I’ve said it before: If you want to grow your business, you’ve got to know the metrics that matter

A vague idea of your desired destination is not enough to chart your course to success. You need to know exactly where you want to go — and you need the right optics to track your progress. Otherwise, you risk veering off course or, worse yet, staying stuck exactly where you’re at. 

In other words, you need the right marketing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs.)

OKRs have worked for tech giants and Fortune 500 companies — and, as venture capitalist John Doerr reveals in his book Measure What Matters, they can work for your organisation, too. 

Let’s dive into the profound simplicity of digital marketing OKRs and how to use them in your business. Because, as Doerr writes, “Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.

What are OKRs?

OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results. OKRs are a framework for helping you set ambitious marketing goals that drive measurable results. Let’s break it down further:

Objectives: What do you want to achieve?

Key Results: What time-bound, measurable outcomes indicate you’ve achieved your objective? 

OKRs are nothing new. The idea was first developed in the 1970s by Andy Grove, CEO of Intel. John Doerr (who worked with Grove) later introduced the concept to Google, and OKRs have become a steadfast goal-setting framework in Silicon Valley and beyond ever since. 

John Doerr uses the following formula for setting OKRs:

I will (Objective) as measured by (set of Key Results).

A simple example of a marketing OKR could be: I will increase inbound sales (objective) by $30k this month (key results.)

As you can see, your objective is your big ambitious goal, while your key results determine the success of your objective. The most strategic OKRs follow the principles of SMART goals; they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

Digital marketing OKRs are simple in principle, and that’s a very good thing. The idea is to create inspiring, agile marketing goals that support alignment and foster results-oriented growth within your organisation. 

The difference between marketing OKRs and KPIs

If you’re anything like my clients, you might be asking:

What’s the difference between OKRs and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) — and do I need both in my business?

It’s a valid question, so let’s quickly unpack it. 

Your KPIs are the health metrics of your business, and they typically measure operations and projects already in progress. From a marketing perspective, KPIs measure the value of your marketing campaigns while highlighting opportunities for optimisation. 

On the other hand, OKRs tend to be more ambitious, action-oriented goals. Your OKRs are often tied to your business’ mission.

Now, your ambitious OKRs should still be attainable. That’s why tracking Key Results is a crucial component. Think of OKRs as goal-setting devices to track big-picture milestones and KPIs as the health metrics that measure your ongoing marketing ROI.

For more on KPIs, check out my ultimate guide to growing your business with digital marketing KPIs that work.

Marketing OKR best practices to accelerate your business growth

From driving brand awareness to attracting new customers to increasing brand loyalty, OKRs can help you achieve your most ambitious marketing goals. Before you dive in, here are the OKR best practices you need to know:

1. Set marketing OKRs that inspire (not overwhelm)

Have you heard of moonshot goals? The idea is that these objectives are stretch goals — they are just beyond the threshold of what your company can likely achieve. By setting moonshot OKRs, you create momentum and flow — you get further than most would have originally thought possible. 

In other words, if your company is reaching 100% of your OKRs, then your objectives might not be aspirational enough. 

Keep in mind: there’s a difference between aspirational and overwhelming. Digital marketing OKRs should inspire your team so that everyone is on board and working toward the same mission. This brings me to my next point…

2. Get your entire team involved in creating OKRs

Product managers and marketers can no longer operate in silos. If you want to align your company and accelerate your growth, you must ensure your entire organisation is working towards the same vision.

Now, that’s not to say you won’t have team-specific OKRs for marketing, HR, and sales. However, it pays to get everyone on the same page about big-picture company OKRs. Aligning team members under the umbrella of a joint objective will ensure everyone is committed to accelerating business growth. 

3. Revisit your marketing OKRs at least every quarter

As the saying goes, “You can’t measure what you don’t manage.” 

Revisit your OKRs when it makes sense, but at least every quarter. Take note of any roadblocks, and work as a team to reflect on necessary strategy changes for the next time-box. 

4. Begin with a small number of OKRs

Of course, the number of OKRs your organisation sets is up to you. However, I recommend limiting your OKRs to 3-5 (max). You’ll keep your team laser-focused on the most pressing objectives and significantly impact your bottom line. 

Marketing OKR examples

What are some excellent marketing OKR examples? What Matters is a fantastic reference for getting started with the OKR goal-setting framework. I particularly like this example they share:

From Google:

Objective: Design products and services for circularity and reuse materials at their highest environmental and social value.

Key Result: 100% of Made by Google products launching in 2022 and every year after will include recycled materials, with a drive to maximise recycled content wherever possible.

Sustainability is a driving value behind Google’s mission statement. This OKR is clear and compelling and ensures each team member understands precisely what success looks like. 

Here’s another simple example of what a marketing OKR might look like for your company:

Objective: Build email list subscribers

  • Key Result 1: Increase traffic to a landing page from 30,000 to 50,000 visits by July 1st
  • Key Result 2: Increase lead magnet downloads from 7% to 20% by August 1st
  • Key Result 3: Increase email open rates from 15% to 25% by September 1st. 

Marketing OKRs are a powerful way to accelerate your business growth and achieve your most important goals.