If you’re looking for strategies to ramp up sales, you’ll want to monitor your progress. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are ideal for measuring objectives and tracking their outcomes. The best SaaS (software as a service) businesses know how to organize and prioritize goals, as well as pair them with projects that can achieve said goals. This can trigger massive growth in terms of conversions. So much of product success is in the hands of marketing teams.
Mastering Objective Key Results (OKRs)
Used by large businesses like Google, Spotify, and Walmart, OKRs are a framework to help you set, track, and execute goals. When implemented well, OKRs create a singular focus within a business, and keep every employee accountable for company growth.
This framework helps you come up with the most important goals for your business, along with expectations of how to measure their impact. These goals might have a clear numeric target — for instance, increase profit by 10% over 6 months. Alternatively, they may be a little more subjective, such as defining types of customer expectations and aiming to meet them.
Using OKRs, you can establish a robust system in which everyone knows how to decide what needs to be done, how to allocate resources, and can check the progress on tasks — all while continuing to create real value for your company and your customers.
Of course, while a company needs to have an overarching strategy, different teams require different goals. Imagine you’re a VoIP provider; your overall goals are to boost conversions and maintain subscriptions.
This goal is too vague for individual teams. Instead, key objectives for your software development team may include adding new features, and hitting 99% uptime. For marketing, it may be bringing in a set amount of new subscribers, and for content creation, building a guide on how to set up your VoIP systems to reduce the number of incoming calls to tech support.
These smaller goals are suited for specific departments and are easy to monitor. In combination, they’ll feed into the business’s overarching objectives.
How To Upscale SaaS Marketing Goals With OKRs
Defining Points for OKR
Objectives are the outcomes you wish to achieve over a certain period of time. Each objective should be clear and measurable so you know when you’ve accomplished it. Objectives are strategic and intended to stretch your team.
Key results are metric-based indicators of success or progress toward your objectives. Since key results are all about measuring progress or success, it’s important to have a numeric value associated with each one. Like objectives, key results are time bound and set for the same frequency, either monthly or quarterly.
You first need to determine your measuring time frame. Three months is the industry standard, as it is long enough to see significant results, but not too long to change course if it’s not working.
One of the reasons OKRs work well is because the framework is part planning, part communication. OKRs are designed to be made public within an organization; when everyone knows and understands the OKRs, the entire company becomes focused and accountable for achieving the goals.
As you set your OKRs, start at the top of the organization or team. Once the broadest OKRs have been defined, you can cascade them down to teams and then to individuals. Each OKR should have a leader attached to it to ensure progress is being made and monitored.
Integrating OKRs to Marketing Teams
Communication with your team is important before rolling out any initiative. It keeps everyone up to date, and also provides a vital opportunity to gather feedback. This can help ensure your key results are achievable and use metrics familiar to your team.
Educate your team on what OKRs are, how they work, and what you hope to achieve by using them. This can be done in person, through video calls, or through group webinars.
If the objectives involve improving efficiency, make sure the team has a chance to request appropriate technology or other solutions they may need. For instance, if you’re trying to cut down on the amount of paper used, you could provide training on how to send a fax through email. If you’re looking to improve scheduling, implementing an automated live chat that allows clients to book meetings directly on your teams’ calendars may help save time.
Your marketing team should know the durations you plan to use (monthly, quarterly, etc.), as well as granular details regarding deliverables, progress checks, and what to do if faced with issues. If your team knows you are there to support them, they will be more receptive and likely to get on board with new operations, leading to improvements all around.
Examples of OKRs for Your Marketing Team
Each OKR should have an objective and no more than four key results. The objective is the overall goal you are trying to achieve, and each key result outlines how you are going to reach it.
More than four key results can make the objective overwhelming and lead to a lack of focus. If you find yourself regularly coming up with more than four, it may be worth going back to the initial objective and considering breaking it into multiple objectives.
OKR Example 1
OBJECTIVE: Increase Social Media Engagement by 20%.
Key Result 1: Determine the top two most popular social media sites for our target audience.
Key Result 2: Write 10 pieces of sharable, informative content based on frequently asked questions (for instance, “What is a progressive dialer?” or “What is a contact center?”).
Key Result 3: Respond to social media messages within two hours.
Key Result 4: Gain 1,000 more Facebook followers.
Notice that the main goal is to increase social engagement. Each key result is a means to achieve the main objective. They’re also easy to measure, meaning your team can tell where they’re at and what still needs to be done.
OKR Example 2
OBJECTIVE: Optimize our customer acquisition.
Key Result 1: Train staff on our new marketing automation process.
Key Result 2: Reduce customer acquisition costs by 20% in Q3.
Key Result 3: Improve customer retention by 10% in Q3.
Key Result 4: Build a new top-down and bottom-up Excel model to analyze the ROI.
In this case, the objective is a little broader — there’s no measurable detail there. However, the key results are more easily tracked.
Tracking Your OKRs
Another reason OKRs work is because they are tracked and graded. You don’t just set business objectives and hope for the best. Instead, you actively monitor your progress and then assign a grade for each key result at the end of the designated period (often a quarter).
OKRs should be communicated throughout your organization, but tracking them goes beyond the initial announcement. OKRs are most effective when reviewed consistently through one-on-one meetings, team meetings, or on a TV dashboard. If your teams have been working remotely, it’s worth scheduling regular check-ins through your conference calling provider.
You can score performance out of 10 and classify anything above an 8 as a success, or use a 0 to 1 scale with clear, defined measurements. Alternatively, you can break things down in a binary fashion – either a goal is achieved, or it is not.
Depending on what you’re monitoring, you may want to incorporate customer feedback into your decision. The important goal is to track the results consistently in order to assess your progress.
Some larger companies make use of dedicated software — for instance, Weekdone — or integrate something into their pre-existing task management system. Of course, if you’re just starting out, you may find a simple Google Doc or Word document sufficient.
A platform worth checking out is TrueNorth, the only goal-focused marketing management software. It can help keep your team focused on their marketing objectives and make it a lot easier to keep everyone aligned and moving in the right direction.
Tips for OKR Actionability
1. CEO-Defined Objectives
The idea behind OKRs is to build a common focus within a business. Alignment needs to come from the top. While individual teams will have their specific goals, they should all stem from this key objective.
One way to obtain this focus is by working with your CEO to define the One Metric That Matters (OMTM). Taken from the Lean Analytics book, this is a single number that you care about the most at the current stage of your growing company.
It changes as you evolve, but at any given time, this is the one metric you should care about above all else. Communicating this focus to your team members and investors helps concentrate your efforts.
For most growing SaaS businesses, their OMTM is to grow Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) by a certain percentage within a given timeframe.
2. Refine Your Pipeline
In order to hit these goals, you will need to adapt your marketing strategies, processes, and workflows to complement your objectives.
For instance, consider how you report data. Is it stored locally, in the cloud (and if so, are you making use of one the top CASB vendors to avoid losing it?), or as a hybrid? Who updates it, and what metrics are used?
The answers to all of these questions should be clear and consistent. If you don’t know where it’s stored or who is responsible, it’s time to make some changes. The same applies to any process, from creating new content to making outbound calls.
3. OKR Visibility
Part of the OKR culture is to make them open and visible to everybody in a business. Regular meetings are an option to achieve this. Another option is to consider a data dashboard everyone can access as they need. This lets employees see progress at a glance, which speeds up work and allows them to set their priorities accordingly.
4. Frequent Reviews Drive Action
As the company grows and you complete objectives, there will be many alignment meetings between teams and with the CEO. Frequent OKR reviews make sure you are not scaling your goals too quickly. Remember, they always need to work with your current resources.
Reviewing OKRs shapes the discussion around what activity should be prioritized based on where you’re behind and ahead of target. Social media listening is one way to review your OKRs, and keeps you in touch with customer needs as well as your own internal focus.
Every OKR cycle — whether that’s three months, a quarter, or longer — needs to end with a review meeting, but this shouldn’t be the only time you discuss it. Regular check-ins help keep you flexible, so if something isn’t working, you can make changes as needed.
Final thoughts on SaaS Marketing and OKRs
OKRs don’t just let you focus on priority objectives to see exponential growth — they also help manage team members one by one. The data is useful for weekly team meetings and alignments, as well as individual evaluations, especially now that work environments are becoming 100% remote.
Having clear, measurable goals for your organization allows marketing teams to prioritize their time and ensures team members know exactly what is expected of them. OKRs are a great way to boost business growth and support your SaaS marketing team.