Marketing Decoded: Numbers, Spreadsheets and KPIs (Oh My): Defining Success

notebook on paper, defining success

Welcome to our Marketing Decoded series. The series where we decode the marketing industry to help you apply marketing theory to your campaigns. This month’s topic is near and dear to the hearts of spreadsheet lovers everywhere: Measuring Success. Before we measure it, we have to define it. So, what does it mean to be successful? You probably caught the trick question there. The answer is – it depends. Specifically, it depends on you. So in part one of our series, we are focusing on one simple thing: Defining Success. 




 I want to introduce you to 3 of the best planning tools around. I was introduced to these tools by a mentor of mine, and they have been invaluable throughout my career. I try to use these tools almost every time I start working on a project, and I couldn’t recommend them more. 




SMART goals have been around for a while, so you may already be familiar with them outside of a marketing context. When you use SMART goals, you’re defining success in steps, rather than in big leaps. SMART goals remind us to be patient with ourselves as we move towards our ultimate goal. 


So what is a SMART Goal? It’s a mnemonic that reminds us that our goals should be…


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant to your ultimate goals
  • Time-Based


A SMART Goal can take us from a pie-in-the-sky goal like this: 

I want to be a multi-platinum recording artist. 

To this:

I want to increase my average monthly Spotify listeners from 200 to 1000 by the end of 2022.


 Why is this a SMART goal?


  • It defines a specific area that I want to improve on (Number of Spotify Listeners)
  • It’s easily measurable (I can see my average monthly listeners on Spotify for Artists) 
  • It’s attainable (I only need to convince about 3 people a day to listen to me on Spotify)
  • It’s relevant to my ultimate goal of being a multi-platinum recording artist (Increasing the number of people willing to buy & stream my music)
  • It is Time-Based (I have 1 year to complete my goal).  


Alright, we defined What our goal is, but how do we get there? We use… 


PDCA cycles & KPIs


Another acronym is coming your way! PDCA stands for: 


  • Plan
  • Do
  • Check
  • Act


PDCA is a cycle – it’s not over when you get to Act. You have to start to plan again. PDCA is a staple of a concept called Continuous Improvement. Down to the basics, Continuous Improvement means improving little by little (just like with our SMART goals) while checking and rechecking our work. Whenever you take an action to reach your goal, you’re going to use PDCA to do it!


The first step is planning what you’re going to do. If we use the aforementioned example: 


I want to increase my average monthly Spotify listeners from 200 to 1000 by the end of 2022.


We’re going to need a plan to get there, and a specific one! Let’s create a PDCA cycle for my first step: 




I’m going to run a Interactive Ad linking to my Spotify profile so users can follow and listen to any new music I release. I’m going to spend $50 and run a Premium ad in the United States. My ad will run for 1 week. My banner is going to look like this: 

interactive banner ad example

I’m giving a lot of detail – it’s on purpose! You’ll want to write down every part of your plan for the next 3 steps. 



Do is very simple, just execute the plan you’ve already come up with. 


Time out! 


Before we go to Check and Act, we’ve got to define one more concept for you: KPI. KPIs are Key Performance Indicators. KPIs tell us what we are checking in the next step. Very simply put, a KPI tells us if something is working towards our goal, or if it’s not. A KPI can be a certain number of streams, it can be a certain number of followers, click-through rate, sales – whatever is most relevant to your goal for this round of PDCA. 


Because my SMART goal is to get about 3 new listeners a day, my KPI for this ad run will be to get 21 more listeners than I normally would have in a week. For the sake of the example, let’s say I have about 4 listeners a week now. So I’ll want to see 25 listeners by the end of my ad run.  


And the game is back on! 




We’re back to PDCA and now it’s time to check! Did I hit my KPI? If not, why? Examine your original plan – was there anything in there that may have prevented you from hitting your number? 


For my example, my ad says follow now, but I want someone to stream. A follower is great, but a follow doesn’t always equal a full stream of my music. I also selected Premium domains, which are great for branding, but won’t give me as much exposure as a Targeted or Discovery ad might. 




Now that I know what might have gotten in my way, I can Act and try another ad run while adjusting my Plan to include what I learned on my last try. 


Notice we ended back at Plan? As we mentioned before, PDCA is a cycle, so you’ll always start back at the first step. The key is to keep learning, keep improving, and meet your SMART Goals along the way.


Go our and market, friends, and we’ll meet back here next week to talk more about Measuring Success. 



Rebecca is the Director of Operations at Rebecca has worked in various capacities in the music industry, from client services to digital operations. She comes from a remote island in Alaska, but could not see Russia from her house. She loves spreadsheets, metadata, and underground hip hop.

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