The most important lesson I ever learned in business was with my first start up. Man oh man… We failed hard and beautifully.
Back just before the Dot Com Bubble Burst, a few friends and I started up a business. We created a website called ratemysong.com. The name pretty much says it all. You could upload your music to the site, and others could rate it. We thought it was pretty nifty.
The only problem? We never chose a single measure of success, let alone what it was we were really selling.
We were under the impression that we were selling ad space… But didn’t have the initial traffic we needed, and like many businesses at the time, we didn’t make it past the mid 2000’s.
We learned the hard way that unless you have a clear measurable objective, you have no control over your outcomes, and ultimately, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m working on a number of freelance web development projects.
Fortunately, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I have one clear measurable objective. Make monthly recurring revenue with 5% increases month over month. Dolla dolla bill y’all.
This worked fairly well for me, until I realized I wanted a full time ad agency job. I wanted to get out of the development scene and move into more of a strategy role. So that’s where I went. But there was one odd thing that happened when I got there. A complete lack of measurable objectives on nearly every project I worked on. Clients were happy to just have beautiful websites, TV spots, and other owned content. That’s not to say they didn’t want GRPs and MRPs too, but nobody needed to connect the dots from awareness to profit. And at the time, I assumed I was too green behind the ears to be asking about something like profit, so I stuck to my own business.
What a huge mistake that was. And not just for me, but for the whole industry. I watched nearly a decade of marketing programs go live without any real consideration for actual business goals.
Because unless you’ve run your own business, or unless you have a sizeable stake in the business you’re marketing for, why would you worry about anything other than the amounts of awareness you need to create?
This mentality, this lack of “skin in the game”, or lack of experience with business failure, allows us to avoid the worry of whether our ideas will actually drive audiences to buy something, or take some kind of meaningful action.
But if you want to change things, and draw that beautiful relationship from awareness to action, all you need to do is ask that one simple question I should have asked myself so many years ago: What is your number one measurable objective?
Here are some tips in case you’re trying to find yours:
- How does your objective link back to profitability?
- Is it a realistic number?
- Are there real tactics you can use in market to increase this number?
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This post was originally published on Jon Litwack’s personal blog.