Why Your Agency Needs to Define its Success Criteria

I was in a meeting with my team the other day and we were talking about defining success criteria for projects. We are about to launch the Agency Hour as a podcast and I asked the team… 

“How will we know when the podcast is a success?” 

This is what you need to ask with every step you take to grow your business, your projects and even your hiring. 

In my years of coaching agency owners, I've noticed that often people don’t carve out time to work on the business because they’re not sure what they’re supposed to focus on. Having success criteria will help you have a clearer focus for you to achieve your goals. 

So in this post, I want to help you understand: 

  • How to define success criteria
  • Why it’s important to define success criteria
  • When you are working on the business, how to know that you are working on the right thing at the right time
  • How to use success criteria to help you win more clients and run better projects

How to Define Success Criteria

When it comes to projects that you’re working on or things that you’re trying to fix in the business – you need to ask yourself…

How do we know when this is a success?”

You can have success criteria for things like: 

  • Goals around revenue 
  • Elevating your team 
  • Packaging your services into products 
  • Hiring new team members

The way that I think about success criteria is that there's “the thing” that tells us whether or not it's a success. And then there's the way that we measure that success. 

So for example, if you were hiring a care plan developer, you might think that the success criteria is that you’ve hired someone, you’ve onboarded them and they’re starting to manage the care plans for your clients.

Instead, I would encourage you to ask yourself… “So what?” Your care plan developer may be on board, but what happens next? And why does that matter? Think about the next impact or consequence. 

One of the ultimate outcomes might be that in 90 days' time, you are running regular customer satisfaction surveys with your care plan customers and you are consistently ranking 4/5 stars for your service. 

I typically like to have no more than three success criteria for a project, because otherwise, it gets a bit difficult to manage. So another success criteria could be that you would no longer be involved in care plans. 

To make that happen there are a lot of steps to take and you might think those steps are the success criteria. But look at the final outcome of success first and let your team reverse engineer their way back from there. For example, it doesn’t matter what software your new care plan manager is going to use – all that matters is that you’re ranking 4/5 for customer satisfaction and that you’re no longer involved. 

Just let them do their thing, get out of their way and don't worry about the details. Just work towards a common goal.

Why Is Having Success Criteria Important?

There are so many reasons why implementing success criteria in your business is important:  

  • They give you and your team a focus. This means you won’t go off down rabbit holes and waste time on things that aren’t going to help you achieve your goals. 
  • It gives your business direction so you can grow and measure that growth. 
  • If you get really super focused on the actual problem you're trying to solve and when you have success criteria packaged around it, your to-do list gets a lot smaller. 

Measure Your Success

There's usually one number in every part of the business that is the most meaningful number to improve. If you improve that number, it's the big domino that knocks over the little ones. 

For example, if you are a business that is built on recurring revenue and you have a signature system dialled in with silver, gold and platinum packages –  you measure success by the number of clients that you are onboarding into these packages. And your success criteria might be that you onboard six platinum clients a month. 

From there, you can predict how that's going to affect your cash flow and your revenue and your profit for the rest of the year. 

When it comes to your team, your number might be around the outcomes on their job scorecard. (Yes you need to give success criteria to your team too!) You might measure what percentage of the team is hitting their numbers regularly.  

Or it could be that you've got a great team, but you’re finding it hard to keep staff. In that case, it's going to be something around culture. For example, your number might be employee satisfaction by running a simple ESAT survey every 60 days to figure it out. 

From an operations point of view, the obvious number is around net profit. How efficiently is this business running? How can we increase the profit margin? 

So there should be around three numbers in your business that give you a high level of view on whether the ship is on track or whether we need to course-correct. 

Have a Framework 

So how do you know what to focus on in your business next?

You need to have a framework to figure out what to do so you can set your outcomes. 

We have a free resource that you can download that will help you identify your biggest opportunities for improvement.

Download the Agency GPS Scorecard here. 

Use Success Criteria With Your Clients

We teach a meeting method in our Blueprint course called “Go Wide Go Deep” 

This is a method that you use with new clients (or existing clients with new projects) in the initial meeting with them.

The aim is to go deep and find out the core goals of the project and what it is going to achieve. 

A client may come to you and think that they know what they want, but by going deeper, you can uncover the core reasons. It may be totally different to what they initially explained to you and thought they wanted to be done.

The key is to ask more questions and give less advice. 

So if someone tells you that they think they need a new website, the first question to ask is “why do you need a new website?” And  “How will we know when this is a successful project?” The first answer that clients give you is not the core truth. 

Once you uncover the core truth with the client, they will view you as more than a web designer – you are an expert, you understand them fully and you have built trust. You have helped them get clear on their goals and they now know you’re the one to help them get there. 

For example, when we are coaching, an agency owner might come to us and say that they need to hire a care plan developer. But if we just start diving into helping them hire a care plan developer, chances are we are solving the wrong problem. 

So using the “Go Wide, Go Deep” method, we ask a lot of questions, like… 

  • Why do you need a care plan developer? 
  • What's going on in the business? 
  • How are you going to spend your time once you've got a care plan developer? 

And once we dig in, we might find out that they've got 12 clients on care plans which equates to about $1,800 in recurring revenue, but their sales pipeline is dry. 

In that case, they don’t need a care plan developer, they need to fix their sales pipeline and bring in more recurring revenue to be able to afford to hire them. 

So ask a lot of questions, dig deep and figure out what the actual problem is. Then define the success criteria around that. 

Wrap Up 

If you’re having problems identifying what you need to focus on next, jump on a call with one of our team members. We’ll help you get clarity on the bigger picture! 

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Troy Dean

I am the Founder of Agency Mavericks. The reason I get out of bed every day is because I love helping people to grow their web design or digital marketing businesses. I do this through coaching, creating courses, speaking, consulting and heading up our awesome community.

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