Why use OKRs in Marketing?
Marketing teams are mostly focused on the top of the funnel. Their job is to generate interest and make people aware of what a business has to offer.
The focus may seem narrow, but there’s no shortage of plays that a Marketing team can work on. You can launch campaigns, do paid advertising, sponsor conferences, leverage content, etc.
Having a good set of OKRs will help teams converge their efforts towards specific outcomes, and it will also make it easier for them to sync with the rest of the business.
How to write OKRs for Marketing teams
Step 1. OKRs vs. Projects
Before jumping into the OKRs process, it is essential to understand the difference between Objectives, Key Results, and projects:
- Objectives: what do we want to achieve next quarter?
- Key Results: how are we going to measure progress?
- Projects: what are our best bets to get there?
This matters because a common mistake is to start listing projects as KRs or Objectives.
A good Objective should be inspiring and easy to understand by anyone in your org. It has to be specific (don't write "be the best"), but it's best to keep metrics out of the picture—that'll come later in the Key Results.
A good Key Result should follow the rules of the SMART framework. In particular, it should be relevant to its parent Objective, measurable through the quarter, and time-bound. A good test is to ask, "would we do things differently if this KR goes off-track?". If the answer is negative, then you need to refine your OKR.
Finally, your projects are the bets that can move the needle on your Key Results. Some will work—double down on it. Some will fail, and it should be okay to stop and move on to the next idea.
Step 2. Pick 2-3 areas of focus
The next step is to pick the right focus. One tool that can help here is the AARRR framework. This framework divides your customer's journey into 5 stages:
- Acquisition: how many people find out that you exist?
- Activation: how many of them sign up for your product and become leads?
- Retention: how many leads come back to use your product again?
- Referral: how many users share your product with others?
- Revenues: how many users end up paying for your product?
Marketing teams are mostly focused on the Acquisition step, which makes it easier for us to identify our main theme! Now the challenge is to define precisely what our Acquisition goals should be.
Which channel(s) do we want to focus on this quarter?
Do we need to improve our relationship with Sales/Growth/Product?
Are we happy with our acquisition costs?
How can we mix big bets with low-hanging fruits?
Step 3. Write your plan
Once you've narrowed down your focus, you can start writing your OKRs. Agree on 2-3 Objectives before diving into the Key Results. You'll see some examples below, and here's a guide about writing OKRs if you're just getting started.
Examples of Marketing OKRs
OKRs to increase SEO performance
It can take weeks or months to see the impact of a great SEO effort. But while you may not be able to see a direct impact, you can still raise your confidence by using proxy measures of success like the number of backlinks (Find more OKRs for SEO).
Become the #1 online resource for the problem we solve
Secure 15 high-quality backlinks from industry influencers & publications
Rank in top 5 traffic share for top domain keyword on Google
Get 30% more organic visits to our online guides
OKRs to generate growth through content-marketing
Don't list all your action items as Key Results. Instead, you should focus on the expected outcomes at the end of the quarter (Find more OKRs for Content Marketing).
Increase brand awareness through content
Secure five published interviews on industry websites
Co-publish a thought leadership white paper with leading analyst
Boost blog subscribers by 30%
OKRs to generate leads through event-marketing
This is an Event Marketing example taken from Mari Luukkainen's post 👉 Marketing OKRs: Practical examples and how to use them.
Hold the first annual user conference
Register 250 attendees
Drive $500k in upsell/cross-sell revenue
Drive outbound Marketing effort
Secure 2 keynotes speaking slots at industry events
Increase event-driven leads by 25%
OKRs to improve paid Marketing
Turn Paid Marketing in an efficient channel for leads
20% of new leads come from paid acquisition
Keep customer acquisition costs under $500/lead
Generate $10K MRR from paid acquisition channels
Tracking your OKRs
Knowing how to write good OKRs is critical, but without good tracking in place, the OKRs will fade away and focus will be lost.
It's not just us saying that:
- Peter Kappus writes that "check-ins are the most important part of OKRs".
- Felipe Castro cautions people not to let their OKRs turn into New Year's resolutions.
- Christina Wodtke tells us that "cadence is probably the single most important thing".
The easier it is for a team to have weekly discussions around the OKRs, the better they'll execute. Here are a few best practices for tracking OKRs.
1. Do weekly check-ins
Quarterly OKRs should be tracked every week to be effective. Without a continuous reflection on progress, your OKRs won't be much different from having KPIs.
The check-ins process can be automated with a platform like Tability that takes care of reminders, and distribute updates to the teams.
2. Keep track of your confidence
Good progress updates should help everyone understand how far we are from our goal, but also how confident we are in achieving it. You can use a simple red/yellow/green color coding to indicate your confidence.
3. Make trends easy to see
Lastly, it's important to look at trends to avoid false positives. It's not rare for a team to have a hot start and then slow down mid quarter. This will be hard to see unless you can look at progress trends for individual Key Results.
What other Marketing metrics can you use?
Now that you've got good Objectives, it's time to pick some key results and finding good metrics that work for your team can be tricky. Lucky for you, we've laid out all the best Marketing success metrics to use.
Here are a few to get you started:
Number of backlinks
How many sites link back to your content?
Where do you rank on specific requests?
Domain Authority Score (DA)
Indicates how likely your website is to rank high in search results.
How often your content is shared online.
Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
Cost Per Acquisition is the cost of acquiring a non-paying user.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
Customer Acquisition Cost is the cost of acquiring a paying customer.
How many people are visiting your website, and how often do they do it?
How do people interact with your content (it can be anything, from visits to specific sections to conversations in Intercom…)
Rate of engagement with specific actions.
Leads generated / Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
How many users end up being interested in what you have to offer (demos booked, signups)
Similar to click-through, but generally associated with a tangible result (signup, purchase…)
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