Go Behind The Numbers To Determine Success



How do you determine business success? Not only in marketing communications but in customer service or even with nonprofit programs. Just asking .. 

"Why Toby," You might say. "You set a numerical goal and then see if you can meet it. It's called measurement and metrics." 

"Ah, " I might say. "Yes that's good. Or is it really? Or might it be misleading? Is it enough? Could it be doing us a disservice?"  Just asking ..

This week I was chatting with a friend who recently joined the staff of a nonprofit organiztion. Her focus is to manage social media for one of the non profit's community education programs.

She said two things to me that inspired this post.  #1 - Her boss expected the number of friends, followers, hits to the site, etc. to increase within weeks. #2 - The major funding grant placed a high emphsis on site visitors.

Sidebar: In another lifetime I was marketing director for a nonprofit. Among other elements, our grants measured success by the number of people we serviced; as well as the out reach we did. So I am familar with the demands of funding source reporting. However, In this case, there is a huge disconnect and lack of understanding of social media from my friend's boss and the funding source. Perhaps a post for another day.

We use numbers as a gauge of success. It's fairly easy to count. We learned it watching Big Bird, Oscar, Cookie Monster, The Count and my favorite Elmo!

But is that really sufficient to determine the worth of your strategies? Just asking ..

I admit, going behind the numbers takes more time and resources. When was the last time you determined if you hit the "right" people? Or if "they" took away the end objectives e.g, behaviour changes (finding information online versus your call center), perception changes (branding), new skills learned (training)?

  • What was the impact beyond the numbers? Just asking ..

It's not difficult to understand the why we are stuck on the numbers. The history of  business "success" is based on the quantitative.

Back in the Mad Men advertising days broadcast media success was about the reach and numbers. High Nielsen ratings were the gold ring. Decisions lived and died based on the figures. In newspapers and print publications (remember those?) the number of subcribers were what drove the ad dollars. It gave us a baseline. It was ok.

Then we stepped into the digital world and WoW! it was like walking into the Disney World of analytics. We could count Everything .. happy days! Our challenge became which ride (metric) to go on first (or pay attention to).

Then came social media. We had learned how to count our online strategy "results" from banner ads to website analytics. We transfered our hard earned knowledge from the web and began counting. Counting followers, likes, comments, posts. Life was good. Management could understand that type of "success." 

However, with social media came something else. Something that we were never able to determine: who were the People Behind The Numbers. Huge. Powerful. Scary. 

Hold on to your boas .. we can determine:

.. if we are reaching our target audiences

.. if we are acheiving our beyond the numbers goals 

.. if we are relevant to our target audience 

We are now really accountable for if our strategies resonant with our customers and prospects. Oh sure the numbers should matter but to a lesser degree. We should also be paying attention to if we are attracting and sustaining the right people. 

Go Beyond The Numbers Tips

1. Review the profiles of the people who are Likes, Followers,  G+, etc. 

2. Analyze your LinkedIn connects based on the niche you want to attract as clients. 

3. Segment as much as possible within limits of the social network platform. For example, on LinkedIn tag people, in Google+ put them into circles, on Twitter create lists. 

 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10! What are your thoughts?  Just asking ..

Update: Example of going behind the numbers - Brian Solis and ReSearch.ly analyzed 50,000 of Starbucks’ Twitter followers. What resulted was a rich,complex profile and a indepth understanding of likes and lifestyles. So much more interesting than just the numbers. 


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I think you make some strong arguments in this post; while determining whether or not you are reaching your audience is important; I do still think that the numbers speak louder in terms of ranking.

Posted by: Lily@A10sm on Oct 7, 2011 5:02:51 AM

I LOVE your 'corner store' top of mind approach!

Posted by: Naima- billiondollarcourage.com on Oct 7, 2011 8:38:58 PM

I also agree with your post. In the digital age we do have the capability to track information, its just difficult to track it all in one location. Do you have any suggestions for good all in one tools that can track social media hits to your website, organic search hits, advertisement traffic, etc.?

Posted by: Krista on Oct 14, 2011 11:47:34 AM

Krista - yes, totally agree .. the pieces are all over the place. unfortunately, I don't know of one tool that combines the multiple metrics that we now need to track. if anyone one does will you please drop a comment. thanks!

Posted by: Toby @tobydiva on Oct 14, 2011 2:40:37 PM

I have such a difficult time with tracking and analyzing - I made myself an excel spreadsheet but that still doesn't seem to help me get at the really important stats. So, still working on this one...

Posted by: Suzanne on Oct 17, 2011 7:16:50 PM

I totally agree, success is not based on numbers alone. While a good number of people added to your mailing list is nice, the actual number of genuine sales is really what matters.

Posted by: How to Blog on Oct 28, 2011 12:29:23 PM

Numbers are a great indicator of whether things are working or not. However, I do agree that it isn't always the case, and there can be other underlying reasons.

Posted by: Caitlin Laura on Aug 21, 2012 3:40:37 PM

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