I was at a party the other week talking to an old friend that had recently launched a startup. He was sharing some interesting statistics on the growth of the startup, that they have increased sales by X and clients by Y. In all, it was very positive news. After a few minutes of conversation, I asked him whether or not the business was successful. I was expecting a short and simple, “Yes!” Instead what I received was a rehashing of the metrics he had already shared. Having known him for a while, I felt comfortable stopping him mid-sentence asking, “It’s great that you’re meeting all these goals and objectives, but does that mean your startup is successful?
His response, “I don’t know.”
When you’re constantly working to meet the next goal, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
As a digital marketer, I live and die by goals. Every single moment of my work week is spent ensuring that some metric is being met. Increase Twitter followers by 25 a week – boom, met. Receive zero client complaints and three client compliments every month – big ol’ check-a-roo. Ensure that there are exactly 24 jellybeans… well, you get the picture.
However, when you’re constantly working to meet the next goal, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. You might be successful in growing your Twitter reach, but does that mean your business is successful?
Think about that for a second. How many people can honestly say that they know what success is for their business? Can you?
And don’t give me that cop out, “We will be successful when we meet our goals.” That’s a cheap answer and you know it.
A true definition of success should boil down to a single statement, something that starts with, “Success is…” and ends with a few words that then define that success. Ask yourself, “If I was at a party and someone asked me if my campaign/business/love life was successful, what one thing would have to happen for me to give an immediate yes?”
Some example success definitions for me:
Campaigns: This social media marketing campaign will be successful if both the client and I are happy with the campaign results.
Startup: Our startup will be successful if we are on target to have an exit event worth at least $1,000,000 for each senior officer involved.
Revenue: We will have a successful revenue stream if we can continue to give raises to all employees and afford to bring on at least 3 new staff members each quarter.
Unlike goals, which should never be ambiguous, having an ambiguous definition of success is fine. After all, everyone’s definition of success is going to be slightly different (Although if you’re working under a supervisor, make sure you’re working off of their definition of success).
Set Goals To Meet That Definition
Can you be successful without meeting your goals? Absolutely.
Once you know what you’re aiming for, setting goals becomes way easier. If my definition of success for an upcoming campaign is to ensure the client is thrilled with our results, I know my next step is to identify what the client’s expectations are and to quantify those expectations into a goal.
Goal: Drive 10,000 new customers over the course of 12 months.
Keep in mind a goal should never be ambiguous. You show me a goal that’s ambiguous and I’ll show you a person that’s too afraid of failing to do their job right.
Once this initial goal is identified, (I refer to it as a master goal) I can then ask myself what needs to happen in order to meet this goal. From there an action plan develops, more goals are identified and a campaign begins to take shape.
If I hadn’t identified success first, and just started creating goals, I would have no idea on whether or not those goals were doing me any good. If you’re going to make a sandwich, turn on the light in the kitchen first. Don’t go around trying to find the bread in the dark. It’s great to grow your Twitter following, but if that has no bearing on your success at the end of the day, then it shouldn’t be a high priority.
By focusing on goals and objectives that drive the success of your business, you can better ensure that your energies and resources are spent working on the things that truly matter.
Can you be successful without meeting your goals? Absolutely. That’s the whole point. Goals give us something to measure against. A feeling of success however can come from any part of the project. Perhaps your campaign was an utter flop. Does this mean you were unsuccessful? Not necessarily. Maybe the client’s thrilled with the results you did get. Maybe they’re excited with the learnings, or maybe they understand that they themselves had unrealistic expectations.
Conversely, can you meet your goals and still be unsuccessful in business? You bet your ass you can, especially if you’re setting superfluous goals without clear direction. Striving to meet the wrong goals can pull your attention away from the areas of your business that truly matter.
Success is something that must be constantly strived for. If you ever feel yourself bogged down by senseless goals, take a second to think about the success you are trying to attain and realign yourself.
Remember, success is a state of being, not a destination.