Understanding Business Objectives

Written by Fresh Egg - 29 Feb 2012

This is the first of a 12-part series from Fresh Egg’s Insight and Analytics team, entitled “Performance Measurement & Optimisation.” The aim of the series is to outline a strategy for measuring, understanding and optimising the performance of your online business.

This first post focusses on understanding business objectives.

It is all too common for both brands and agencies to jump ahead online and start driving traffic, optimising landing pages, launching PPC campaigns and delving into the latest social media platforms. In the ever-diverging digital environment, it is very easy for efforts to become disjointed, isolated, and worse still destructive.

The main cause of this is losing sight of (or never formally identifying) the overarching business objectives. Before any measurement framework is put in place to monitor performance, or any marketing or optimisation initiatives are employed to improve performance, we need to first understand what the business is trying to achieve. This article will cover a top-level approach to understanding business objectives.

What is the purpose of this business?

This may seem obvious but the first step is to identify and understand the purpose of the business in question.

In many businesses the answer to this question will form the mission statement. For small companies this can often be found easily within the name of the business (e.g. Smith & Son’s plumbing services), a brief discussion with the owner or even a cursory glance at the company website.

It can get more complex however when it comes to large, multi-departmental or international companies. In this case it can be less clear on the surface what the core value proposition of the business is, and speaking to different stakeholders may give rise to different views. It is therefore critical for all relevant stakeholders to agree on the principal purpose of the business.

What is the company vision?

The company vision should be a blueprint of how the company would look to its key stakeholders in an ideal world. The vision is essentially a top-level view of what the company would like to achieve: i.e. a strategic direction. Without a clear vision the purpose is meaningless, as it is given no direction.

Furthermore defining goals will be a misguided exercise as there will be no context around them. The vision could simply be “to become the market leader” or “to develop and brand a global product.”

What are the company objectives?

Once the purpose is clearly understood and the long-term vision has been considered, company objectives can be set. Success can then subsequently be measured against these objectives.

Objectives should relate specifically to the company vision, ensuring that their completion marks key milestones along the strategic path of the business. Objectives can be categorised as short, medium or long term depending on the time they are likely to take relative to each other, i.e. short-term objectives might take two weeks or two years to complete but these will be shorter compared to the other two categories.

Examples of company objectives for each category might include:

Long-term objectives

Grow customer base by 50% in the next fiscal year

Double revenue in the next two years

Become the market leader in the next three years

Medium-term objectives

Introduce a dedicated customer area on the website

Increase average order value (AOV) by 50%

Expand product offering to cater for more of the market

Short-term objectives

Complete a customer requirements survey for logged-in area

Introduce related products feature on the website

Drive immediate awareness of new products via a tactical PPC campaign

An important point to note is that long-term objectives should be set first. It may seem easier to some to plan the short-term objectives first but this is counterintuitive as the short and medium-term objectives are stepping stones towards completing the long-term business objectives.

Once we have answered the three fundamental questions above, the company in question can begin to define a suitable strategy for achieving ultimate success. However this is where the road forks slightly as the focus of this series is around the measurement and optimisation of performance and not on defining the business strategy.

Therefore we will assume that a sensible strategy is set and the next post will move to identifying macro and micro website conversions.