September 13, 2021

How to roll out OKRs on your marketing team

Lucy Hitz
Lucy Hitz

As author John Doerr put it in his book Measure What Matters, “An effective goal-setting system starts with disciplined thinking at the top, with leaders who invest the time and energy to choose what counts.”

By simplifying the methodology of goal setting, marketing executives can lead their teams toward success, one objective at a time, and see bigger and better results. One effective method for measuring progress is through the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework, which enables marketing teams to distill thoughts and goals into a statement that defines an objective, followed by key results that will measure these achievements.

OKR Overview


How do OKRs help marketing teams?

What makes OKRs so beneficial for marketing? Here are three ways your marketing team can benefit from using OKRs: 

  1. OKRs align company goals with marketing goals. Have you ever felt like your marketing team is living on a different planet than the rest of the company? When organizations have fractured priorities, progress stalls everywhere. By starting with high-level objectives, OKRs ensure all departments stay in alignment with company goals. Shared goals give teams across the organization insights into what each department wants to accomplish and how it all ties together.
  2. OKRs tie specific actions to desired outcomes. Without well-defined objectives, marketing becomes a game of trying to hit a moving target. Rather than shooting in the dark, OKRs give everyone the right scope to aim for the bullseye.
  3. OKRs increase productivity and sense of accomplishment. Declaring an objective without a clear metric for success is like sending your employees on a never-ending game of cat and mouse. When clear objectives are tied to success metrics, employees know what they should be working on every day. Plus, it gives them a finish line to cross along with a reason to pat themselves on the back. A sense of accomplishment positively contributes to an employee’s engagement with their work and how they feel about the organization. Happy employees are more productive employees. 

Examples of marketing OKRs

Good marketing OKRs start with specific objectives that are tied to your department’s purpose within the organization. They are not tied to numbers or metrics, but instead define high-level goals that further your company’s mission. 

For example, a marketing leader could set this OKR: 

I will improve end-to-end sales processes to improve closing rates as measured by execution of 6 targeted lead campaigns, acquisition of 950 new MQLs for sales, and generation of $10M in marketing generated pipeline by Q1.” 

In that OKR, the marketing executive identified a specific high-level objective, followed by three key results that will be the measures of success.

Marketing professionals tasked with demand generation could opt for an objective that is more closely targeted to their department goals, like:

I will achieve record-breaking marketing engagement to increase paying customers as measured by 60,000 unique website visitors, 4,000 new trial signups and 1,400 new paid customers in Q3.”

As you can see, OKRs can be tailored for use in various types of marketing roles and departments. They can be created for a high-level executive, a team of marketing professionals, an individual contributor, or an entire organization. What’s most important is that they are specific and achievable.

Where to start

You’ve decided OKRs are great! They work for many organizations, and you’d like to use them in your marketing department. So, what’s next?

The first step to creating an OKR is to do some high-level thinking. Define your most important marketing objectives for the next quarter and spend some time considering how they align with overall company goals. Talk to your executive team. Start by asking the big questions about where your organization sees itself going, and then consider how your marketing department can play a role in getting there. 

At this point, you may recognize a need for a more robust OKR tool to help your program. With, everyone can have the visibility and reporting tools to track OKRs company-wide, so you can easily expand your program beyond just marketing. 

Once you have narrowed down your objectives, it’s time to set up some key results. As you saw earlier, these are the specific ways you will know you are meeting your objective. But they’re not just thoughts or ideas or hopes or wishes; they are concrete metrics by which you can operate. They must be measurable and directly contribute to the objective.

Put your objective and key results into an OKR statement using this simple structure:

I will (objective) as measured by (key results).

Share your OKRs with your marketing team and set a regular cadence for reviewing progress. OKRs aren’t helpful if you’re not checking in with them on a regular basis and making adjustments to strategy and tactics based on progress (or lack thereof). The right rituals light your path towards a successful OKR rollout.

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