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7 Great Ways to Measure Success When You Aren’t Profitable Yet

Can you succeed without being profitable? The sole purpose of going into business is to make money—to achieve outputs that exceed your inputs.

However, most businesses take some time to become profitable. In fact, it takes a long time for businesses to even make any serious revenue or sales.

To that end, it can be difficult to stay motivated if you aren’t achieving the primary goal of going into business. Because of this, it is important to understand some other great success measures that will keep you motivated and optimistic while you work to become profitable.

Answering affirmative to any of the below questions will signify that you indeed have been succeeding all along without even attaining profitability. Read on, and you will certainly find that there is still plenty of hope if you haven’t had that huge payday yet.

Is your marketing successful?

This is probably one of the most obvious ways to measure success even if you aren’t generating profit. But nonetheless, you deserve a pat on the back if you have gotten this far. It can take awhile to determine the right marketing mix, or one that at least generates some sales/revenue.

If you are getting hits on your website (as a result of Search Engine Optimization or Pay-Per-Click Ads) or getting people to proceed to checkout on your site or landing pages (even if they don’t actually buy) means that your ad copy is doing its job, it may just need some minor tweaking.

Generating leads from your advertisements or referrals are also great milestones and it means that at least some of your marketing efforts are working. Name recognition is even better. The best of course is making sales. None of these mean that you are profitable yet, but they do suggest you are getting closer to positive net income and that your marketing mix is beginning to work. You should be proud of yourself for this and applaud your business for making it this far.

Have you finished any important tasks?

Marketing is your first and foremost priority, but it takes some steps to prepare for investing in any kind of advertising. Depending on your budgets, you may need to hire key people or outsource various tasks to other firms, including certain marketing tasks. Accomplishing any of these things are certainly a step in the right direction and are all something to be optimistic about.

Completing your market research is definitely something that merits excitement, since you are learning more about your product. Coupling this with completing your competitive analysis is even better since now you know even more about your product, you competition and your industry. You will know what advertising works, what customers want and what is and isn’t profitable.

Understanding all of these things will aid you in completing your marketing plan. This too is an important task that, upon completion, should also create some optimism. Putting together a marketing plan means that you have a list of potentially successful marketing ideas that can start to bring in revenue.

All of these tasks are a step towards profitability and should get you excited about working for yourself, even if you aren’t profitable yet.

What have you learned from your market research?

Learning specific information from your market research can show you the potential your business and industry have. This can also reveal to you best practices for advertising your product.

Conducting market research will help you determine if your product is a profitable one. If it is, your success (or lack thereof) is dependent on your marketing, NOT the product itself. Your success is only a matter of trial, error and persistence.

If you have made any marketing mistakes in the past, the knowledge you obtained through market research will help you understand what you did wrong and what you can do to fix it. Correcting any mistakes is absolutely a step in the right direction towards profitability. So learning something new is definitely something to be excited about.

You will also get a better sense as to whether or not your target customers are profitable and if they are a high paying demographic. If they are, this is more good news for you. This means you can utilize premium-pricing strategies to enjoy greater profit margins.

If the results of this market research are not so bright, this is good to know as well. It is better to know this now than finding out after you have spent a ton of time and money on something that is unprofitable.

Did you learn anything new from your marketing campaigns?

Making mistakes are opportunities to learn. Therefore, if you have made any mistakes in your past marketing campaigns, chances are, you are learning something from them. As long as you use these opportunities to correct yourself, you will only be getting closer and closer to profitability.

In fact, as long as you continue to correct yourself, the more failures you have, the closer to success you are actually getting. You are narrowing down the list of ideas that actually work, which means you have a greater chance of success with the next idea. In this light, having some failures can actually be a good thing.

Have you completed any other milestones that you have set?

Have you set any goals other than profitability that you have met? Have you completed them on time? If so, this should encourage you as well. No matter what these milestones were, they demonstrate your ability to complete goals timely and effectively. Just make sure that these goals in some way contribute to eventual profitability.

Are there any new marketing ideas that you are excited about?

Learning something new about your customers through either prior marketing attempts or market research may have revealed a new opportunity for you and might have even given you an ingenious idea.

This is an example of another potential success. What are you doing to make it happen? Have you found any proof that this idea appears to be a profitable one? If so, then any steps you make to bringing this idea to life are indeed mini successes. You should let this progress encourage you and get you excited that profitability is coming soon.

Have you had any other breakthroughs?

Is there anything else that you have learned through conducting business? Maybe something new that isn’t market related? Perhaps you have learned better ways to stay organized, to hire people, to motivate people or even at becoming more efficient and productive. All of these breakthroughs are positive steps towards strengthening your business and can all help to bring your business closer to profitability.

Being an entrepreneur and business owner presents a very unique opportunity to grow and self discover. You can uncover hidden motivations within you as well as find a creative side that you never knew you had. You can learn a great deal about doing business, more than you ever would in any other job. Any breakthrough or learning experience you have while running your own business is certainly a success and one that you will likely achieve nowhere else.

At its worst, maybe you’ll discover that this business isn’t right for you. Maybe something different in a new industry is. There is even a possibility that you’ll find that entrepreneurship isn’t right for you. This too, is a success because the sooner you learn that something isn’t for you, the sooner you can pursue the tasks that you truly love.

Are there any other alternative measures of success you use before your business becomes profitable? Does completing these help you to stay motivated?

5 comments… add one
  • ology November 26, 2008, 12:13 am

    The cliche’ definition for a business is that of making profit but where does morality come into play. Do you think that a business as an ethical duty to serve society?

  • Matt Thomas November 26, 2008, 1:04 am

    Interesting questions. To address your first question: where does morality come into play, I believe that we, as business owners have a duty to provide a valuable product or service to our customers. We are able to charge a premium for what we offer because of the quality we deliver to the consumer. It may be time we are saving them, or maybe a useful product. Asking for a profit is only amoral when a business is deceptive in what they are offering. Ultimately, business need to offer something of value and they need to be honest about it.

    The only ethical DUTY businesses have is to ensure a they are offering quality products or services which are competitive in the marketplace and being honest about what it is they offer. However, while this is what is OBLIGATED out of businesses, all companies should strive to take business ethics one step further and be as socially responsible as possible: environmentally friendly, no animal testing, etc… Businesses will find that they perform better and are safer investments when they act in a more ethical manner. It of course, also benefits the consumer as well.

  • ology November 26, 2008, 10:30 am

    So in a said scenario-

    Wal-Mart employees over 1 million Americans. Most of these work full-time or part-time in their stores and their website claims the average wage is $10 and hour. That is including high salaried management and what not so one realizes the actual pay is much less.

    Would it be ethical for them to take a small percentage of their profits and offer these employees health-care benefits? This would improve the lives of these coworkers and probably make them more productive. I am sure this good public relations would improve stock value as well.

    You see Mr. Thomas, morally steps beyond reaches of products and services. Business and Morality are intertwined at its core and management has a duty to society to not just be moral in their practice. It stretches far beyond Friedman’s definition of a business should “maximize stock holder value” or Freeman’s view that “recognizes different parties of a business and that they should do the ‘right’ thing for each vested party”. My friend, a reason why we are in this economic down time is because of people who think the only thing ethical they have to “…ensure a they are offering quality products or services which are competitive in the marketplace.” I recognize the second half your ethical ‘call’ however if someone is only looking to do offer a quality product and disregards all other moral factors then they are not eying honesty too close.

  • Matt Thomas November 26, 2008, 11:23 am

    Thank you for your comment.

    Let me start out by saying that Walmart is just about the least socially responsible business I can think of and I have chosen not to do business with them because of how horrible they treat their employees. However, I see what you are pointing out, so I will amend my statement even further: that business DO have an ethical duty to ensure that their employees are fairly compensated and under no circumstances should the be taken advantage of. They absolutely should be given health care benefits, and not cheated out of overtime, like the company tries so tirelessly to do.

    About the economy: the reason we are in an economic downturn is in fact, because these businesses did NOT offer quality products and services. Investors were downright lied to about the credit quality of Mortgage Backed Securities and other like investments that they invested in. Also, investment companies did not do their due diligence when structuring their own portfolios and took on a ridiculous amount of debt. This was all negligence on the part of these businesses and failure to provide transparency to their products. Remember, the second part of the “duty” I mentioned was that businesses have to remain honest and transparent.

    I would like to note, however, that many businesses who do go the extra step to be even more socially responsible do perform better. Larger businesses may avoid many risky investments and bad publicity and smaller business receives good publicity and customers are more willing to do business with them. Businesses are indeed rewarded for being socially responsible, and while they don’t NEED to, it would be a lot wiser on their part to take that extra step.

  • Roscoe April 26, 2011, 6:47 am

    I’m a bit late to the party, but I think this quote from Douglas Hyde may be relevant:

    “A Communist is expected to be a Communist wherever he is. Catholics are expected to ‘be Catholic’ on Sunday mornings, on Friday, and at some point during Lent. But it would be a very different world if we were expected to take our Christianity into the Stock Market, into the boardroom, into the public house and into the streets.”

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