Part 1: Set KPIs and Big Rock Goals So Your Team is Always Working Towards The Same Outcomes

Part 1: Set KPIs and Big Rock Goals So Your Team is Always Working Towards The Same Outcomes

In the digitally-driven sales era, the fusion of technology and marketing is more evident than ever before. Brands of all scales are navigating the complex waters of the marketing tech stack, investing their resources and efforts in multiple tools and platforms to achieve their desired outcomes. As you work your way through this chapter, let's establish one pivotal fact: managing your marketing tech stack isn't just another task on your to-do list—it is arguably the most crucial task for a modern marketer. Here's why:

  1. Your Data Picture Is The Foundation Of Your Media Strategy
    Imagine you're an artist. The colors on your palette and your own skill will determine the quality and vibrancy of your painting. But no matter which tools you bring to the studio, you can’t paint with the lights off. In the realm of marketing, your data illuminates the bigger picture of your media strategy. Without continuous access to accurate, comprehensive, apprehensible, and relevant information, you’re painting in the dark–making blind choices in the absence of real goals or strategy. A misinterpreted or foggy data picture will lead your campaigns astray, resulting in wasted efforts and missed opportunities. In contrast, a well-defined data landscape can set the stage for strategic masterstrokes that resonate with your audience. 

  1. Sustainable Growth is Built on Organization and Flexibility
    Say you’re mounting a typical CPC campaign for a brand selling a single product to a single audience. Your campaign will be made up of three ad sets–one for each phase of the sales funnel, and each ad set will contain three ads. Now imagine you’re selling two products to two audiences. Or 100 products across a whole annual sales cycle. Will your existing technology scale with you as you do more, or will you need to migrate between tools at an inopportune moment? Can your email platform weave SMS into your campaigns to mount a logic-driven multichannel strategy? Have you named your campaigns in a way that’s sortable, searchable, and insightful, or are your proliferating ad sets starting to feel like the tangle of wires behind your TV? 

Sustainability isn't just a buzzword—it’s a crucial operations benchmark for brands striving to build durable success. An efficiently managed marketing stack ensures that you always have room to grow, allowing you to navigate evolving consumer preferences and emerging trends with agility and foresight.

  1. Quality Attribution Prevents Lost ROI on Ineffective Media Strategies
    As the old saw goes, every dollar counts–especially in the ROI-focused world of online marketing. A mismanaged tech stack can be a drain on resources, leading to costly blunders. On the other hand, when your marketing tools are operating in perfect harmony, it's easier to spot redundancies, compare the ROI of different initiatives, and allocate budgets effectively. In essence, a well-maintained marketing stack acts as a safeguard, ensuring that every investment you make is geared towards tangible results.

  1. Mastering Your Marketing Stack Helps To Standardize Onboarding and Training
    Your marketing stack isn't really about the tools you select—it's about the people who wield them. A well-understood, comprehensive toolkit aids in the creation of standardized processes for onboarding new team members and training them. This consistency ensures that everyone speaks the same 'marketing language', reducing inefficiencies and aiding teams in synchronizing their efforts. 

When you fully understand your processes in relation to your technology’s capabilities, there’s no more reinventing the wheel with every new hire; instead, your marketing stack becomes the common playbook everyone can rely upon. And as you document your practices, new team members can begin learning to perform their roles with minimal direct input from you.

In the forthcoming sections, we'll delve deeper into the nuances of managing a marketing tech stack, equipping you with the five most useful productivity tips we’ve learned over a decade growing some of the most dynamic brands in ecommerce. Our goal is to ensure that you're not just keeping up with the digital marketing race, but leading it. Here are five things you must do to harness the true power of your marketing tools and strategies.

1. Set KPIs and big rock goals so your team is always working towards the same outcomes

This section may seem self-evident to you, but don’t skip it. If you’ve ever been to physical therapy, you know that the easiest exercises to do are also the easiest not to do, and making sure that your team is completely aligned and motivated by a unified set of goals is essential to your sustained success.

Selecting Key Performance Indicators

If you’re managing a single small business, you probably already know which performance metrics constitute your KPI, and they’re unlikely to change much quarter to quarter. 

But when you’re running a large business with diverse revenue streams, or an agency that works with clients of various sizes, verticals, and lifecycle phases, as we do at P3, your KPI will be highly contingent on context.

Consider two athleisure apparel companies–one a venture-funded startup and another an enterprise level independent with strong brand equity: The young, well-capitalized company may prioritize growing its customer base over revenue, and may disregard the cost of acquisition for several quarters in order to hit an ambitious customer growth target. The mature company is more likely to prioritize YOY revenue gains, returning customer rate, average order value, loyalty program growth, and other performance metrics that evaluate revenue against margin. Of course, in real life these priorities are also influenced by market conditions, vertical, the cost of money etc. The main point is this:

While reporting dashboards are increasingly adept at reading patterns in your numbers and suggesting which levers to pull to improve performance, you cannot and should not automate the process of defining which numbers your team pays attention to. Above all else, you must ensure that your team is always working to improve an agreed upon set of KPIs, as determined by your business context and your quarterly big rock goals. What’s a big rock goal? Glad you asked.

Harnessing The Big Rock Goal System
The term “Big Rock” was coined by the business habits expert Stephen Covey as part of a thought exercise he devised to help people and organizations taxonomize large task lists. Here’s how it works: 

Imagine your day as a jar, and of all your daily tasks as rocks whose sizes correspond to their importance. At the beginning of any given day you have a few big rocks (your most important tasks), a bunch of small rocks (your less important tasks), and a large quantity of gravel (stuff to delegate or delete from your tasklist). The question we all ask ourselves every morning is, “how do I get all these task rocks into this day jar?” If you had a jar and enough rocks to fill it right now, you’d find that there’s only one way to get them all tidily inside–by adding the biggest rocks first.

Covey’s deceptively simple observation reveals a profound truth that applies across business operations writ large: Identifying and focusing on your largest goals yields the most productivity.

Eisenhower Matrix


We first learned about the importance of identifying and prioritizing big rocks more than a decade ago, as a participant startup in the Techstars accelerator program in New York City. At Techstars, we defined our big rock goals as the 3-5 most important priorities to accomplish within the next quarter. And as P3 has grown over the last ten years, the precision of this definition has been profoundly useful in several ways:

First, it keeps your goals manageable. To be effective, your goals should be actionable (reasonable), measurable, and time-bounded. Sure, your ultimate aim is to build a publicly traded company and retire while your hair is still beautiful. But that’s not a goal, it’s a dream.  Setting quarterly goals allows you to break the year into conceptually manageable periods for comparison, evaluation, and adjustment.

Second, selecting just 3-5 large goals productively narrows your focus, making them easier to achieve. Once you start goal setting, it’s only natural to get carried into the heady realm of brainstorming. But focus is a kind of ruthlessness, and to meet the goals that you set, you have to let go of all but what’s essential.

Third, a properly written big rock goal gives structure to your KPI focus. Let’s say you need to raise revenue while reducing spending on new customer acquisition, which is becoming too expensive in the current climate. You decide to focus on optimizing your online store’s conversion rate, since A) it’s a primary area of opportunity and B) conversion rate tends to have a negative correlation with the expensive top of funnel campaigning you’re cutting out. Now you write your big rock goal:

Raise conversion rates from 2.5% (industry average) to 2.8% (80th percentile) by the end of Q2.

Achievable. Measurable. Time-bounded. Important and urgent. And written in a syntax that leaves no room for misinterpretation. This is how to write your big rocks for maximum impact. And the clarity that results from a well-triangulated big rock brings us to the most important reason for using them:

Above all else, setting a big rock goal creates a mandate for individual departments and teams to break off their own chunks. In management circles, this chunking process goes by jargony labels like, ‘interdisciplinary task decomposition,’ so to illustrate, let’s briefly revisit the big rock goal above. 

Now that you’ve prioritized raising conversion rates 12% in 90 days, your marketing team will logically focus on the initiatives that bring the highest-converting visitors to your site–returning customers. The team’s activities are likely to include middle of funnel remarketing, bottom of funnel cross-selling, loyalty plays and VIP promotions. Meanwhile, your customer success team may develop a virtual assistant to answer questions prospects commonly ask in the consideration or conversion phases of the buyer’s journey. Your UX team may invest in iterative CRO changes to your PDP, and so on. Each department’s agenda becomes a function of your big rock goal, increasing coordination, accountability, and your odds of success.

Tracking Your Goals Over Time
If you want to build accurate multi year tracking into your goal setting practice, the 4-5-4 marketing calendar is your best friend. Unlike a standard 356-day calendar, the 4-5-4 breaks every month into either 4 or 5 complete weeks, which ensures that comparable months always contain an equal number of weekends and that holidays stay aligned from year to year. The 4-5-4 calendar provides your most accurate framework for extracting an apples-to-apples comparison between your marketing activities today, and your marketing activities on the equivalent day last year. For a full primer on setting up your 4-5-4 calendar, check out the National Retail Federation’s exhaustive guidance

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