measuringsuccess header How to Measure Your Success

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Remember when the iPod first hit store shelves? If you were to take the NYC subway, about 25 percent of the passengers would have chalk-white ear-buds–listening to their iPods. Once you exited the subway, you’d see the white ear-buds on hundreds posters lining the streets. It was everywhere. Apple was the only MP3 player that was identifiable amongst the many other MP3 brands. Apple differentiated itself by simply changing the color of its ear-buds to white and it quickly became a fashion statement.

Apple’s iPod was not only successful, it was a home-run, out-of-the-park blockbuster. Not only did Apple measure their success on their balance sheets, they could see the hundreds of references to their product on YouTube and TV. Parodies were all over the place. Their message was powerful, concise and memorable. The iPod had elevated the Apple brand to a new level, both from a branding and financial standpoint.

Not all product launches are immediate sensations like Apple’s iPod. Often times, it’s difficult to see the long-term potential in your product if sales are not meeting your short-term goals. Though you’re not making an impact today, what about in the future? Kleiner Perkins is facing this issue right now. They have heavily invested in clean tech. Though the return on investment isn’t materializing today, if the country continues to find alternatives to fossil fuels, Kleiner Perkins could find itself sitting on a goldmine.

To meet goals you must have a unit of measurement. Are you trying to increase the number of customers, the average selling price, market share, customer satisfaction? After you’ve identified your unit of measure you can then start setting realistic, yet aspirational  goals.

Meeting long-term objectives also means being flexible. Are you meeting your short-term goals? What is plan B if you’re underselling? If you find yourself heading down the wrong path, adjusting your strategy can help you get back on the right track. Therefore, it’s essential to make short-term goals. Measuring your performance based on those short-term goals can help you find the optimal path to meet your objective.

As Apple illustrates, financial returns are not the only measurement of success. What impact are you making in the market and culture? Digital impact (think social media and blogging) is highly measurable. Are people talking about your product? A simple Twitter or Google blog search will tell you what your consumers are saying. How can their feedback change your short and long-term strategy? Online media can be a valuable resource for figuring out why or why not your product is a success. Based on consumer feedback, you can fine-tune or completely overhaul your strategy.

Photo by Ann- Kathrin Rehse from Stock.Xchng