As a marketer, we often have a few different ideas of what “success” at work means. Caught in this radical digital age, it’s a common belief that your marketing skills are measured by how much you increase page views, sales, open rates, leads, customers—or other numeric metrics— as proof you deserve your paycheck.

Although these goals certainly matter, they’re not the only way you can win as a marketer. The problem is, they’re often the ONLY way us marketers—and sometimes consequently, our clients or customers— judge our worth.

Here’s the reality: there’s more to your marketing success than achieving these milestones. We’re here to make sure you define success in a way that means something to you, your company and those you serve. No special secrets, no steps, just a shift in perspective.

Recognizing the Difference Between Success & Achievement

Although often used synonymously, these two terms are not the same.

An achievement is something that you reach, and once you reach it, you’ve met a tangible goal. Even if a goal is SMART, it’s still a time-bound objective that has a clear end. Oftentimes in business, this means a quick celebration (or, sometimes, grievance) and an equally quick “onto the next goal” mentality.

Success, by contrast, is a state of being. It’s a feeling.

Unfortunately, we fall victim to labeling someone as successful or not based on the money they make, their perceived status, their Instagram photos in Malibu. #success #fabulous #winning

Really, success is less tangible and more elusive than an achievement— it’s a subjective opinion, meaning different things to different people.

Getting “X” amount of organic traffic this week: that’s an achievement. You may see a steady increase in organic traffic as a major win, but if your client or marketing team doesn’t see the long-term value and, instead, wants more leads, you might be failing in their eyes.

So what makes a marketer “successful” at their job? Let’s look past the cliche marketing metrics and explore three other ways you can foster a feeling of success at work.

1. Success Could Mean….Maintaining a Positive Relationship with Clients/Customers

It’s easy to think you’re only slaying at your job if you rock a crazy ROI. But, contrary to popular belief, ROI isn’t just about money.

As award-winning speaker and bestselling author Joey Coleman asked in our Wayfinding podcast, “What’s the ROI of buying your wife flowers?” We give our loved ones gifts to make them smile, to delight them, to improve the way they feel about our relationship. This isn’t something that can be calculated or assigned a metric, yet the rewards are instantaneous and, oftentimes, long-lasting.

Not only will surprising your wife with flowers likely mean a big hug, kiss and enthusiastic “thank you!,” but the effects of this feeling could last for days, even months, ultimately being the driving factor behind that steaming steak sitting on your dinner plate or the way she talks you up to her parents.

That’s because people tend to remember the way you made them feel long after any action you take. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

A client or customer needs to feel like you care, that you are helping them grow their business or reach their goals, and this goes beyond producing data charts and making them money.

Fostering This Idea in Your Workplace

There are numerous ways you could show your team, customers or clients that the relationship matters to you.

  • Give ‘em a call. // At Impulse Creative, our inbound marketers pick up the phone every week and call each client personally. It’s not a flat, scheduled email reporting progress, it’s not an “I goofed something up and need help” emergency. It’s more like “Hey, friend. You’re on my mind.” Add a check-in call to your weekly calendar, better yet, an in-person meet-up or video chat, to stay connected and invest in your partnership or evangelists.
  • Rate their emotional “feel” after each interaction. // Inside each project in our time tracking system, Asana, every employee creates a “Status Update” after a client interaction. They choose a color— green, yellow or red— to rate the client’s attitude and add notes about what was discussed, the clients concerns, etc. Next time a marketer talks with them, they understand the dynamic and can be mindful of nurturing the relationship. Create a system to be retroactive, instead of reactive, and stay unified as a team in respecting your client or customer’s feelings.

2. Success Could Mean….The Gift of Done

As marketers, we want to please our customers, but sometimes a quest for perfection can hold us back from making progress or moving forward.

Although you might feel like you’re winning by making it the “best,” a late delivery is still a broken promise. Additionally, your client may view the extra effort as a waste of their time and money, or worse, think of you as undependable. Plus, the looming project may feel like brick in your stomach.

A successful project could just be a completed project that’s improved upon later.

It’s great to be thorough, but when projects drag on way past expected deadlines, you’re forced to hustle to ship that deliverable. Don’t be paralyzed by perfection. Get it to a state of “great,” not “perfect,” and grant yourself the gift of done.

Fostering This Idea in Your Workplace

In order to get something done, you have to maintain deadlines and establish what takes priority.

  • Schedule ahead. // At Impulse Creative, we all have a rolling list of our tasks in the platform Asana, which we sort by due date, so there’s no excuse for ignorance of expectations. Outline the time you think you’ll need to complete a project in your calendar with some wiggle room to spare.
  • Choose what to cut. // Be conscious of what matters most and ditch lofty “nice to haves.” Oftentimes, this is something that wasn’t originally promised and an expectation you set for yourself. Will that design idea take an extra hour you simply don’t have? Cut it. When you choose the things to cut in advance, it’ll remove the sting of shame— also, it’ll give you a nice list of upsells for later (*wink wink*).
  • Remember to implement Growth-Driven Design. // Sometimes you need to see a project for what it is, ship it and dress it up later. That’s called Growth-Driven Design— or rather, to launch something better than it was originally, with the intention of making gradual, consistent improvements. This way, you keep the process moving instead of halting launch until everything is just perfect. Review your resources, time and goals. Save the more elaborate add-ons and ultimate vision for later, after you have data support the benefit.
  • Create consequences or rewards. // Employees who’ve been with Impulse Creative for over a year are eligible for profit share. More clients and larger retainers mean bigger kickbacks for our team at the end of each profitable quarter. This is a positive incentive, and we’ve found reward to be more effective than fear-tactics, but outlining clear consequences of an incomplete project or unhappy client could be the extra encouragement needed to finish strong. Consider all the ways you could press your team to dig deeper.

3. Success Could Mean….Finding & Supporting Your “Why”

We all dream of the job where we wake up excited to work, because we’re doing the thing we love, or something that means something deeper.

Author Jon Acuff said it best: “It’s not the work we do that inspires us…it’s the cause we come to work for.” For some companies with a clear sense of their mission and vision, simply advocating their cause is a daily victory, instilling in them a strong sense of purpose.

But many companies are unclear on their greater purpose, and without their big “Why,” they become so consumed by profits and gradually lose their customers— oftentimes closing their doors after a few short years of business.

Fostering This Idea in Your Workplace

Getting clear about how you help people and telling your story to your customers, or for your clients, could be the key to your marketing success.

  • Discover your why. // What drives the purpose of your business? If it’s money, an elusive idea of success connected to metrics or something for your personal benefit instead of someone else’s, you need help finding your why. At Impulse, we aim to help navigate others onto a path to improve their businesses. Need help conceptualizing your purpose? Check out this article.
  • Build our core values. // Your company’s core values are the guiding lights of your business operations, and should support your mission and vision. If your company doesn’t have any, create a few for yourself. The link in the bullet above can help you with that. Here’s our values for reference too, all clearly spelled out and actionable.

The Key to Success

Look past the insecurities that get in your way and the achievements that may or may not drive ROI. Ask yourself what’s valuable to you and those you influence. Remember, this value is a feeling, not a calculation, and the perception of success varies from person to person.

Branch out beyond traditional marketing metrics and define success in a way that matters to you and your customers, getting real about what’s important and ensuring both parties are winning or losing together, not separately. That’s the secret to becoming a “successful” marketer.

Need some help discovering your “why?” Download The Brand Plan. This step-by-step workbook can help you conceptualize your why and find daily success in supporting a greater cause.