How to Set Marketing Objectives This Year Like Google | RedPandas Digital

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As a strategist, creating digital marketing strategies is bread and butter of what you do for a living. It’s an area I’ve specialised in now for over a decade and have been sharing this passion on stage to brands like Optus, Kennards Hire and Crocs since 2015.

Fortunately for me there is no shortage of work on the strategy front. This is because having a strategy is something brands, especially Aussie brands in my experience, suck at big time.

Half of All Organisations Suck at Setting Digital Marketing Objectives

In fact in a recent research report by SmartInsights (they do this yearly), they found only barely half of organisations had a clearly-defined digital marketing strategy.

Can I be honest? I think it’s far less than that. A certain type of savvy individual completes surveys like this and in an informal poll with about 100 marketers I once did, only 10% said they had a digital marketing strategy. Yikes.


Apart from leaving your marketing team and dollars directionless, not having a strategy leaves companies distracted, non-committal to tactics that take time (like lead nurturing, inbound marketing) and usually indicates a lack of cohesion between what your targeted customers wants and what internal management wants.

I’ve written and shared a bunch of resources before around creating entire digital marketing strategies as well as shared an interview I did with someone far smarter than me in this area, the legendary Dave Chaffey, so rather than go through that again I thought I’d focus here on simply how to create objectives properly.

Introducing the Objective and Key Results system or OKRs for short.

The Problem with Traditional Objective Setting

OKRs fix a key problem with how you may have set marketing objectives before in that they forces you to make your objectives actionable.

The thing about high level objectives is that they can be fuzzy. And that’s ok because they ideally aspirational, significant and concrete. They are not supposed to be series of checklists.

For example: Increasing Brand Awareness in New Category A for a new market penetration strategy or Improving Customer Satisfaction because customers are not happy are all aspirational, significant and strategic objectives you can get your teams to rally behind.

The problem is leaving them there or simply palming them off to department heads or agency partners leaves a LOT of room for ambiguity with little action-orientated direction.

OKRs fix that by a) creating actions for objectives and b) forcing you to create non-fluffy objectives that you can do something with in the first place.

How the OKR Framework Works

When Google was less than a year old, John Doerr, one of its investors, made a presentation pitching the then start-up to the system of Objectives and Key Results.

Google has been using it ever since. You can read about how they do here.

Here is a summary diagram by perdoo demonstrating how OKRs fit into the greater, strategic scheme of things:

 Your Objectives will be:

  • High-level, unambiguous milestones
  • Together, they achieve or significantly advance your mission
  • Ambitious and feel a tad uncomfortable
  • Cap them at 5-6 per year

The last point of capping your objectives to 5-6 each year is key. According to Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockerfeller Habits, 5-6 objectives is the golden number as organisations will rarely be able to focus on more without diluting their efforts.

Once you’ve defined your objectives, now you are ready to set up a number of “Key Results” that will help you achieve them.

Your Key Results will be:

  • Numeric or binary (numeric e.g. Improve sales by 80%, binary e.g. Open a new location in South America)
  • Will have a designated time period: should be a quarter although this can depend on your business
  • Graded between 0.6 – 0.7. E.g. If the KR is 100 new customers but the team is able to sell to 80 new customers, then it can be said that it has achieved a 0.8, or 80% of its target
  • Need to be revisited if your consistently hitting a range of 1.0 or more (you need to set higher goals)

Going back to our aspirational and significant objective example of Improving customer satisfaction, this is how it would work with OKR:

Now it’s Your Turn

You’d be wise to create your own digital marketing strategy and be part of the 17% unicorns that have a defined digital marketing document – but I’m not even asking you to do that. Simply, set 5-6 OKRs with a timeline to evaluate them again in a quarter and review them on a team level (or a departmental head level) every month.

Tactics around the key results done need to be assigned to names in the organisation. The completion of these tactics needs to be monitored and effectively will be your lead measures. Achieving the KR therefore at potentially the quarterly level will be your lag measures.

Go forth and give it a hit, what do you have to lose?

Keep the pressure lean and the ambition mean. Happy New Year all! 

Strategy Nerd? Learn more about OKR below or contact RedPandas to for help:



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