Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a powerful way for any organization, industry, or team to set, track, and reach their most audacious goals. Marketing teams are no exception. In fact, in John Doerr’s Measure What Matters, marketing OKRs are shared throughout the book.
In one particularly poignant portion, Mike Lee, co-founder of MyFitnessPal, shared a marketing OKR goal from when the app was just starting out back in the 2000s. Lee writes, “Things came to a head over a top-priority marketing OKR for personalized emails with targeted content. The Objective was well constructed: We wanted to drive a certain minimum number of monthly active users to our blog content. One important Key Result was to increase our click-through rate from emails.”
While Lee presents this OKR in sentence format, the actual way to write an OKR is very simple: Objectives are goals and intents, while Key Results are time-bound and measurable milestones under these goals and intents. They are also typically done in a quarterly OKR cycle.
So, this particular OKR presented by Lee would be written as:
However, this OKR could be made even better by pairing it with a quality metric.
It’s great to have an increase in CTR, but pairing KR1 with a less than 5% unsubscribe rate would make the Objective even better. So it would be written like:
Having this addendum ensures that all subscribers could be potential conversions who actually want to receive communications.
Why are marketing OKRs important?
Having well-thought-out marketing OKRs is perhaps one of the most important things, because it really pushes the transparency tenet of OKRs. Every team depends on marketing because marketing depends on every team. If no customers know about an upcoming product or new feature, sales can’t do anything with it. In a high-functioning OKR environment, transparency and alignment make people more diligent about communication. So making sure that marketing is aligned and has all the information needed to actually market is of utmost importance.
In a recent training, Doerr echoed the value of transparency as central to getting the most out of using OKRs. He said, “There will be loud, very noisy arguments about, well, if we’re going to adopt this, okay, we’re going to have to trade off this one.”
And while the word “argument” usually has a pejorative connotation, it doesn’t have to. An argument is simply “a discussion involving different points of view.” Getting opposing points of view out and debated at the forefront of an OKR cycle is a healthier alternative to what happens to company culture when honest discussions about goal-setting priorities and exchange of information are suppressed — especially when it comes to marketing.
Marketing teams often feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Ultimately, they have a large responsibility for bringing in the revenue. This level of pressure can cause tension when they over promise and under deliver. But if these promises weren’t just simply “promises,” but discussed Objectives with clear, concise, and measurable results, then departmental miasma would be less likely to arise. The “arguments” would have happened before it even gained ground. The big picture and its progress is clear, not noxious.
Aaron Butkus, the executive chef of pizza startup Zume, explained it like this: "If I’m creating a new seasonal pie, I can’t do it on the spur. Marketing needs to know at least a week ahead of time, and then photo and design have to take pictures. It affects every department — the product manager’s website, the tech team and their mobile app. The OKRs keep me centered and on track. They guarantee that I get the recipe done in time for everyone who’s waiting on it. My deadline’s built into a Key Result. I can see the bigger picture more clearly.”
Marketing OKR examples
If you’re looking for inspiration on how you can align with the bigger picture to reach your company’s goal of capturing marketing leads, bettering your organic search results, increasing your website visitors, and engaging with industry influencers, check out some of the marketing OKR examples below:
Where can I get more information?
Or, if you’re looking for an OKR coach, check this out.
If you’re interested in starting our OKRs 101 course, click here.