Seven-steps to set goals and pick metrics for customers

But how do you feel about these goals:Make payments easier, evidenced by an increase in conversionReduce confusion, evidenced by a decrease in customer queriesIncrease satisfaction, evidenced by higher return ratesSame metrics, big difference.

These goals say exactly how you want to satisfy customers.

The point here is that metrics should never define goals.

Metrics only provide evidence that you’re achieving your goals.

If this doesn’t do it, here are my main reasons for not using metrics as goals.

InflexibleDefining a goal as a metric limits your achievement to where you can measure that metric.

Good goals are measurement agnostic and flexible enough to capture achievement in any scenario.

UnforgivingMetric-defined goals are unforgiving when you pick an unreliable, invalid, immovable, or generally bad metric, which you almost certainly will.

Good goals forgive bad metric choices and let you use others when you need to.

UncertainWith a goal like “Increase conversion,” you’ll eventually have to face waves of uncertainty when things don’t go your way.

Good goals clarify how to interpret evidence no matter which direction things go.

UnsafeIt’s not safe to make strong conclusions from any single metric, because metrics move for many reasons.

Good goals let you triangulate your progress with multiple metrics and give you confidence in your decisions.

“Metrics should never define goals.

Metrics only provide evidence that you’re achieving your goals.

”The seven-steps for setting goals and picking metricsHaving faced these hidden challenges many times, I broke down my process for setting goals and picking metrics into seven steps.

It takes some extra time at first but will quickly become habitual and set you up for much more success than you’re likely to have otherwise.

Step 1.

Draft your goalWhat do you want to achieve?.Don’t overthink it.

Just put thoughts to paper.

To demonstrate, think about wanting to improve the payments process of an e-commerce website.

My first thought was:Step 2.

Get to the heart of what matters“Why?.Why?.Why?” Ask yourself over and over.

Why is this my goal?.What problem am I really trying to solve?.How am I improving value for my customers?.Prod and probe until you reach the delicious center of what matters.

Why would I want to reduce clicks?.Seriously?.Maybe more is better.

Keep asking and challenging and you might conclude that I really want to:Do not underestimate the difficulty or value of this step.

You’re not done if there’s still a metric in there.

Every time I take people through this step, I have to keep pushing the question “why” until we get to something concrete and meaningful.

It almost always starts with us surfacing biases and uncertain or conflicting objectives but ending with deeper insights and clearer purpose.

Step 3.

Set your goal as a dimension with directionThe next step involves some forward thinking.

At the end of the day, you’ll look to see if your metrics go up or down, in one direction or another.

To plan a connection with metrics, rephrase your goal as a dimension (the thing you’re interested in changing) with direction (how you’d like it to change).

Here’s how I would rephrase our payments goal:Be sure to define your direction with two clear poles: better/worse, satisfied/unsatisfied, more/less, and so on.

The opposite of “easy” is “hard”.

But what would the opposite be of something like “optimize”?.If you can’t define both poles, you can’t interpret what’s happening if your metrics go in the opposite direction to the one you were expecting.

Step 4.

Draw your goalThe easiest step: draw your dimension on an arrow pointing in the direction you want it to go.

This helps keep everything in order for the following steps.

Step 5.

Imagine what you’d expect to observe at each endFor each end of your arrow, ask yourself, “In a world where [dimension] is [direction], what would I expect to observe?”What would you observe in a world where it’s easy for customers to pay?.How about where it’s hard?.Get creative and I suggest having sticky notes handy.

Here are some things I came up with:Try to keep your focus on how the customer is thinking, feeling, or behaving, and not to include metrics yet.

Step 6.

Refine and visualize expectationsFor each expected observation, work through steps 2 to 4 to turn them into dimensions and directions that line up with your goal.

Things really start to take shape here and, for me, this is where the visual helps a lot.

Step 7.

Pick your metricsAt long last, for each expected observation (blue box) list the metric or metrics (things you can measure) and directions that would be evidence of them happening.

Overlay them on your visual like this:There you have it!. More details

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