Is there an Easy Solution?
The biggest challenge for most businesses is getting from “this is a nifty silver bullet” to “this service is an integral part of our business” I bet you’ve been there, either as the buyer or as the seller. You really really want to believe that whatever you’re selling or they’re buying is going to solve your problem without any work being involved. Occasionally (when accompanied by some masterful Sales Fu) this appears to happen, and most of the time there is extra work to be done to take the Lone Ranger’s Silver Technology Bullet and turn it into the Swiss Army Knife your business actually needed.
Finding Metrics that Matter
What should happen then? In a great essay on metrics that matter, Suhail Doshi points out that “Companies need to start using a new set of metrics that don’t simply make them feel good.” This is a perfect way to frame the question of the technology silver bullet, and to point out that you already know all of the attributes of the service that you need to succeed. The friction you feel when you try a new product and it doesn’t match up to the marketing (or your expectations, or to your initial impression) originates from the fact that you haven’t yet defined the solution that you want. Once you define that solution, you can match what’s available against what you need (and want) and make a more informed decision about whether you’ve found the silver bullet, or just another shiny object.
A great way to start finding the One Key Metric – the thing that really matters and “moves the needle” for your business – in Doshi’s parlance is to define success at the beginning of a project. Imagine what it would look like to look back at a successful project and be able to deliver for your business the results you were seeking from that shiny object so that it does become a valued part of your business. This process works much better if it’s concrete and starts with the real world results you want (e.g. go from an average of N views per post to Y views per post over a period of 4 weeks). Don’t be fooled into creating analysis paralysis: just pick some goals you can do today and some actions you can take to get started right now.
An example: increasing traffic to a marketing blog
It’s attractive to think that a simple goal – like increasing traffic to a blog – can be accomplished with a simple solution. There are simple solutions (write more, and produce great content), expensive solutions (use Mechanical Turk and pay people to visit), automated solutions (spend money on paid placement advertisements or send out an email blast) and many of these actions won’t be successful over the long term because they don’t define a hypothesis (what should we do) followed by a test (let’s do something) and a next action (how do we evaluate what we did and do we do anything to follow up that idea.)
What’s Next (Your Turn)
In this example, the end goal of “increasing traffic as an integral part of the business” needs to be supported by clear actions (make a pledge to write 3 posts a week for 6 weeks, and experiment with low cost ideas to publicize that idea) and next actions as the outcome. The best SEO or Email Marketing Packages in the world won’t bring you more traffic – they will simply give you increasingly more powerful tools that you can choose to learn as you transform your initial idea into reality. Just remember, silver bullets only work in the movies.