How to Find and Use Key Success Factors in Marketing

Key Success Factors
••• Getty Images /Thomas Bar

Whether you're operating an established small business or just starting out, an effective, ongoing marketing strategy is vital. But marketing without a plan will not only waste time and money; it may alienate your customers and stall the growth of your business.

To match your marketing strategies to the needs and expectations of your customers and ensure that your business continues to grow, start by identifying your key success factors.

What Are Key Success Factors?

Key success factors (or KSF) are business strategies that are critical to a successful relationship with your customers.

Key success factors are decided by the needs and preferences of your market and customers, not by your business. However, consumers aren't going to tell you what those KSF are. Discovering your key success factors requires researching your target customers to understand who they are, what they want from your company, and what prompts them to make a purchase.

A business generally has three to five key success factors that it needs to focus on to achieve its goals. Key success factors also may relate to areas of weakness that you must overcome to create a stronger relationship with your customers.

Once you understand and begin using your key success factors, they become part of your brand and business style.

Marketing By Using Key Success Factors

Your key success factors influence your marketing choices. When implemented correctly they result in robust sales, a strong brand, and a loyal relationship with your customers.

Once you have used research and observation to determine your KSF, you can use them to tailor the message you send through your marketing.

Example. A major food corporation uses market research to discover that their target customers are health-conscious mothers between the ages of 25 and 45. One key success factor for reaching those customers is convenient locations.

To make this KSF part of its business and marketing strategy, the food corporation positions its grocery stores near gyms, daycare centers, shopping centers, and other areas that its target customers already frequent. The corporation then creates advertising that highlights the convenience of shopping at its stores for healthy mothers with busy schedules.

Key success factors can also be applied to individual product launches or events.

Example. A nail salon is advertising its grand opening, and one key success factor of the opening is having as many people visit the salon as possible that day. To increase customer turnout, the salon offers a 20 percent discount to the first 50 people who arrive and promotes this discount in all its marketing.

The Importance of Data Tracking for Key Success Factors

Just as market research is the best way to learn what your customers want, data tracking is the best way to analyze how well you have identified your key success factors.

Tracking how customers respond to your marketing initiatives will show you whether you are creating strong relationships with your customers. If your marketing results in strong sales, you've correctly identified and used your key success factors. If not, you may need to return to the research and planning stage.

You may also discover that as your business grows and your customer base changes, your key success factors change as well. Data tracking will help you identify trends over time so that you can adjust your marketing and sales plans accordingly.

Finding Your Key Success Factors

Each business has different key success factors depending on its industry, location, competitors, and target customers.

Example. Car buyers expect large yearly sales, so a key success factor for a successful car dealership is the traditional 4th of July sale. This key success factor wouldn't be appropriate for service-oriented businesses or those selling products with no margin for discount. 

To properly identify and use your key success factors, pay attention to customer retention, the results of trade show presentations and events, how customers respond to your advertising and promotions, social sentiment regarding your brand, and media coverage. Then, make sure that all those things actually translate into sales.

If your social sentiment is positive, your media coverage is growing, and your customers are coming back for more, then you know your strategies are working.