Objective Ingredients: How to write a Data-Driven Objective

by Jan 7, 2020

Have you ever finished a marketing campaign without the ability to say if it succeeded? This is what you were missing.

The big holiday market­ing campaign is over, and you’re present­ing the report to the VP of Market­ing. It was a campaign you worked hard on and are quite proud of. You tell the VP how, overall, you drove over $1,000,000 in revenue and at a cost per sale of under $10. And then it happens: she asks “Is this good? What costs are included in that calcu­la­tion?”

Do you quote Year-over-Year stats? Do you point out that she never gave you a target to shoot for? Or maybe you’re lucky, and she hasn’t asked the ques­tion yet, so it’s not a problem, right? WRONG!

When we set out to design a market­ing campaign, the only way to succeed is to persist in asking the right ques­tions in order to set a clear, aligned, and data-driven objec­tive. In order to achieve this, you’ll need a linguis­tic format for your objec­tive that inher­ently creates align­ment.

How to Set Data-Driven Objectives in Two Simple Steps

With two simple ques­tions*, each with three ingre­di­ents, you have every­thing you need to ensure all parties’ eyes are on the prize. Below is a table that aligns the ques­tion with its ingre­di­ents:

Once you have defined all 6 ingre­di­ents, you can put them together in two clean answers to the ques­tions, and it will look some­thing like this:

The effec­tive­ness of these two ques­tions does not reside in their simplic­ity, but rather in the fact that neither the first ques­tion nor its ingre­di­ents require estab­lish­ing an actual KPI and target. Again, a focus on people and align­ment is the key here. By asking first to clarify the general motive for the initia­tive, there is less oppor­tu­nity for push­back; however, once that motive has been defined, it is natural for that to lead into the second ques­tion: a clar­i­fi­ca­tion on how progress towards that result will be measured with more concrete ingre­di­ents (metric/change/target).

Two Factors for Success when Setting Data-Driven Objectives

Before you begin wield­ing this new tool, it’s impor­tant to note two things: first,  this exer­cise is only set up for success if it occurs during the plan­ning process. Later in the process, it will be far more diffi­cult, if not impos­si­ble, to estab­lish unbi­ased measures or to produc­tively confront stake­hold­ers’ invest­ments in deci­sions that have already been made.

Second, the objec­tive (the answers to the two well-struc­tured frame­work ques­tions) must be broadly shared at the outset as well as through­out the campaign. Have I mentioned that this is an align­ment tool and exer­cise yet? This ensures that all stake­hold­ers, both inter­nal and exter­nal, are on the same page as to what the campaign is intended to accom­plish.

What is the Benefit of a Data-Driven Objective?

Imagine this is your data-driven objec­tive and you are approach­ing the end of month one of the quarter, and you see in your live dash­boards that you are pacing for 90,000 customers. You get on your next agency call and, because they are aligned, they preempt your ques­tion and provide three options for incre­men­tal budget that are both effi­cient and ensure you exceed your target by EOQ.

How many conver­sa­tions would this have other­wise taken? And how many resource hours would have been wasted?

Now, you are likely think­ing about how there is no way the boss is ever going to give you clear answers to these ques­tions. Maybe you’ve tried this before and you’ve been burned enough times that you are just going to run this next campaign without a clear data-driven objec­tive or… let’s be honest… objec­tives that create account­abil­ity, and account­abil­ity is not so much fun.
The reality is that you’re right, there is a learn­ing curve to imple­ment­ing this prop­erly and we’re here to help you through that. Just know that we’ve seen first hand that the short term pain of working through the “people side” of this problem leads to a culture of far more enjoy­able processes, learn­ing, and perfor­mance wins in the long term.




*Credit to Tim Wilson for helping to refine this frame­work with these two ques­tions. Tim then believes that a long-past colleague of his, Matt Coen, should be sharing that credit with him.

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