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No “Conversion” Doesn’t Mean Many Things: A Look At KPIs and OKRs

I recently saw a LinkedIn post claiming that the term conversion can mean different things at different points in the sales cycle. It doesn’t. What the author meant was that conversion has steps that can be measured before the conversion. These are called Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). They are interim measurements that help you to stay on track and achieve your goals, which are measured by your Key Performing Indicators (KPIs).

But a conversion is a conversion. It means a sale has been made. You may think this is just a matter of semantics, but it’s not. It’s part of a greater problem that has too many business leaders confused by nuanced definitions and explanations instead of measuring the things they rely on for success. The term “conversion” is just one example.

When you start changing definitions, you most likely have a failure to create OKRs. This may have been your role or your consultant’s, but it was a missed step in the process. When a consultant provides a nuanced definition, or finesses the results they are getting for you, it means they have not achieved your goal (KPI) and only found out at the end of the period in which they were supposed to have achieved that goal. The explanation is usually provided when you question the results you are (or are not) seeing.   

We all understand that conversions don’t happen instantly. What responsible consultants and strategists provide for their clients is not reassurance that the conversions are coming, but rather a way to tell how many conversions they can expect based on the measurement of OKRs that are designed to show the progress toward the goal(s). This is how a strategic partner designs their solutions at least.

In marketing, the definition of OKRs starts with a clear understanding of the path a buyer takes in their journey from awareness to purchase and beyond. Examples of OKRs in a buying process include such things as downloads of whitepapers, videos watched, or visits to pages on your website that offer pre-sale information. As a prospective client gets closer to a decision, these activities will become more common.

The unfortunate practice of providing nuanced definitions to explain away non-performance seems to be something lesser qualified consultants created. It often appears to be an attempt to persuade you that they are getting results for you when you’re disappointed so they can keep your business while they scramble to figure out how to get better results.

Make no mistake. Your interests are not being served by consultants who use this practice, which will impact your success. It not only reduces the growth you may otherwise have achieved, but it also adds operations costs. To me and my referral partners, this practice is unethical.

Unfortunately, there is no standards or enforcement board for consultants. We think it’s so egregious, that we will offer a complimentary consultation to help you determine if your consultant or contractor is doing this. And please remember, we are more than happy to help you design OKRs and KPIs so you can measure your own success. Reach out if you want to discuss metrics with us.

Do you think changing the definition of a key business goal is ever acceptable? Let me know.