As your company grows, your marketing function will require different skills. Here's a framework for structuring your B2B SaaS marketing team.
Have you struggled to motivate your marketing team to hit long-term goals? One consistent challenge that I see B2B marketing leaders experience is keeping marketers focused on big-picture goals that don’t have an intimidating deadline behind them. Often, team members agree with the goals initially and do their best to hit them. Ultimately, though, they take their eye off the ball for short-term priorities and leave these huge but distant goals by the wayside, forgetting them until it’s too late. When the quarter ends, the CEO expects marketing to keep promises and meet goals. This leaves marketing leaders making excuses and trying to cover for a group that has failed to make an impact, despite their hard work.
The marketing leaders in these scenarios aren’t stupid. They’re just unfocused. They use disparate KPIs to track the wrong metrics and don’t put enough consistent pressure on these goals to make them a priority.
You can utilize a simple framework to avoid this disappointment. Use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to set aggressive but achievable goals. What’s more, you can take some simple steps to effectively manage your team towards those targets, even with the endless stream of distractions and other priorities that are all but guaranteed to show up daily.
Get the recognition that you and your team deserve for your hard work. Take the marketing function to where you know it can go. Get the promotion you’ve been grinding towards for years. All by focusing on what’s important, checking in at the right time, and properly incentivizing them towards the right goals.
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A quick recap on OKRs
Before we get into managing your marketing team in achieving their OKRs, let’s take a quick step back and review what they are. OKRs are a quarterly goal-setting framework that can be used across any business discipline to align focus and help teams achieve challenging big-picture goals. This framework contains three distinct categories:
- Objectives: The big-picture goals you want to achieve. These will often take multiple quarters or even years to accomplish and can be nebulous, vague targets that aren’t easily measurable. Create three to five Objectives per person per quarter.
- Key Results: The KPIs you’re going to achieve in order to progress towards your Objectives. These need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound). Create three to five Key Results per Objective.
- Actions: The steps you’re going to take towards meeting your Key Results. These don’t have to be measurable or concrete but are more of a personal checklist to ensure you can achieve your Key Results. Create as many Actions as necessary per Key Result.
Understanding OKRs is critical in implementing them for yourself and your team, so we’ve developed another blog to help you create them. Take a look at OKRs: how to drive transparency, accountability, and results in your B2B SaaS marketing team for more information on what good OKRs are and how to use the framework to take your goals to the next level.
Developing OKRs for your marketing team
Now that you have a good understanding of what OKRs are and how to create them let’s discuss how to develop them for your marketing team. Here are a few things to focus on when creating OKRs, ensuring that you have maximum impact on your business while allowing you and your team to get the credit you deserve.
Tie them directly to revenue goals
As the leader, you must get a clear picture of your team’s high-level goals and how they tie to revenue. If you’re the head of marketing, this means that you need to figure out the company's quarterly revenue goals and how much of those targets marketing is responsible for.
Once you’ve done this, develop a plan of which marketing departments will produce which portions of that goal. This will give you the high-level numbers each team needs to hit to have a successful quarter. Tying your team’s OKRs to revenue will ensure that they are laser-focused on hitting marketing’s most important goals for the company. It will ensure that there is no question as to how they plan to achieve those goals, as well as their progress throughout the quarter. We know this can be a daunting task, so here are 4 Marketing OKRs for a B2B SaaS Company to get you started.
Have each marketer build OKRs
Now that you have the high-level revenue goals set for marketing, you need to give the appropriate revenue targets to each marketer. Assign them the task of creating their own OKRs to meet those metrics. Have them figure out what strategies they’ll put in place to meet their revenue goals, whether through channel diversification, optimization, or new initiatives. This will increase transparency throughout your team, improve marketers’ sense of autonomy, and give them a sense of ownership over the goals they create.
As a leader, your job is to check your team’s OKRs, ensuring that they are stretch goals. Make sure that achieving them will signify a successful quarter for each employee and that it will require going above and beyond the status quo. You will also need to make sure that each Key Result is easily measurable, in that it uses real numbers and that there will be no questions around the numbers’ validity when you measure performance.
In case you need some specific ideas, here are some examples of the OKRs we hold ourselves accountable to in our engagements: How to hold a SaaS marketing agency accountable for results.
Incentivize them to achieve (and exceed) their OKRs
The only way your team is going to achieve their OKRs is if they make it a priority. This means that, as a manager, you need to properly motivate them to achieve those goals. One way to do this is to create incentives around the OKRs. The key to these incentives is to increase your team’s engagement with their OKRs and ensure that they don’t have a mentality of “setting and forgetting” the goals. Properly establishing incentives can also gamify OKRs throughout your team, instilling a healthy sense of competition that can drive them to work harder and achieve more. Here are some ways you can use incentives to focus efforts on OKRs:
- Tie OKR success to annual bonuses.
- Use OKRs as a metric in your formal review process.
- Reference OKRs when discussing raises.
- Create prizes for the marketer that performs the highest on their OKRs.
Set up a regular OKR review cadence
Once the initial OKRs are established, set up a regular 1-1 meeting with each team member to check their progress throughout the quarter. The specific cadence of these meetings can vary depending on the employee’s motivation and competence. I recommend creating meetings as frequently as bi-weekly for more junior employees, whereas capable senior employees can probably perform well with monthly or even bi-quarterly meetings. As a manager, you know your team best, so be sure to set up the meetings with enough frequency where you can catch OKRs that are slipping through the cracks before it’s too late in the quarter to salvage them.
I use an OKR tracker to ensure that my teams and I stay on top of our OKRs throughout engagements and internally. This tool allows us to keep track of OKRs every week and provides real transparency into progress. Using this tool requires minimal weekly work and allows my team and me to see exactly how far each of us has come towards achieving each of their OKRs. Click here to download your free OKR tracking template.
Achieve, stretch, repeat
Completing these simple steps will help you push your team to achieve great things in a quarter, provide transparency and accountability throughout the process, and directly tie your achievements to company revenue goals. Implementing this system will put you and your team in a position to focus on what's important and make sure that you can overachieve your goals. Once you’ve completed the quarter and your OKRs, take a moment to celebrate your team’s accomplishments. All of you have worked hard and you deserve recognition for that effort.
But the work isn’t over. A new quarter is coming up and you have to prepare to take on another group of difficult challenges in the next few months. Keep pushing your team and yourself by ensuring that the OKRs you set are more aggressive than last quarter. You can also learn from the previous quarter’s mistakes and take another look at key results that weren’t met. This will ensure that your team continuously progresses and continually raises the bar, so you can have the praise you deserve and take your company to the next level.
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Brian works with companies to help them discover their marketing potential. Through high-level strategy and day-to-day management, Brian helps B2BSaaS companies scale their marketing departments the right way, enabling them to acquire the highest value customers, minimize churn, and drive ARR.