Mutually Assured Success

  |  November 29, 2007   |  Comments

A tool that helps build the case for linking individual goals to a company's goals.

My colleague Jason Burby and I have given hundreds of presentations, written dozens of articles, and authored a book promoting the concept of linking individual goals to a company's goals as the strongest strategy for driving overall success. We recommend this at every roll-up level and in alignment with the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you've identified as critical to your business. This drives a "mutually assured success" model between employee and company.

The model's beauty is that it can be put in place for any reasonable metric important to your business. Some metrics, such as conversion rate, are well understood and can be measured in a consistent, repeatable fashion. Other metrics, such as customer satisfaction, are a bit fuzzier and require internal agreement on terms and outcomes before being tied tightly to individual performance goals. In all cases, however, the model of mutually assured success, which is winning industry support, calls for creating additional incentive for employees to succeed, not providing punishment for failure. All employees must understand and buy into this model from the outset. They must feel motivated by the results.

Recently I came across a great post on this topic by Laura Brooks, VP of research at Satmetrix, a company that focuses on customer loyalty. Brooks and Fred Reichheld are responsible for developing the net promoter score (NPS), a powerful and well-regarded metric for categorizing customers and understanding loyalty and satisfaction. We've seen it used by our clients and believe it's an extremely useful tool to have in your marketing toolbox.

The following statement from Brooks's post really resonated with me:

"How do you know if Net Promoter is the right metric for your organization? The telltale sign is this: does it motivate employees to change their behavior?"

There you have it: "Does it motivate employees to change their behavior?" That's the question you should ask of any metric you want to link to employee performance. Many marketing departments have fallen into an easy trilogy of unique visitors, conversion, and abandonment as core metrics. These are all great metrics, but do they motivate employees to change their behavior? Are these metrics too far removed from the living, breathing customers who generate them? Have they lost their resonance and urgency to the typical employee?

NPS has a lot of power because it makes customer loyalty very clear to employees. Unique visitors or conversion can seem a little more abstract, especially when it comes to performance review time. Reward employees based on something they can be proud of and they can brag about. If the connection between employee actions and customer results is too thin or too distant, the value of mutually assured success quickly diminishes.

Keep in mind, marketing combines the best of science -- measurable results and predictable outcomes -- with the best of art, including creative executions and resonant metrics. Marketing teams need to be rewarded and motivated based on both elements. Creating strong links between metrics such as NPS, return on investment, or monetization, and individual rewards helps drive the mutually assured success model forward. Combine this with regular feedback on the softer side of marketing (e.g., campaign creative) to build a world-class organization.


Shane Atchison

In 1998, Shane co-founded ZAAZ to advocate a different approach to Web services — one that respects and delivers on the power of the individual and the promise of Web technologies. As CEO, Shane leads the company's long-term strategic vision of working with leading financial service organizations, consumer brands, startups, non-profits, and community-based organizations, helping each realize the potential of the Internet and its meaningful impact on their business.

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