Outputs vs Outcomes: How to describe your results

Most speakers, authors and coaches struggle a little with their marketing and one of the key distinctions to get your head around is the difference between OUTPUTS vs OUTCOMES.

We find that a lot of our Changemaker Central members when they first come to us are fixed on talking about outputs — the way in which they work with people, what they do and the features and products of their business. And that’s where you go wrong — in their eyes, your activities (outputs) are not as important as their results (outcomes).

Whether you are working directly with customers (B2C) or with organisations (B2B), you need to be able to articulate both the outputs AND the outcomes you provide. The more successful speakers, authors and coaches are those that are honing in on the outcomes that they provide through their products and how they work with people.

In this blog, we want you to share what matters MOST and help you decide how you’ll measure and present what matters most in your business and marketing.

First, some definitions.

An output is what is created at the end of a process. As a speaker, author or coach, your outputs might be training classes offered, people served, talks given and grants funded. Outputs tell the story of what you produced or your organization’s activities. But, output measures do not address the value or impact of your services for your clients.

Outcomes instead are the level of performance or achievement that occurs because of the activity or services your organization provided. Outcome measures are a more appropriate indicator of effectiveness. Outcomes quantify performance and assess the success of the process. Things like profitability, impact on lives and evidence of change are shown by outcomes. These questions are the ones that will start to give the outcomes:

  • Did the participants learn something new?
  • Have skills improved?
  • Are people achieving more?
  • Is change starting to happen in an organization?

It’s important for you to share your outcomes BEFORE you talk about outputs

Here are the distinctions that will help you to know what to talk about and put your focus on what matters to your clients and prospects:

  • Outcomes are about performance levels, about the results experienced
  • Understanding your outcomes will inspire positive change and advancement
  • Outcomes need to be expressed quantitatively, showing how performance changes over time. Therefore, it is critical to define and measure your outcomes prior to implementing your process or programs. Without the starting measure, it becomes difficult to demonstrate the true impact. (Thus, it’s important to talk about it up front so you get a ‘before and after’ picture)
  • Mostly, outcomes tell the STORY of your intervention and impact, it’s the alive and tangible result of your outputs (your training, products, words).

Tell the stories that matter

Now that you know that outcomes are the benefit your customers receive from your stuff you can do something with it. This starts with truly understanding your customers’ needs — figure out what their challenges, issues, constraints, priorities are, by walking in their shoes and in their neighbourhoods, businesses, and cultures. See what’s inconvenient, or taking a lot of time, money, and/or effort. (These are where you will find their desired outcomes).

For example, if you are a nutrition coach, you might find that your customers are too busy to plan, shop for, and cook healthy meals. What if you made a healthy, reasonably priced, fast-cooking meal so a family could eat better and provided all that needed to do so in a reasonable time with ease? Create a solution that your customers can sustain, and you enable life-changing outcomes, big and small.

In the non-profit world, outputs are programs, training, and workshops; outcomes are knowledge transferred and behaviours changed. In the for-profit world, the distinctions are not always so clear. Let’s define outputs as the stuff we produce, be it physical or virtual, for a specific type of customer — say, car seats for babies. And let’s define outcomes as the difference our stuff makes — keeping your child safe in the car.

Borrowing an example from the Innovation Network, a highway construction company’s outputs are project design and the number of highway miles built and repaired. Outcomes are the difference made by the outputs: better traffic flow, shorter travel times, and fewer accidents.

We all can see where focusing on outputs got us: In education we’ve focused on test results (outputs) and ended up with some high-scoring kids who don’t know how to apply what they’ve learned to the world at large (outcome).

How to identify the OUTCOMES from your OUTPUTS

When it comes to deciphering outputs vs. outcomes, you can commit today to measuring the impact of your organization by following these five basic steps:

  1. Describe the outcomes you want to achieve (why do you perform the process or service in the first place?). Ask yourself: what’s the intention of the outcome — what do we want to see, hear, experience?
  2. Turn the identified outcomes into a quantitative measure (i.e. % of clients demonstrating new behaviour, % of clients coming back into treatment, etc.).

For example, one key stat that we used with one client was to take all her end of class evaluation forms and turn them into stats around impact — 98% of people attending the classes felt they had improved their ability to communicate. These were sat under her desk. Now people are booking up more just on the back of adding that statistic to the landing page where her classes are advertised.

3. Confirm that your desired outcomes are actually linked to your outputs or activities. In other words, ensure that it is reasonable to expect your desired outcomes to be achieved based on your activities.

If I do X, we will get Y — imagine if you can confidently present this?

4. Implement these measures and track them over time.

(Trending information is key and looking at them over time gives great information for you about your outputs as well as being able to share your outcomes).

5. Demonstrate and increase your success because you have the data to confidently and appropriately communicate your impact and value.

We want you to ensure that you get the most out of your efforts and using outcomes, not outputs in your marketing and copy will make a big difference to people who are looking for solutions. The outcomes speak to the direct problem that is irksome to them.

For more great information like this, please join us inside The Connection Hub, a community of speakers, authors and coaches that are making a massive difference in the world by sharing what they know.

Posted in

Leave a Comment