Setting OKRs is challenging for marketers because our goals often rely on outcomes outside of marketing. We need to collaborate with other teams to create objectives. And isolate marketing attribution in creating our key results.
I’m a big fan of OKRs. Objectives and Key Results. They are a great vehicle for defining and communicating the strategic goals for marketing. As well as showing how marketing as a function is performing and contributing to corporate goals.
I won’t explain what OKRs are in this post. Or give full examples. (If you want to look at that further, read the earlier blog post Marketing OKRs steer strategy towards the future.
What I will do in this post, is look at why marketing leaders can struggle with setting effective OKRs. What factors into this being such a challenge.
Marketers are influencers and guides
A lot of what marketing teams do is interdependent to things outside of the marketing function. Outcomes come from customer actions. Even before the customer says yes, outcomes can come from follow-on actions of sales, service, and support teams. Often other teams in the company finish what marketing starts. Marketing is an enabler. Marketing is an influencer.
In addition, marketers often get pulled into tactical execution. It can be hard to step back and focus on what is strategic when tactical takes up so much of your energy. Tactical execution is more firmly within their realm of control. We often use hard quantitative data to measure our tactical execution. So, it’s easier to prove you are getting it done. More grounded in current actions then eventual outcomes. It’s a seductive rabbit hole to go down.
Conversely, strategy is often measured by qualitative data. It can be a game of inches and require the long view. With nebulous goals like increasing brand awareness. Identifying new customer markets or considering new segmentation. Or getting more from marketing technology. In truth, when you think of it, this makes OKRs ideally suited for objectives that are strategic.
So, the real problem is: How do you set objectives and measure your success towards them, when you are an influencer and guide. And when the measurement of a strategy’s success can be hard to harness and can be, well, fuzzy.
Marketers can’t create OKRs in isolation
OKRs align well in a company if they cascade through the organization. Whether created top down, or bottom up, or both. They benefit when each team’s goals dovetails into the objectives that the CEO sets out for the company. When each team participates and contributes to higher-level goals.
Marketing needs to collaborate with Sales teams, not compete with them. Marketing needs to communicate with the rest of the company to gain a perspective of the full customer journey. And to provide them with enablement that supports their engagement with the customer.
Marketing can’t set objectives without the input, buy-in and alignment of the C-Suite and other business functions. We need to understand what objectives they are setting, and how our objectives contribute and fit into the bigger picture.
Marketing is well placed to be an influencer to these other teams. To set the tone or rhythm. To be a steering guide. Marketing’s OKRs can help provide direction that other teams can leverage when creating their own OKRs.
So it is important for marketers to not create OKRs in isolation.
Marketing needs to isolate their key results
At the same time, in order to be able to use OKRs effectively, the results need to be measurable. Within that objective that is interdependent on other objections across the organization, Marketing needs to be able to identify the results that are isolated to Marketing actions.
Which is doable. Albeit sometimes hard.
As a parallel, it is similar to setting up an attribution model. We need to consider all things that can contribute to the objective, and then determine and isolate and determine what is marketing’s contribution to it.
Revenue model attribution are familiar to us so that’s a start. Though, it may take more energy to do it for measurements like customer satisfaction, customer retention, or lifetime value.
We have to ask ourselves is it too much work to do this? We might also consider Is there a way we can do it with a combination of metrics, rates or trends. Or consider how we can measure the impact of the the discrete actions we take towards that objective.
The exercise of trying to isolate marketing’s impact can be useful in itself, because it can challenge us to improve how we communicate our contribution.
Marketing OKRs need to be complete
Marketers needs to make sure that the coverage of the OKRs they set is comprehensive. And include things that have a direct impact on our full scope of work.
OKRs become the source of the why we do the campaigns, programs and other tactical work we do. They also need to include how we work so we can increase our efficiency and effectiveness. They need to support and enable growth within our teams. Most importantly, they need to be anchored on delivering value to the customer. Our ultimate purpose.
Everything we do cascades down from our OKRs. Conversely, everything we do rolls up into an OKR. Otherwise, there is something missing.
Yes, it’s a challenge. But one that I believe is doable.
Done over perfection. We can have an unwritten objective that we get better at our marketing OKRs over time. A little meta, I know. OKRs are one of those things that improves with each cycle.
Improvement comes from challenging and questioning the OKRs we set. Are they comprehensive and cover the most important parts of our work? Are we able to isolate and measure those parts of interdependent business goals that highlights marketing’s contribution? And if not, can ask what is the bigger challenge that makes this hard?
You might be surprised by your answers. They may also give you some direction on what to do as a next step.