Developing and tracking marketing Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) with Sprout Social.

Part 1: Defining Key Outcomes

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been digging into product management practices for agile organizations. I figure if I can learn to empathize with PMs, I can become more effective at working with one, and more informed as to whether or not the product management path is for me. As I’m also working to grow my personal professional brand, I decided it would be fun to step outside of my typical role as Product Designer and step into a new role of Product Manager for my own social media marketing channels.

In this article, I’m going to discuss some fundamental topics of outcome-based roadmaps, which I’ll apply to my own social media efforts, and attempt to quantify the results of those efforts using a social media tool called Sprout Social. I am not affiliated with Sprout Social by any means, and all opinions and observations of this product are that of my own, and of the perspective of a user.

Let’s begin.

Output vs outcome-based roadmaps

There are two ways to look at an endeavor. One is the output-based method, where you first focus on the work products that are being created. The problem is that many PMs would argue that focusing primarily on outputs can result in high churn “feature factories” where organizations work to put out features despite not having a clear vision or need for them. This method may work if you don’t care so much about where you go, as long as you end up somewhere. The alternative is outcome-based thinking where you first imagine an outcome or a future-facing scenario that can come to be as a result of your work. Doing this mental exercise of working backward from your product vision is called strategy and it is often a more efficient and accurate framework for reaching your target scenario. It’s like following the north star versus walking 1,000 steps and then checking which direction the sun sets.

Product vision, objective, and key result

The phrases “Product Vision”, “Objective”, and “Key Result” are used to align an organization in a unified direction. The reason why these terms are often communicated is that regardless of your position in the organization, you should know how you’re contributing to your company’s overall progress and growth. Clearly defining and communicating the organizational direction is key to making sure everyone’s effort is contributing in a way that is beneficial.

A tree diagram with product vision at top followed below by objective, key result, and opportunity.

Starting from the top and moving down, I’m going to describe each of these alignment terms and explain them with an example. Since these topics can get a bit dry, I’m going to use a made-up example product called “CornDawg: The #1 On-Demand Corndog Delivery App”. 🌭 🚚

Product Vision

Product vision, like a mission statement, is the highest-level alignment point, and for that reason, many orgs call this “The North Star”. It’s the truest, most aspirational statement that describes why you as an organization do what you do. Often it’s forecasted 5-year or more into the future. Most major companies get creative when crafting this statement, but there’s also a basic template that anyone could follow to develop a product vision statement.

It goes:

For [our target customer], who [customer’s need], the [product] is a [product category or description] that [unique benefits and selling points]. Unlike [competitors or current methods], our product [main differentiators].

Example:

CornDawg’s vision is to be the number one on-demand fried food production and delivery service, that can provide millions of customers with a high quality, freshly made meal in under 20 minutes or less.

Objective

Objectives, which represent the O in OKR, are strategic goals that help to achieve product vision. These goals should be specific and reevaluated after a period of time.

Example:

  • Increase CornDawg delivery and distribution reach.
  • Create the greatest corn dog menu on the market.
  • Reduce product production and delivery time.

Key Result

Key results, or KR in OKR, are user-centered outcomes that serve as indicators that the organization is on the way to achieving their objective. These should be achievable, ambitious, and measurable.

Example Objective:

Grow CornDawg delivery and distribution.

Example Key Results:

  • 4,000 more individuals will gain access to CornDawg delivery service by the end of Q1 2021.
  • 10% more CornDawg delivery experiences will occur during Q4 2020 as compared to Q1 2020.

It’s easy to see the business benefits of defining a product vision with objectives, and key outcomes. After defining these, it’s up to product teams to identify opportunities that create the outcome, and iterate on ideas until a solution is found and the feature is built. In a future article, I’ll go into more detail about the UX and product design contribution to the vision, which predominantly starts at the desired outcome, or key result, level.

My Social Media product vision, objectives, and key results

Next, I defined my own social media product vision, and OKRs, and started a free trial with Sprout Social to see if this app is capable of tracking the key results I’m looking to create. I completed this strategy session before I opened the Sprout Social app because I did not want to limit the key results to metrics that can be tracked on the Sprout App. I’m looking at the app through the lens of an entrepreneurial user with a problem, and I’d like to determine if Sprout has the solutions I need. Since the free trial is only one month, these OKRs have very short period durations.

Luke Manimala Social Vision

For entrepreneurs and creative professionals, who look for new sources of creative and strategic inspiration, the Luke Manimala marketing channels are a digital media product that applies the product mindset to Luke’s design, music, and storytelling practices.

Unlike the futur, mmf_uk, shoppetheory, or Amanda Hocking, our channels openly discuss the overarching applications of product design and management principles across these three practices.

Objectives and Key Results

Objective 1: Increase Brand Awareness

  • Average 1 post/week activity rate on all channels by October 12, 2020 (KR 1.1)
  • Generate 2400 impressions per week across all channels by October 12, 2020 (KR 1.2)

Objective 2: Increase Brand Engagement

  • Increase the omnichannel engagement rate to 1% by October 12, 2020. (KR 2.1)

Can Sprout Social deliver the Key Result metrics I’ve defined?

Finally, after defining three key results as goal post outcomes for my two marketing objectives, I opened up Sprout Social to determine if the product was a good solution for my needs.

After very little time, I found the solutions I needed live within the Reports tab of the Sprout Social web app. Then navigating deeper to Cross Network Reports, Sprout provides a dashboard that allows users to track and visualize key network and post performance indicators across multiple social networks. All of my goals were focused on my omnichannel network, meaning this is the area that is of most importance to my need.

The Reports tab of Sprout Social contains dashboards for profile reach, post performance, and site analytic data sets.

Paying close attention to the Profile Performance page, here I was able to find visualizations detailing impressions and engagement rates, broken out by social networks. Going one navigational level deeper to Profiles, I was able to find one table that included the information that I’d need to track my OKRs.

All of the data needed shown at navigational location Reports > Cross-Network Reports > Profile Performance > Profiles
I found all of the data that I needed to track within one table at the navigational location Reports > Cross-Network Reports > Profile Performance > Profiles

Then using the export function, I downloaded this in PDF version which I’ll check back against to see if I’ve succeeded in creating the Key Result Outcomes. Those outcomes were to establish an average post of greater than or equal to 1 for each social network, increase weekly impressions to 2,400 (currently 2050), and increase engagement to 1% (currently 0.7%) by October 12, 2020.

The Cross-Network Profiles table includes all of the data needed for me to track my Marketing Objectives and Key Result Outcomes.

By checking back on these metrics at the end of the OKR periods I defined, I will have a good idea as to whether or not I generating outputs that contribute to the outcomes and overall vision that I have for my social media content.

Conclusion

Now that I’ve set my social media strategy with a Vision, Objectives, and Key Results, I’m ready to start working on outputs that will get me to the outcomes I desire. With this outcome-based roadmap, I now have a clear target to aim for with my social media product. This concludes the PM portion of this blog series. In Part II of this two-part blog, I will put my designer hat back on and discuss the product design iteration and process that supports the vision I developed in the outcome-based roadmap. Hope to see you all there.

This article first appeared at lukemanimala.com. For article sources and related content please visit the original article post.

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Luke Manimala

Luke Manimala

Chicago-based product designer. I am working to find the story and value in every product through thoughtful execution and innovative design.