It's where all paths must lead...
In Growth Marketing, the "North Star Metric" is a term used to describe the outcome that all paths must lead to when it comes to growth investments.
It can be specific to revenue (client acquisition). It could be about advertisement consumption (time spent on a social media platform). It could be about any number of things.
Here's how to create a powerful North Star Metric so that it serves as the guiding light to growing your business, no matter how neck-deep or in-the-weeds or up-to-your-eyes-in-alligators you get.
Specifically, these North Star metric concepts are for businesses that have a viable product and have entered growth mode.
Pre-revenue startups that are just getting into product development have different goals than those that are a little further along in the journey, and my greatest stories and successes come from working with businesses that are making strides to scale their successful business model.
Ideally, your business:
- Has a proven product that works
- Has a (semi)-steady stream of income
- Has measurable outcomes
- MUST grow
That isn't to say:
- You're 100% committed to your product or service offering or that you're not innovating
- Your income doesn't fluctuate or that the business is even profitable
- Your business has measurable outcomes you understand
- It is growing
Rules for setting good North Star Metrics
1) It should be rigid enough to:
- Clearly articulate the mission of your investments
- Define a single accountability standard to which all growth investments will be held
2) It should transcend sales and marketing:
- Ability to deploy a wide array of tactics, contributions, and participants without betraying the point of the North Star
- Shift tactics and goals without shifting the North Star when the context changes
- When you solve marketing problems today, you may create sales problems tomorrow
- It could apply to product improvements or any aspect of the sales spectrum, from Acquisition to Activation, Revenue, Retention, and Referral (They call this "Pirate Metrics"--Gold star if you can say why that is without using Google or reading this article)
3) It should be contextual
- A revenue figure won't cut it
- ... but the transaction that leads to it could
- It should consider your formula for winning today
4) It should be measurable
- And all roads that lead to it should be as well
- ... which means you're willing to invest the proper resources into the proper tech
Now, I'll illustrate with an example of a meaningful North Star metric:
- Company: Orange Pegs
- Industry: Growth Marketing Agency
- Our North Star: Signed engagements
- Our Goals: 50% YOY increase in new business; 10% increase in 1st renewals
Let's see whether it passes the tests:
- It's clear that all investments must result in renewed engagements to be considered a win
- It captures attracting leads (Acquisition), getting them engaged to the sales cycle (Activation), closing new clients (Revenue), renewing old clients (Retention), and motivating existing customers to send more business our way (Referral). The goal of the day could be any one of those things. Tactics could include methods for attracting new leads, sales processes for engaging leads with discovery meetings, contract or sales deck improvements, client onboarding, reporting and service cycles, product development and service improvements or innovations, marketing that motivates testimonials and direct introductions, and on and on and on.
- It's as close to a revenue figure we can get without breaking the rule of it being too vague
- We're able to assign a goal that is grounded in hard numbers and based on historical data
A good north star metric will help you keep the horizon level as you start executing your plans for business growth. It keeps people on the same page and sets the single most important accountability standard, so stakeholders feel that their vision is being heard and participants can't hide behind vanity metrics.
What's your North Star?