Measure marketing/initiative success based on outcomes, not actions

S - specific, significant, stretching M - measurable, meaningful, motivational A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented T - time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
“SMART Goals” by Aaron Davis, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the biggest mistakes we often make with marketing campaigns andĀ initiatives is we measure actions, not outcomes. In order to be successful, we need to clearly define ourĀ goals and then clearly define what success is, based on outcomes.


If your goal is to impact a large number of your students by utilizing Open Educational Resources vs. expensive textbooks

Not success*:

  • Number of meetings held
  • Number of people who attended a workshop
  • Having an event or display


  • Number of students no longer paying for a textbook that were before
  • Percent of student body no longer paying for a textbook

If your goal is to sell cars

Not success*:

  • Number of phone calls into the dealership
  • Web traffic
  • Test drives
  • Advertising budget amount spent
  • Click rates


  • Car sales

If your goal is to become thinner

Not success*:


  • Inches lost
  • Reduction in clothing size (although brand sizes vary heavily)

* The items listed under “not success” are useful, they will help you accomplish your goals, but when you are asked “What did you accomplish?” or “Was your initiative successful?,” you shouldn’t respond with these as your answers. For example, if someone asks “Did you reach your goal of becoming thinner?” it doesn’t make sense, or answer the question, to respond with “Well, I went to the gym three times this week.”

A message from an overworked employee: Tell kids to stay in school

A young woman studying with a laptop to her right.
From Flickr:English 106

This week, I went to pick-up my car from an auto body repair shop after a minor accident. I remarked to the woman, who was my representative throughout the entire process, that she always seemed to be there and inquired what her hours were. She said she worked 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and worked-through lunch by eating at her desk. “Wow,” I commented, “Just four days a week, right?” “No,” she explained, “I work Monday through Friday those hours, then 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and then, depending on how busy I am, I come in some Sundays.”

After this, she paused, then said, “You work at the college, right?” I told her yes. She said, “Please do me a favor and tell those kids to stay in school; it’ll be worth it. It’s tough to get a job without an education. I’m one of the lucky ones in that I make good money, but I work a lot. It’s a tough job too. I deal with angry customers and get yelled at a lot. I actually have a song I made up and sing to my grand kids. In it, I tell them to study hard, graduate high school, graduate college, then get married and have kids. They are too smart to not go to school. I want them to have a good life.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Take her advice and stay in school. If you need further evidence it’ll pay off, check out this article, Education Pays, by Huffington Post.