the ‘vision’ part of goal setting is not always easy. You may know where you want to be, but getting there is the hard part.

A goal-setting framework like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) bridges the gap between vision and strategy. It uses short-term targets to support medium- and long-term goals. 

If your long-term vision is to grow revenue, your quarterly OKRs may look like this:

Objective: Improve monthly sales revenue

  • KR1: Increase number of cold calls from 10 to 20 a day
  • KR2: Increase average purchase amount from $300 to $500 per person
  • KR3: Reduce customer churn from 40% to 15%

Read more on how to set OKRs here.

Simplify goal setting with Tability

Set, share and track goals without a hitch using user-friendly software like Tability. Tability's easy-to-use tools and check-in emails support team buy-in, making it easy for your business to adopt it. Give it a go with a free trial today.

Looking for a simple OKRs process?

Monika Gudova

Content Writer and Editor

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