In my earlier entry, I broached the controversial topic about vanity metrics and being focused on the right metrics for your small business. In light of this post, I want to dive into a larger subject that I feel many small business owners and marketers miss. It’s the difference between outcomes and results.
I know you’re thinking, “Aren’t outcomes the same thing as results?” Hold on for a moment as I unpack this concept. There’s nothing inherently wrong with looking at the results of your marketing campaigns, but if you found yourself having an empty feeling even though the metrics seemed right, this might help you in your quest for creating a successful sales and marketing campaign for your business.
Outcomes are the larger, meaningful developments that indicate success. They are tangible and can be easily aligned to the overall success of your business. They might involve significant investments of time and resources, but not always. Outcomes are specific, growth-oriented developments and not short-term gains to your business.
Results are the smaller, but useful metrics and tactics along your journey to success. They are often less tangible, requiring context to realizing its meaning. Focusing on results tends to rely heavily on the series of tactics to achieve a goal. Results are vague and relate to short-term aspects of a campaign.
Here’s a good example to help illustrate my point – maybe you’ve pondered these, too:
My website had 1800 page views last month. From there, I had 18 opt-ins and 5 sales. I also had a 62% bounce rate and had 40% of my traffic come from Organic Search. I feel like I need more traffic and need to lower my bounce rate.
… Quickly, you’d see that I had a 1% web form submission rate from my website and a 27% close rate from those leads. The Outcome in this example is five customers from last month. They are measurable, meaningful and directly correlate to the success of your business. As far as the other Results, they are useful, but adjusting your website to ‘tweak’ those stats individually would be a fruitless, challenging and ineffective effort. In essence, if you focus on the myriad of results here, you could sacrifice the larger outcome of having paying customers.
If you were to increase the web form conversions, it may increase the volume of customers — or it could have a devastating impact on your customer conversion rates. Looking at results without being aware of outcomes can be a costly mistake.
A fantastic example in distinguishing the differences between Results and Outcomes is from one noteworthy entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Dave McClure. He’s unapologetic for his approach simply because it works. The concepts seen in his ‘AARRR‘ customer measurement metrics across the customer lifecycle easily pass this smoke test. You’ll find his deck explaining AARRR metrics very valuable.
Working towards outcomes is likely to be a long, torturous process. It involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears to nail it. But once you do, you will not only be thrilled with the Outcomes, you will have much deeper insights into your customer acquisition processes.
Applying this concept of Outcomes versus Results can be easy. For instance, instead of rewarding your marketing staff for the volume of leads, reward them for high-quality, high-performing leads and ultimately, customers. Depending on your business, you should be aiming high – attracting only the best customers who don’t cancel and refund your products and apply more incentives for long-term customer value.
As you toss vanity metrics out the window, because those can be misleading to yourself, your team and your investors, consider paring down the number of Results that you track.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, “Okay, now how I find my Outcomes?” Cool, I’m glad you asked.
Outcomes can be seen by examining your entire customer lifecycle. Look at everything from website traffic, to conversions, sales, customer acquisition costs, revenue per customer, customer satisfaction, and churn (product return/cancel) rates. Look for disparate results that lead to less than desirable outcomes. Be on the lookout for what contributes to the bottom-line and what doesn’t. If you have a complex business dashboard of stats and analytics, consider exactly what you would need to look at to run the business successfully. To point you in the right direction, consider that Google Analytics is chock-full of Results; your CRM software is full of Results and Outcomes; your accounting software is full of Outcomes.
The limitation of this concept is when you’re exploring new marketing methods and learning. Every business has to invest resources into trying new ideas. When exploring uncharted territory, it would be a good idea to maintain a certain level of innocence and naivety. It allows for natural (not forced-because-I-need-to-be-right) outcomes. Some sales and marketing activities simply will not work for your business and you need to be able to accept that without shame. Other activities do perform well, but you might not know if you focused primarily on the Results, not the Outcomes.
What do you think? Can you think of any additional metrics that fall under “Results” and “Outcomes” in your business? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Photo Credit: williamcho