Marketing Goal Orientation: GMLC Phase 1

About The Author

Ahmad Iqbal

Ahmad Iqbal

Co-founder and CEO at HMS Commerce. Product development and marketing of our suite of apps, as well as providing growth marketing services to select merchants.

Goal Orientation

Goal Orientation is the most crucial phase in the Growth Marketing Lifecycle process. It sets the stage for everything during the rest of the lifecycle.

The word Orient comes from Latin which means “to rise,” and was used to describe the sun, and later “the east”, the land from where the sun rose. In ancient times where agrarian culture revolved around the seasons, understanding the sun and its movement patterns was of utmost importance to life. It’s why so many societies worshipped the sun as god. They would orient their culture around it. The origin of the word Orient is valuable here because it shows us the importance of orienting ourselves to our goal. For marketing teams, if these goals are customer acquisition, app installs, or retention it helps us to organize ourselves around this; who, when, and where.

If this phase is rushed or not properly thought through, the marketing teams will spin their wheels or worse: move in the wrong direction.

We advise this stage be done in quarterly cycles. It’s long enough where teams have time to execute on important campaigns, but short enough for leadership to course correct if the ship starts sailing too far towards the wrong objectives. It’s also inline with how most large organizations plan their budgets and forecasts, so it has minimum disruption to leadership’s existing workflow and reporting cadence. ,

It’s also crucial that Goal Orientation starts and ends with leadership’s attention and commitment.

Roles & Responsibilities

Having the right people involved makes a big difference. The way teams work with each other will have a material impact on results. Who works on what, and when, is defined as part of this methodology. Role related questions are consistently the most asked during our transformation projects. Questions like:

“How will my role change with this new methodology?”

“Am I expected to do more work in less time?”

“How do we work with our colleagues in creative services?”

Although we won’t answer all those questions in Part I, the Roles and Responsibilities section under each subsequent playbook will provide the deeper answers you’re likely looking for.

So with that, let’s start off with Leadership.

Leadership

The main role leadership plays here is to define the goals and assemble the right team.

When we start Growth Marketing transformation at our enterprise clients, we start with one-on-one sessions with leadership to understand their objectives and desired results. Usually these conversations start off with leadership outlining issues with their processes and what they know they want to change. For example, cutting their lead time for new campaigns from eight weeks to two weeks. That predilection towards process is fair and likely the reason transformation consultants hired in first place, but at the end of the day we want the process to fit the organizational goals. The goal isn’t to launch campaigns four times faster; it is to deploy more impactful campaigns, learn more from each campaign, and ultimately drive more revenue for the business.

Leadership is also responsible for another key ingredient to a successful GMLC kick-off. They need to ensure the right team members and skills are at the table. A holistic cross-functional team needs to be present. Members from the Creative and Copy shared services, Search and Paid Social Specialists, etc. The full marketing workflow needs to be present as one mission team by the time Goal Orientation is kicked off. And more often than not, the fastest and easiest way to do this is just for senior leadership to mandate this change.

An example team structure of a large marketing team

And finally, leadership needs to set the goals. It’s surprising how many leaders we’ve interacted with that don’t know their team’s key KPIs off the top of their heads. Only by understanding these metrics, seeing the vision for their one year and three year goals, can they deconstruct their team’s quarterly objectives. Once the guard-rails for the team’s progress has been envisioned, the performance owners are invited to the table to discuss, debate, and formalize the targets.

Performance Owner

The Performance Owner represents the voice of the market and is ultimately accountable to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the team and its backlog. They need to come prepared to Orientation working sessions with the information needed for data-centric buckets on the Orientation Canvas. They drive most of the activities in Goal Orientation and are the most heavily involved.

Core Team

The Core Team is a cross-functional marketing team responsible for execution. Since they are the execution team, they need to be hyper-aware of the goals, and the organization's current position in relation to those goals. Although they don’t define the specific objectives, and most likely not held completely accountable (the Performance Owner is accountable), they are responsible for hitting those goals.

On teams with smaller team sizes, the core team can also be heavily involved just as long as the team size doesn’t impede the progress. Smaller teams will be heavily involved here, but with large teams with many individual specialists, the majority of their contributions will come in the following GMLC stages.

Peripheral Team Members (optional)

Peripheral Teams, such as data science, development, merchandising, or retail workers, just to name a few, may be involved in this stage. It’s taken on an as-needed basis. For example, if we’re heading into Q4’s holiday shopping season, having someone from merchandising and/or retail may be useful to understand the trends around in-store, and which products or collections are trending.

Peripheral team members likely won’t ever be accountable or responsible for marketing initiatives. But they may be either consulted, or informed during marketing’s lifecycle. If their involvement is not feasible, this shouldn’t be a problem. They can be polled, consulted or informed anytime during the sprint execution stages as well.

Activities & Outcomes

Goal Definition

The kick-off to Goal Orientation, and in effect to the whole Growth Marketing Lifecycle, is leadership’s goal definition. Although the KPIs are already an input, it’s critical for these KPIs to be socialized within the leadership team and formally agreed upon. Not achieving explicit agreement about the business metrics, and their order of priority will cause a trickle down confusion during execution.

Example KPIs

For example, and one that every marketing team will likely face, new customer acquisition vs. average basket sizes. The Acquisition team may have found a gold-mine of new customers, but the Retention team subsequently falls flat on their customer retention or basket size goals with that customer cohort because those were frugal spenders, extremely price inelastic or perhaps exclusively BFCM shoppers.

This is why having the goal definition, in a hierarchy form, is vital. Which metrics always matter more than others? Which metrics are of equal importance to others? Which are the lowest priority metrics? Having this hierarchy provides marketing teams with their “Prime Directive” as Star Trek fans will understand. When in doubt as to which metric to push, referring to this hierarchy of goals will provide clarity to teams.

It's not to say that one metric will always supersede another. Depending on the quarter, or the mission of the organization at the time, it may gain or lose importance. For example, generally speaking, Incremental Sales are more important to organizations, but perhaps the goal of Q2 next year should be ROI or ROAS in order to find more new opportunities to scale or opportunities to outsource “always on” campaigns to an external agency. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Q3 priority may become customer retention and loyalty, over new customer acquisition.

Growth Equation

Once you have the list of metrics you want to drive you must run a “Growth Equation Mapping” working session. If your organization already has a solid grasp of Goal Definitions and KPIs as mentioned in the above section, you can make this exercise the first one - it’s crucial that you do not skip this Growth Equation component because it will set the tone and build organizational alignment from the top down and bottom up, simultaneously.

A growth equation is a visualization of the customer acquisition, retention and referral levers in your organization.

Example of Amazon's growth equation

Why is this so important? Why is this the first thing we do? Because we need to understand how we grow. Only when we understand how we grow can we begin to understand the levers, switches, buttons and knobs in front of us as marketers.

In our experience the larger the organization is the more likely there is some budgeting or forecasting model already in place. This is especially important for retail businesses because operations like fulfilment, merchandising and staff planning depend on the supply of customers marketing is bringing in. But if marketing teams are getting periodic customer and sales goals from those forecasting models without transparency it can be a frustrating thing. The objective of this exercise is to co-create that formula.

For smaller organizations, it’s possible the team hasn’t taken the time to discuss their growth equation. If they haven’t done this does the team know which levers they should or shouldn’t pull? If/when the team misses their goals for the week/month/quarter, do they know why? Below is a sample growth equation map from an online retail business.

Having a growth equation formally documented will provide your team with a guiding light and a foundation upon which to base their hypotheses and insights. Most importantly, it’s going to give your team confidence and demystify the “black-box” of forecasting and budgeting.

This is just a start, and we will dive deeper into this activity in the next playbook. Again, the Growth Equation Mapping is critical to a successful start of the lifecycle because it will layout all the true opportunities the organization has to move the needle. Should  you prioritize/fund/staff product related pages for site performance and speed? Should you prioritize our post-purchase experiences? Should you focus attention on new channels to increase traffic to conversion pages? Having a growth equation will clarify your opportunities and will help the individual teams understand where they themselves should focus to move their functional specific KPIs. We’ll look at how different businesses and business models will have different growth equations, and break down the methodology to create your very own.

Marketing Orientation

The Marketing Orientation Canvas, shown on the next page, is a one page marketing plan. Instead of spending weeks devising a detailed strategic plan each year or each quarter, the purpose of this activity is to accomplish the same result through co-creation within a matter or hours, or at most, days. It catalyses the discussion around goals, targets, timelines, strengths and weaknesses and the resources at our disposal. The outcome of this session is the completed Marketing Orientation Canvas, which is the cornerstone of the Goal Orientation stage. And although it’s nice to have everything documented, the main value in creating this artifact is the discussion and debate it invites.

Funnel Stages Visualization

The Funnel Map is a visualization of your customer's purchase and retention journey. It is customer centric, which means it looks at the purchasing journey from the viewpoint of the customer. It’s exactly like you’re picturing it. The top of the funnel is the widest, and it narrows until the end. Funnels are used by marketers to communicate the effectiveness of campaigns, channels, as well as overall marketing flows. The top of  the funnel representing the total customer reach, the middle of the funnel representing how many of those people engaged and/or showed intent, and the bottom of the funnel representing how many of those people made a purchase.

An important note here is a funnel view makes more sense for an acquisition goal-oriented team or period. If you have a separate team, or a separate period in time, where you want to focus on retention then instead of a funnel map you will need to create a Customer Lifecycle Map, something which we will discuss in Part II and Part III of this playbook series.

There are several reasons why we want to visualize our funnel. First of all, it will help during the ideation phase when we need to come up with optimization opportunities or new campaign strategies. It does this by showing us where the holes in our funnels are. If we can measure it, we can manage it. For example, if we see the flow through rate from all funnel stages ranging between 20% and 50%, but we see a huge drop-off into the add-to-cart stage of 3% flow through, we have a problem area or leak we should investigate. Perhaps the button is too far below the screen fold? Is it showing up as too small on mobile devices?

Secondly, by visualizing and measuring our stages we earn the ability to manipulate our funnel widths to a certain extent (and gives us more information to break down our growth equation another level). As an example from a previous client, an export insurance provider, we found website visitors who attended a free online webinar, had a much higher chance of converting and buying the service. How did this change their marketing strategy? Once we know for certain that webinar attendance had a very real and positive correlation with insurance plan purchases, we developed a dedicated stage in the middle of the funnel for it, and created links to sign up for the webinar in as many relevant landing pages as we could (to maximize the flow into that stage). This, along with several other content related tactics drove down the organization’s customer acquisition cost by 75%.

A third reason why we would want to visualize the funnel is less tangible, and yet probably the most important and impactful reason to do it. It will created alignment within the team. Teams see the same artifact, and have the same stages visualized in their mind when they’ll talk about campaign health and new hypotheses. This shared consciousness is integral ingredient to a team moving in lockstep towards the organization’s goals.

A more detailed view on how to Funnel Map is included in the guide available to download at the top of this page.

Pre-Mortem

The final activity during this Goal Orientation stage is an optional one, and one I would suggest leadership drive only if they truly commit to the outcome. But although optional, it’s a great opportunity to start the GMLC process transformation off on the right foot. It’s a well known fact that the vast majority of enterprise process and team transformations fail in their implementation and maintenance, which is why getting ahead of potential pitfalls is crucial to increasing your organization's chance of success.

A pre-mortem is exactly like it sounds. It’s an exercise to put our team one year into the future, and do a “post-mortem” on why this new way of working failed. Since we’re doing a “post-mortem” before the meat and potatoes of the GMLC is kicked off, we're calling it a “pre-mortem.”

The outcome of this activity is an Impediment List that’s owned by leadership, these are a list of risks to be mitigated, and roadblocks to be lifted, in order for the team to be able to effectively execute against the goals.

Outcomes

As the name of this stage suggests the outcome is a clear alignment on the team goals. Teams need to know where they stand, where they need to go, and what the terrain on the journey looks like. This is crucial for sustained success. Goals should feel big, it’s alright for the teams to aim high and feel a bit nervous about the task ahead.

The activities and artifacts outlined above will help you accomplish this and prepare you for the next stage: Ideation & Hypothesis Creation.

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