Implementing change series: It’s all or nothin’, baby

“If you want to make a significant change, it’s all or nothing, baby,” was my final thought during a presentation about increasing OER use at a college or university at this years CAMEX college bookstore conference.

a boy jump into a lake
“all in” by popofatticus, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“If you want to make a significant change, it’s all or nothing, baby,” was my final thought during a presentation about increasing OER use at a college or university at this years CAMEX college bookstore conference.

Instinctively, we all know this, but we favor the route of least resistance. And, in our time and resource-pressed world, with so many competing interests, it’s difficult to dedicate what we need to make something work. With that said, we have to go all-in if we truly want to make a big impact.

For example, if you want to lose a good amount of weight, you may go to your doctor and ask your doctor how to lose weight. The doctor tells you:

The people who really lose a lot of weight and keep it off do ALL of these things:

  • Eat breakfast
  • Eat primarily fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 6 days per week
  • Reduce their calorie intake by 500 calories per day
  • Incorporate weight lifting into their exercise routine 3 times per week

And yet, so many people will walk away and pick only one. They may say to themselves “Ok, I’ll start eating breakfast each day” and ignore the rest. And then they wonder why they aren’t successful! The doctor said “do all of these” and the patient heard “do one of the following” and did just that.

Similarly, you see this in advertising and marketing work often with small businesses. Their agency will say, “your goal is x and this is your program that will get you there.” The client business will then pick-out one thing on that list, do only that, and wonder why they didn’t meet their goal. The client gets mad and fires the advertising agency because their plan didn’t work. Except, the client didn’t follow the plan.

In my work consulting colleges and universities on how to dramatically increase Open Educational Resources (OER) use on their campus, I’ve found there is a specific formula to success:

  • Do a minimum of 8 direct tactics throughout the academic year
  • Have day-to-day involvement from each of the key departments for success (faculty, library, instructional design, disability services, bookstore, etc.)
  • Have one active, vocal senior administrator sponsor that will champion the initiative through communications
  • Plan your year of activities out in advance to keep a continual high intensity level of activities and communications going throughout the academic year
  • Track successes and progress by outcomes for each action: Number of faculty interested, number of faculty adopting OER, number of students impacted, student success metrics.
  • Modify your plan to favor the strategies that you are having the most success from (based on the number of faculty interested, number of adoptions, and number of students for each action)

Schools will contact us regularly saying,  “Our initiative is great, but this OER thing just isn’t working for us.” When I dig deeper, something is missing from above formula, they’ve tried to skip a step or a few steps. I’d love to tell them that less effort could get them the results they want. If it could, I’d recommend less, but the truth is, if they want significant change, they have to do all of the above.

Are there times it makes sense not to go all-in? Absolutely. You may not have all of the resources to go all-in, or your political climate may not be right yet. And that’s ok; it’s not unusual, when working with schools, that I recommend a slower approach until they are ready for the big leap. At that point, however, you need to adjust your results expectations to match your effort. And, if you want to get to the high results, work toward getting in a position where you can go all in.

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 and initiatives is we measure actions, not outcomes. In order to be successful, we need to clearly define our goals and then clearly define what success is, based on outcomes.

Examples:

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

Success:

  • 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

Success:

  • Car sales

If your goal is to become thinner

Not success*:

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.”

Why fitness trackers and ad metrics rarely work

A wrist with a Samsung Gear Fit on it
Measure your end goal.

“Samsung Gear Fit unboxing” by Vernon Chan is licensed under CC BY 4.0

 

Many people are quick to defend fitness trackers such as FitBit. “It makes me walk more!”, many forum posts conclude. But if you probe these people deeper and ask what their goal is, they will say “To lose weight.” “Are you losing weight?” I inquire. “Well, no.”

 

The problem with this calculation is simple; more steps do not equal lost weight.

 

The actual formula is:

 

More activity + less caloric intake = losing weight

 

So fitness trackers are a part of the picture and can help with more activity, but it’s not the only factor needed to reach a weight loss goal.

 

Similarly, if your goal is sales, judging your marketing campaign by one metric isn’t going to help.

 

  • Awareness doesn’t direct correlate to sales
  • Clicks don’t equal sales

 

The actual formula varies depending on goal and industry, but typically it looks something like this:

 

Quality product/service that people need/desire + effective promotion + correct price point + available when/where the sale could happen = sales

 

Before you decide what you are going to measure, decide your goal and measure backwards from that.

 

Further reading: