What is the one thing your company cannot do without? Is it your knowledgeable webcare department? Your online lead follow-up? Perhaps it’s your location? Or is it your responsive mobile website? Whatever it is, those elements or activities that are essential to your current business operations and vital for your future success are your Critical Success Factors. Given their importance both today and tomorrow, it’s obvious that your Critical Success Factors should be given both attention and investment.
This article gives a brief how-to style introduction to Critical Success Factors and then looks at what they mean for your online marketing.
How your Critical Success Factors helps you achieve your mission
By definition, a Critical Success Factor is an area or activity that is essential if you are to achieve your company’s mission.
- For example, for a restaurant to achieve its mission of being the best rated restaurant in the region, we could define 2 Critical Success Factors: serve good quality food and provide an above average service.
- For example, for a B2B service provider to achieve its mission of providing fast, high-quality lead follow-up, we could define 2 Critical Success Factors: speed of response and a call centre staffed with knowledgeable experts.
Focusing on CSF creates focus on your mission. This focus allows you to pay attention to what’s important and relevant to your business.
- At the same time, defining a CSF reduces distractions, less time and energy wasted on aspects that are less relevant to your company’s success.
Warning: Critical Success Factors can only help you achieve your mission if everyone in your organisation shares the focus on the CSF. It is essential that a Critical Success Factor is communicated to and supported by everyone in your organisation so that everyone knows what’s important and what’s not. This is not a management term that remains in the boardroom
How to identify your Critical Success Factors
Think about what you could do without. Would you be equally successful if you offered different products or services? Could you achieve your mission if you relocated to a more cost-effective location or outsourced some of your activities? Would your customers still buy your product if you outsourced some of your production or purchased lower costs parts? Will your customers still buy your products if your website is not responsive?
Areas, product features and activities that are vital to your company’s success are your Critical Success Factors. They need focus and attention from you and everyone in your company. So it is important that you identify the correct CSFs.
- Start with your mission.
- Identify the strategic objectives that you have defined to achieve this mission.
- Next, take each objective and define which area or activity in your company needs attention for you to meet that objective.
- You have now defined your Critical Success Factors.
How many Critical Success Factors to define
There may be multiple areas or activities that are vital to your success and that you have therefore identified as your Critical Success Factors. To avoid fragmentation and retain focus throughout your company, it is recommended to limit the number of areas and activities that you identify as Critical Success Factors to around 5 at most.
How to give your Critical Success Factor the right attention at the right time
Your Critical Success Factors are those areas or activities that must go well if you are to succeed. As such, it is vital that they are given the right attention at the right time.
A few pointers:
- Share CSFs throughout the organisation, communal focus: without a focus on your CSFs, others in your organisation will not be able to focus on what works best.
- Keep CSFs in the back of your mind when making decisions: whether you are selecting a supplier, setting up a new logistics workflow or defining your pricing for this season, every decision you make impacts your Critical Success Factors. Be sure to retain the focus on your CSFs when you make these and other business decisions.
How to distinguish between a CSF and a KPI
So you know you need both CSF and KPI to achieve your mission – but which is which? A Critical Success Factor is something you or your product has, can or does that makes you successful. A KPI is a way to measure that success.
Let’s look at an example: you have a B2B webshop selling office supplies directly to customers and same-day delivery is your Critical Success Factor. No-one else in your market offers same day delivery and your customers love it. Obviously, you need to make sure that live up to those customer expectations. A KPI that will allow you to monitor how well you are doing this could be time from your premises to the final distributor’s premises for each geographic region. You can use that KPI to optimise the speed of your delivery in each individual region.
In the example of the B2B service provider above, one KPI to measure the CSF “speed of response” could be the time between lead registration and the first call. A KPI for “knowledgeable experts” could be lead satisfaction measured using reviews.
How to distinguish between a CSF and a USP
A Unique Selling Point or USP is a feature, ability or characteristic of your product or service that distinguishes you from the competition. A Critical Success Factor is the way your company creates products and services with their USPs.
For example, one of your USPs could be the complete range of products in your webshop, and the corresponding Critical Success Factor could be your purchasing department.
Critical Success Factors and your online marketing
Your Critical Success Factor may already be one of the elements in your online marketing mix. If your business relies on online retail, for example, then you may have identified your webshop as a Critical Success Factor.
In other cases, your CSF may not be an element in your online marketing strategy. Even so, your online marketing should always enhance your Critical Success Factor. As we saw above, your Critical Success Factors should be taken into consideration in every business decision you make. Take the example of online lead generation:
- If online lead volume is vital to your success, the lead conversion process you implement on your website must be simple and transparent with a clear call-to-action.
- If knowledgeable lead follow-up is vital to your success, you must hire call centre staff who understand your product and who have the right skills to convey this information to leads.
- If highly qualified leads are vital to your success, you must ensure that your online marketing efforts use refined targeting methods to reach the right audience.
Maxlead has created an convenient checklist with crucial aspects of online B2B marketing to help you develop international campaigns. Download our Checklist International Online B2B Marketing.
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