Marketing OKRs are a simple and effective way for companies to state and track their goals. We can then plan programs and drive initiatives towards achieving the key results. As a strategy tool, it can steer where we put our energy. What campaigns we will run. How we spend our budget.
OKRs are a simple and effective way for business to perform ongoing strategic planning and business performance measurement. A wide range of companies make use of them – large enterprises to smaller high growth innovators. Often growing out of tech teams that have embraced them. Or created top down from an executive level. Sometimes OKRs are implemented out of HR teams.
What about marketing? Do marketing teams find them a help or a hindrance? Can marketing be an innovator in this area? An early adopter in a company? Even be a driver?
Lost in a sea of tactical data, sometimes marketing teams can’t see the power OKRs can bring. IMHO, I believe that marketing teams today are probably the team that uses data the most. Often we wrestle with the dueling opposites of trying to understand and engage the customer while also driving results. In these instances, data can be a key guide. Focusing on this daily, it can be hard to sometimes see the big picture. Which is where OKRs can help. OKRs can be a way to steer strategically. To provide a top-level dashboard view of how we are doing. Both being a benefit for us and showing our value. Additionally, increasing alignment with other teams.
An OKR Origin Story
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) have a long history. Andy Grove, CEO then Chairman of Intel, developed them as a tool, using them when transforming the company. Andy was also a key influencer in the early days of tech, mentoring Steve Jobs and partnering with Bill Gates. OKRs are now an integral part of how high growth companies perform strategy. Google adopted them early in their formation and are a key resource and guide of how to use OKRs.
Objectives and Key Results are a simple and effective way for companies to state and track their goals. Let’s dig into what they are a little deeper:
- Answer the question: Where do I want to go?
- Objectives should be qualitative and aspirational. They should describe something you want to achieve or learn.
- Set 1 to 3 objectives per planning period. Be careful not to have too many goals.
- OKRs can be set at the individual, team, or organizational level.
- Answer the question: How will I pace myself to know that I’m getting there?
- Key Results are qualitative and measurable.
- Set an actual outcome and then measure the performance of reaching them.
- Set 1 to 5 key results per objective. People typical set 3.
OKRs for Marketing
An example of a Marketing OKR might be:
- Engage more effectively with more customers that fit our ideal customer avatar.
- Increase number of mailing subscribers by 10% each month.
- Have a 5% click through rate for customer self-segmentation email campaign.
- Achieve a 30% open rate on email on weekly newsletter campaign.
Though OKRs often use KPIs when describing results, there is more power in OKRS from being grounded in objectives. As well, we can take what may be a lagging KPI and make it more robust by describing a rate of change, an increase or optimization. Marketing OKRs may reflect KPIs but they are about how you can impact the KPI, rather than the KPI itself.
I think the real cost of not using OKRs for marketing is to lose the opportunity to be forward looking. Using standard performance measurements is to prove Marketing’s worth in terms of the past, rather than to be looking forward to the future. Moreover, I believe marketing is an investment in future growth, so it is best described in terms of the future.
Some gotcha’s for marketing
When people talk about setting OKRs being aspirational, they often call them stretch goals. With an expectation that achieving about 70% of the target being set in the Key Result. While this may be an important motivator for other teams, marketing teams often have aspirational expectations put on them already. To be setting key results that are not realistic can make them meaningless. I’m for describing the key result both in terms of expected result and stretch result to make this clear.
As I said at the beginning, marketing uses a lot of data in ongoing tactical activity. OKRs need to be separated out from this. The tactical may roll up to feed into the key result. OKRs should not be used to describe regular practice.
Marketing teams may also need to find a way to separate out this strategic exercise from the regular activity of looking at revenue analytics. To set out this task as being different than your quarterly KPI numbers, consider setting your OKR schedule to be 3 times a year instead of quarterly, And then have it all nicely roll up to your year end or start.
And because there are so many different things that marketing teams can be called to do, it is important to keep to the idea of limiting the number of objectives you set.
The benefits for marketing are so much more
Once we set OKRs for marketing, we can then plan programs and drive initiatives towards achieving the key results. As a strategy tool, it can steer where we put our energy. What campaigns we will run. How we spend our budget.
OKRs provide marketers with a business language to talk to executives. Using OKRs within an organization leads to better alignment between teams. It can be a useful tool to communicate with other customer facing teams like sales, customer success and support. It creates transparency.
We can design our dashboards with OKRs in mind. For instance, displaying the key results of objectives prominently on the dashboards we use. Possibly even creating a dashboard specifically for our OKRs.
A variety of apps and services can be used to create and track OKRs. Selecting which one often grows out of the needs of the organization, and the teams that roll them out. A prime example of the variety is the response I saw when I Googled what does Google use for OKRs. As they are such a large organization and OKRs go down to the individual team level, they don’t have a standard app mandated across the company. Certain teams use commercially available tools. Some create their own tools. Others use Google Sheets.
Does your team use them today? Or if they are new to you? Do you think your marketing team would benefit from setting OKRs? Send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know.
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