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Archive for September, 2014

How do you Measure Success?

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I save way more than I need to. I’ll admit I do have a bit of a hoarder in me, not to the extremes that you see on TV, but only in the sense that the things that I save have a) some sort of lifetime business value or b) a sentimental family value. So, needless to say, there is a bit of an accumulation.

That means not only do I occasionally print things out, but I also bookmark a lot of sites and I also write stuff down on anything and everything. Translation-stacks of paper, folders, random scraps of paper, bar napkins and the backs of envelopes are not an uncommon sight on my desk. For me, when the thought or idea hits I reach for whatever is around to get it down on paper before it flies away!

The takeaway is that I realize that I save stuff, so I’m always trying to weed through and see what I can save and what I can throw away, which leads me to what I found written on a the back of an unopened envelope this past weekend. It simply said:

How do you measure success?

It’s weird but when I wrote it down it didn’t have the same impact as it did at that moment. Maybe it’s the timing of words. The moment has to be right for them to have the greatest effect. Regardless, they were powerful words, if not a powerful question.

I immediately sat down and just started to noodle on it. Maybe it should be your success? How are you measuring your success? My success? Some might tell you that success is relative. And it is. As singer songwriter Paul Simon once sang, “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor.” We all can measure success either incrementally or micro-incrementally. The point being that we can measure it no matter how large or how small.

We can call them baby steps. We can call it growth, maturity, experience, whatever. The bottom line is that we can associate success with the smallest of things or the largest. All you have to do is “define” it. Define your success and define it in terms that make sense. I think sometimes we believe that we have failed because we have not succeeded. Perhaps it’s because we failed at looking at success in the right way?

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Noted scholar and teacher, W. Edwards Deming, is incorrectly attributed to a quote that gets used each and every day. It’s as follows: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Most people have the quote wrong and yet it continues to be an extremely popular saying. In its present form, it fits for the sake of this discussion. However, what Dr. Deming really said was that one of the seven deadly diseases of western management is “Running a company on visible figures alone.” This makes complete sense and yet runs counter to the quote, but is a perfect segue’ into how we all measure success in digital and social marketing.

I read Dr. Deming’s “real” quote to say that you need to trust your gut and trust your instincts. In other words, know that though the numbers may say that you have a “successful” company, if everyone is miserable and everyone hates you? Is that success? Is that a visible figure?

For a lot of large companies and even the small ones, it’s all about measuring the impact of their efforts, right? Whether it is sales, leads, deals closed, online orders or prospects identified etc., companies can’t really keep the lights on without this type of quantifiable data. Some will call this ROI and still others will simply break down these efforts as, “Here’s the money coming in, here’s the money going out and here are the expenses.”

However, the bottom line is that in business or in life, what we all do, whether we realize it or not, is we measure the outcomes. Maybe not so much in an analytical way but we do measure our daily outcomes. Was it fun? Did we lose? Was it worth it? Did you have a bad experience? Did they like you? Was it your fault? Did you win? Did you buy it? Did you get the promotion? Lose your job? Did you diet? How was your workout? Are these successes? Sure they are!

Yes, like it or not, it would seem that we do measure all of our engagements and experiences. Things that we manage it would seem, Dr. Deming notwithstanding, can be measured. We are indeed, measuring our success.
But maybe we’re missing the big picture? Maybe, just maybe, we’re getting the definition of success wrong? Or maybe we’re just not defining it properly? Perhaps if we realign our definition of success, we can achieve more?

Two questions that I always ask of every friend or client who either wants to get themselves or their company in to the digital game, whether it’s social media, mobile marketing, web design, search engine optimization or otherwise:

What do you want to do and why do you want to do it?

Be clear on those 2 objectives and then be clear on how you’re going to measure your success. Little wins are just as important as the big ones!

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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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