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Kiera Wiatrak

OKRs vs KPIs: When to Use Each to Drive Content Marketing Success

With companies producing more content than ever, you need to know what makes you stand out and brings you closer to your goals. While the simple act of creating more posts and guides benefits your brand’s visibility, it takes a little digging to know what’s truly working. This is where frameworks like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come in handy. Although both are crucial for any effective marketing campaign, there tends to be some confusion around what makes them different and when each should be applied. In this blog post, we’ll clear that up so you can start setting and executing your content goals.

Paint the Big Picture with OKRs

Think of OKRs as high-level content aspirations – they define the direction before addressing the nitty-gritty. The objectives are methodically defined goals set on ambitious outcomes. Objectives should clearly communicate desired outcomes for a campaign instead of getting tactical. Paired with key results identifying milestones towards those objectives, OKRs align your team’s shared goals and company priorities. Because OKRs set the vision without getting too specific, they provide flexibility in eventual tactics. The key is ambition with stretch goals instead of easily achievable targets.

Let’s put this into perspective with a hypothetical:

Fit ‘Fits is a workout apparel brand that sells products online directly to consumers. After several years of steady growth, the leadership team sets a strategic objective to grow their customer base through content that positions them as trusted experts in their niche. An appropriately ambitious OKR could be:

Set The Objective

“Establish branded content hub with 50% annual visitor growth rate that converts audiences into loyal customers”

This objective sets clear direction – leveraging content to attract and convert visitors into loyal buyers. But most importantly it specifies the intended outcome around annual visitor growth and customer conversion in clear, quantitative terms. While an objective defines what you hope to accomplish, quantifiable key results indicate the milestones that support achieving those outcomes.

Define Key Results to Track Progress

Key performance indicators reflecting content engagement, subscribers, and conversions might include:

Key Result 1:

“Achieve 10,000 monthly blog subscribers”

Key Result 2:

“Launch a recurring ‘Ask the Experts’ video series generating a 75% view through rate”

Key Result 3:

“Increase blog visitor to sale conversion rate from 1.5% to 2.0% via content nurturing”

Together, the objective and key results set a clear and measurable goal for the Fit ‘Fits blog. The objective outlines their intention to become a content destination with recurring visitors that convert to customers. The KRs set tangible signposts to measure progress against. In combination, an ambitious yet quantified OKR like this one gives teams a metric to rally around rather than just vague aspirations.

Monitor Progress with KPIs

With those lofty OKRs in place, specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) demonstrate progress toward goals like email open rates, lead conversions, content downloads, or customer renewal rates. In other words, while OKRs represent ambition, KPIs ground efforts in statistics revealing real traction.

Rather than general goals, actionable KPIs help teams actively monitor performance, revealing opportunities based on what content truly moves needles.

Let’s think back to our Fit ‘Fits example. With the OKR defined as growing blog traffic and conversions, relevant monthly KPIs could include:

Traffic Volume KPIs:

  • Total unique visitors
  • Repeat visitor rate
  • Pages per session
  • Average session duration

These indicators would track whether overall site visitors and engagement metrics are trending up, as per the 50% annual growth target.

Subscription KPIs:

  • New email subscribers
  • Average open rates
  • Click through rates
  • Subscription content consumption

Monitoring email and subscription metrics would show if the 10,000 subscriber target is within reach and that followers actively engage with each edition.

Conversion KPIs:

  • Blog visitor to sale conversion rate
  • Account registrations from blog
  • Revenue influenced by content

These conversion KPIs would validate if content nurturing lifts sales from 1.5% towards the 2.0% goal.

On top of these, it would also be beneficial to analyze performance by content types:

  • Views, completion rates, shares per video
  • Download rates for content like guides and ebooks
  • Time on page, clicks by blog article topic

Taken together, a robust set of KPI dashboards would provide Fit ‘Fits a quantitative look at traffic, engagement, and conversions that indicate tangible progress against their defined OKR. Having both directional OKRs and measurable KPIs proves or disproves that your content efforts are paying off.

Applying OKRs and KPIs Strategically

Kick off long-term content planning and goal-setting with aspirational OKRs that define purpose without tactics. Regularly review progress qualitatively against the key results you outlined. Using OKRs in campaign strategy aligns teams behind bold ambitions laddering up to company goals.

Complement those qualitative OKRs with quantitative KPIs during active content creation. Establish KPI dashboards to actively monitor performance statistically around engagement and conversions. Analyze trends to uncover optimization opportunities based on measured outcomes rather than hopes alone.

Set Ambitious OKRs First

Begin any content marketing campaign or initiative by defining aspirational OKRs. This grounds efforts in shared goals and aligns teams while also allowing flexibility in eventual execution. Ambitious OKRs will raise the bar to motivate real outcomes.

Tailor Relevant KPIs Second

With qualitative goals framing your overall purpose, identify precise KPI benchmarks tied directly to monitoring performance towards objectives. Avoid vague metrics, instead deliberately choosing indicators that best gauge measurable traction across short- and longer-term horizons based on your content types and channels.

Leverage Leading & Lagging KPIs

Establish two classifications of KPI dashboards. Leading indicators (like open rates) actively monitor customer response. Lagging indicators (like conversions) track longer term outcomes. Blend both to assess ongoing interest driving eventual business results.

Set KPI Goalposts

Determine realistic goalposts for monthly, quarterly or annual KPI targets stretched just beyond current baselines. This grounds analysis, making it clear when performance veers significantly over or under projections. This way you’ll only respond to major shifts that require attention, rather than to every minor fluctuation.

Review OKRs Against KPI Trends

Hold regular check-ins gauging KPI dashboards versus OKR milestones. Review what content or formats over- or under-perform compared to your expectations. Discuss any apparent disconnect between high-level aspirations and measurable performance. With this information in hand, you can refine objectives, tactical plans, or KPIs as needed.

The Balancing Act

The best path towards your goals starts with aspirational OKRs. But without effective KPIs, it’s impossible to know whether those goals are being reached. Focusing exclusively on ambitious objectives loses sight of measurable progress. But obsessively tracking metrics fails to further strategic goals.

Using both frameworks at the right times allows you to set meteoric goals and guide your efforts toward reaching them. Once you find the right balance, your content will exceed expectations and drive your brand’s growth.

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