Defining measurable objectives

May 29, 2012


In order to measure success, you have to define it first. That's where measurable objectives come in (Image credit:


The other day, I got home at 9:05 p.m. and ran to the gran the TV remote as fast as I could. Yes, we watch a lit of TV. Anyway, the Scandal season finale was on and I forgot to DVR it. So quickly, I flipped on the TV, hit guide and set it to record so Maggie and I could watch it later, all while trying to make sure I didn’t actually hear anything that was happening on the show. I’ve done this a time or two before and I’m sure you have too.

Anyway, got the recording set and TV turned off. All good. Except when we watched it later, we had to start five minutes into the show. And we spent the entire show trying to remember what happened in that first five minutes. Without seeing it, we were missing a key piece of the story. And it changed our understanding of what we were watching.

Two lessons here: 1) Scandal is a solid show and you should Netflix it if you didn’t watch it this year, 2) I’ve been part of way to many campaign measurement conversations lately where people skip the measurable objectives — the first five minutes of the show.

Look, marketing communications measurement — social media or otherwise — isn’t easy. But it can be a lot simpler if we define a few key terms and make sure we are following a process rooted in developing measurable objectives per-campaign. Miriam-Webster, eat your heart out:

1. Goals. These are high-level aspirations you want to accomplish, usually as part of a campaign. For example: 1) Increase sales, 2) Raise awareness among Gen X moms, 3) Drive traffic to our company website, Improve Facebook engagement. Note that goals or more visionary and they DO NOT contain specifics or numbers.

2. Objectives. You might call them goals that are measurable. Hence the term measurable objectives. Your objectives MUST have a number in them. Or a percentage. Some parameters around what you are trying to accomplish. Any of the three examples listed under goals or other examples that don’t include a number you are shooting for are NOT objectives. Some possibilities include: 1) Increase sales by 10 percent, 2) Raise awareness among Gen X moms by securing placements with 25 Gen X mom bloggers, 3) Drive 500 clickthroughs a week to our website and an average time spent over two minutes, 4) Improve interactions on campaign related posts from 100 likes, 200 comments and 25 shares to 200 likes, 400 comments and 50 shares.

3. Benchmarks. The numbers you choose to reference in your measurable objectives shouldn’t just be pulled out of thin air. They need to be based off a comparable past campaign, industry standard or at least an educated guess. Maybe you are trying to increase sales by 10 percent in the example above because last year you increased sales by 5 percent and you are striving to double that mark. Benchmarks are important because when you just share pure numbers without any context, you’re likely to get asked questions like, “Are these numbers good?” Believe me, sucks when you don’t have a good answer to that question.

4. Scorecard. This is a helpful way to display your goals, objectives and benchmarks and then to track your overall progress. Plus, if you create a scorecard pre-campaign, you can share it with your team and leadership so everyone is on the same page and knows what the project is meant to accomplish. This also provides a check and balance to make sure the numbers in your objectives are realistic.

What other terms do you think are important to define? Example of a project where you used measurable objectives well?

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