The Measuring Cup Rule: A Guideline for Setting Strong Objectives

Measuring Cup

When I first became a manager, I struggled with setting direction for the assistant brand manager with whom I worked. In my head the objectives I was defining were so clear yet results were always so far off what I expected. This was not due to a lack of effort on his part, but instead due to a lack of clarity on mine. Making some simple changes not only helped him understand what our strategy better, but also helped me take the time to ensure every objective we set met certain important criteria.

Objectives are the backbone of your marketing strategy. Most leaders within organizations know what they want to achieve, but their teams have a difficult time tackling the objectives not because they’re far fetched, but simply because they’re poorly phrased. To overcome this, I developed a guideline for myself for creating sound objectives: the measuring cup rule.

Every objective I set for any project must be clear and measurable, just like the cup. A clear objective leaves no room for ambiguity and no questions about what you expect. It is considered measurable if the phrasing can answer the questions “how much” and “by when”. Too often marketing objectives are lacking in one or both of these qualities and lead to poor results because the team was unsure of expectations and cannot be held accountable because no measurable target was set.

“Increase sales in store A” may seem like a solid objective but it is in fact one of the weakest examples I regularly encounter. Do I want to increase sales across my entire product range or just one product? What qualifies as an increase? 1%? 10%? And when exactly do I expect my team to have achieved this objective?

An easy revision of this objective will make it easier for your team to understand what they are striving for and how to make that happen. “Increase sales of products X, Y, and Z in store A by 20% by quarter four.” Is this clear enough? Almost. “Increase sales of products X, Y, and Z in store A by 20% by end of quarter four” is now perfectly clear to all stakeholders. While this may seem like nitpicking, it is essential that you continue to check for any ambiguity in any objective you set before relaying it to your team. Remember, they cannot read your mind and will be unable to understand exactly what you expect unless you ensure that it is perfectly laid out. Even if you are the only one who will work on these objectives, it is still important that they are clear and measurable for you to achieve the best results.

Here are a few more examples:

Improve click through rates for our SEM.
Improve click through rates for our Google AdWords campaigns to 3% by November 2015. 

Understand our consumers better.
Learn more about the purchasing motivations of our current consumers in Dubai by end of the year.

Increase engagement on Facebook
Increase weekly post reach by 30% and achieve 100 fan visits to the page per day by September 30, 2015.

If you feel that setting strong objectives is something you struggle with then you can do what I did when I was conditioning myself to follow this rule: print out the above image of the measuring cup and keep it above your desk or taped to your laptop so that every time you are working on new objectives it is there as a reminder.


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