Business leaders often have difficulty ensuring that marketing’s efforts align with company goals, resulting in wasted budget, missed objectives, and frustration between executives and the marketing team. Misalignment, inefficiencies, and distractions can be the difference between successfully executing a go-to-market strategy, and woefully missing your quarterly targets.
This is why companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and General Electric use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). With this goal system, you can align your goals with corporate strategy, focus the team on what matters, and provide transparency and accountability across the board. In fact, at Kalungi, we utilize OKRs for ourselves, the agencies we work with, and all of our clients. See how we use OKRS to hold ourselves accountable.
Whether you are a CEO, a CMO, or a marketing leader, chances are that you’ve seen marketing face too many competing priorities from too many differing stakeholders. This places unnecessary stress on your marketing staff as they try to meet multiple internal support deadlines while also attempting to push marketing forward. It also makes marketing less effective at performing against company objectives, often causing leaders to become frustrated with marketing’s inefficiency.
This phenomenon applies to nearly every discipline and industry. From finance, to operations, to customer success, it’s rare for people to have enough time to accomplish their goals comfortably. But this is especially pervasive in marketing (and is even more relevant for B2B marketing). I’ve seen these symptoms stem from two basic issues:
These two factors can make a messy combination for a marketing team. If a proper incentive structure is not implemented the team can quickly become unfocused and stretched too thin as it tries to please everyone in the company. Too many times at the end of the period, the marketing team has been so focused on supporting so many stakeholders that it often has difficulty showing meaningful progress in important areas (site traffic, lead generation, content produced, or how it impacted the bottom line.)
So how do you combat these issues? How do you give your marketing team the focus it needs, the permission to say no to unimportant projects, and the transparency that executives require for strategic planning?
Allow me to introduce your new best friend: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
Download your guide to effectively managing OKRs and use it as reference when creating and measuring your next set of quarterly objectives.
A great CEO that I used to work once said, “In order to make something move, all you need to do is focus on it and apply pressure.” This is exactly what OKRs do.
Objectives and Key Results are a leadership framework created by Andy Grove, a father of management science, while he worked at Intel. This quarterly system promotes collaboration and transparency, and focuses employees’ efforts on the initiatives that matter, allowing them to be more impactful, and better aligned with larger departmental goals.
This management framework consists of three simple steps and combines leading and lagging indicators to facilitate setting and achieving goals:
The objectives of OKRs are what I like to think of as the long term goals that you are working toward. These are often big picture targets. Many of them are impossible to achieve in one quarter or are vague enough that they can stay the same from quarter to quarter, while the key results and actions change beneath them.
Think of objectives as the lamp posts that you or your team need to constantly work toward, to ensure that your department, division, or company is successful. These should be short, qualitative descriptions of where you want to go.
To ensure that OKRs are effective you should choose from three to five objectives to focus on each quarter. Doing so gives yourself and your team enough bandwidth to commit to fulfilling your objectives. Beyond five objectives, it becomes difficult to spend adequate time on each, resulting in a lack of focus, distraction from smaller/less important goals, and ultimately underwhelming results on important initiatives.
Once you’ve chosen your objectives, it’s time to plan out how to work toward achieving those goals. Choose three to five key results for each objective you’ve created. Unlike objectives, which can be vague and aspirational, key results need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound). These strict criteria make key results the most difficult piece of OKRs to develop. When creating key results, your main goal will be to answer the question “what results will show significant progress toward achieving my objective?”
By making SMART key results, you (and your employees) are announcing a measuring stick for the quarter to your department and the rest of the company. In doing so, you are planting a stake in the ground around what marketing’s top priorities are. This increases transparency on marketing’s activities, makes a public declaration on how you will measure success, and gives you the permission to say no (or “not right now”) to projects that will detract from these goals.
Finally, once you have built your objectives and key results, you need to document how you plan to achieve them. These steps are called “actions” (or “initiatives”) and will be the most granular piece of your OKRs. However, even though actions are very tactical, they don’t have to be as specific as your key results. There aren’t guidelines around the minimum or maximum actions you can have, or that they use specific numbers (or even numbers at all). These are just the steps you think you need to take to achieve your goals.
OKRs are a simple and extremely effective tool that you can use to focus your team on what matters, say no to requests that take away from your main goals, and achieve big tasks that directly affect revenue. In short, this framework will make your team more effective and allow you to have a bigger impact on your business (while giving you the credit you deserve for your hard work).
While OKRs are simple at the conceptual level, it can be daunting to boil everything you’re working on down to this framework. So we’ve detailed 4 marketing OKRs for a B2B SaaS company to get you going. We’ve also developed a free OKR tracker (complete with example OKRs) that you can use to set up your OKRs and track them throughout the quarter (see below).
Feel free to steal this framework - or this tracker - and make it your own, level up your marketing team, and crush your marketing goals.