How to measure business success

The relentlessly helpful® blog by John Espirian

1 January 2019

Do not ignore the positive signals of progress in your business

Capture the good stuff so that you can refer back to it when times get tough, as they undoubtedly will.

This post was inspired by my marketing mentor, Mark Schaefer.

Preamble – why this matters

The human brain is weird: you can instantly forget a positive comment but have your day ruined by a negative one.

When it comes to business, we all have dark periods.

My daughter was 3 months old when I was made redundant in 2009 – and I couldn’t get a job interview much less a job.

I didn’t dwell on that. Instead, I focused on what I could do to help myself. I decided that I was smart enough to start my own writing business – and I’m still at it many years later.

The best entrepreneurs are the people who don’t dwell on the negatives but instead focus on how they can build on the positives. They assess the path they’re on and do whatever they can to keep inching along the road.

Rather than letting negatives hold you back, it’s important to ask yourself a question:

Ask yourself

Is my business moving in the right direction?

There are probably lots of ways and countless books out there on how to be a successful entrepreneur. This post is all about paying attention to the positive signals.

Do this

Recognise and write down all the positive signals of progress in your business.

I’ve been doing this since summer 2016, ever since I was introduced to the idea by my marketing mentor, Mark Schaefer. And it’s been a great help in keeping me on the right track.

It’s all about maintaining your focus on a plan that works and not allowing yourself to be distracted by Shiny Red Ball syndrome (chasing after every new thing that comes along).

When times are tough or I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing, I have a catalogue of positivity to look at – and this inspires me to push on, keep improving and keep growing.

You can find out more about Mark’s process in his 2017 book KNOWN.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker
Business legend

The positive signals spreadsheet

To capture the positive signals of progress in my business, I use a simple Excel spreadsheet split into these tabs:

  • Signals: positive things that happened in my business.
  • Metrics: hard, measurable data.

If you want a free template to track your own positive signals, you can download my sample spreadsheet:

Excel icon
Download the positive signals spreadsheet
This is a direct download – no email address required
Cool people share this sort of stuff

Tab 1: Signals

The Signals tab is used to keep track of the signs of progress in my business. Examples include the following:

  • Opportunities to speak at conferences and other events
  • Invitations to appear on podcasts
  • Video interviews
  • Complimentary emails from people outside my network
  • Gifts and other meaningful thank yous
  • Guest blog spots
  • Special social media mentions

View my guest blog posts and podcast appearances.

Tab 2: Metrics

The Metrics tab is used to keep track of more tangible stats such as social media followers. What you track is up to you, but here’s what works for me.

Tracking Twitter followers

Twitter icon

I share a lot of helpful content on Twitter. After LinkedIn, it’s my most active social network for sharing content and engaging with others.

Twitter’s analytics provide an excellent overview of your account activity. Go to to see your own stats.

John Espirian's Twitter stats January 2019
My Twitter stats – January 2019

Why this stat matters to me

I use Twitter to test ideas for blogs. What resonates with people there often makes good subject matter for blog content.

The bigger my audience is on Twitter, the better that testing ground is.

Tracking LinkedIn followers

LinkedIn icon

I’ve been very active on LinkedIn since 2017, making new connections and gathering followers at a healthy rate.

You can keep an eye on your connections by tapping the My Network icon:

LinkedIn connections are shown in My Network tab
LinkedIn connections are shown in My Network tab

You can see your followers and follower count on – it looks like this:

Sample LinkedIn followers screen
Sample LinkedIn followers screen – see your followers

LinkedIn has a system called the Social Selling Index (SSI) to give its users a score based on 4 categories that attempt to measure how much weight that user carries on the platform.

LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) for October 2019
LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) for October 2019 – see your SSI

Read my free PDF guide to SSI scores

Why this stat matters to me

LinkedIn is a significant source of new clients for my technical copywriting business.

Growing my LinkedIn network increases my exposure to others and improves my chances of scoring new work.

Check out How to get freelance work on LinkedIn for one way I look for new job opportunities on LinkedIn.

Tracking mailing list subscribers

MailChimp icon

Most marketing experts recommend creating and building a mailing list so that you can maintain direct contact with your most loyal followers. I used MailChimp to create my Espresso ☕️ email list in 2016.

Espresso email subscriber stats – January 2019
Espresso ☕️ stats – January 2019

My current subscriber count is 1535.

Why this stat matters to me

People who’ve bothered to sign up to my mailing list are more engaged with my content than any other group. They’re the people I most want to spend time talking with, as there’s a good chance that they’ll be happy to promote my work to others.

If I build up the numbers sufficiently, a few of my subscribers might become customers some way down the line (though I’m not actively trying to sell my writing services through my list).

What about the other networks?

You’ll see that I’m not tracking anything to do with Facebook, Instagram or any other platforms. Why?

Because I don’t use them for marketing.

I have a Facebook business page but don’t ever receive any client interest via Facebook. So tracking likes there isn’t particularly relevant to me.

But that could be completely different for you. What’s important here is that you track the metrics that matter in your business.

My real metrics

Here are some of my own real figures, showing Twitter followers, LinkedIn followers and Espresso ☕️ email subscribers.

Date Twitter LinkedIn Email
2019-10-02 3515 11,712 951
2019-01-07 2829 5132 633
2018-10-10 2632 4176 571
2018-08-09 2501 3654 485
2017-12-28 2073 1766 275
2017-04-28 1366 1081 162

9 Spokes – a free dashboard

9 Spokes is a free dashboard tool that gives you an at-a-glance view of this sort of data. Here’s what my 9 Spokes dashboard looks like:

9 Spokes dashboard
9 Spokes dashboard from July 2017

Another way to track positive mentions

Keynote speaker Brian Fanzo uses an approach he calls screenshot awesomeness.

Brian and his team capture images of all the positive interactions he has with his followers and clients. This helps him build a huge bank of evidence of the power of social media.

Check out this episode of the FOMO Fanz podcast to hear Brian in full flow about this:

Let’s wrap up

Are you tracking the positive signals that tell you your business is on the right track? What things are you measuring? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


Be part of Espresso+

The community for freelancers & small business owners.

119 recommendations
for John

John Espirian

I’m the relentlessly helpful®️ LinkedIn nerd and author of Content DNA

I teach business owners how to be noticed, remembered and preferred.

Espresso+ is a safe space to learn how to ethically promote your business online and get better results on LinkedIn.

Follow me on

Share on
social media