‘The Critical Question’ to ask

“At the end of this campaign (or month, quarter, year) we are all going to be sitting around this same table, giving each other high-fives.”

“What exactly are we celebrating? What metrics or goals have we hit to make this campaign a huge success?”

This question is critical for three reasons:

  1. the answer to the question will inform every single decision you’ll make across the rest of the campaign together (for both your team and extended teams)
  2. this allows a moment to assess whether or not expectations for this campaign  are in line with the brand’s goals
  3. you can uncover any places where the client’s goals are conflicting, unclear, vague or competing (which happens more often than not)

This may sound basic, but we find that our agencies, media partners, and brands are often eager to get into the meat of the campaign, and it is extremely easy to skip this step and move forward without defining success or ensuring cross-team consensus.

the critical question

Weeding out conflicting goals 

For example, we’ll often get clients saying things like this:

“We want to reach moms with kids because we don’t have enough brand awareness with this group, but we need to make sure we are efficiently driving sales.” 

How often have we heard that? “We want it all!” This is a conflict. Do you want to increase your brand awareness or do you want to drive sales efficiently? Or diving in deeper, which goal is more important to you?

Knowing conflicting goals in the beginning gives an opportunity to address them and find a path forward.

This is the moment that you can offer alternative solutions, educate the client on best practices, or allocate a primary and secondary importance to goals.

For example, with our ‘moms with kids,’ we might offer the idea of splitting their budget, with one variation focusing on brand awareness (say 40% of budget) and the other 60% aligned to a sales goal, focused on driving consumers through the funnel.


Other important things to nail down 

After asking ‘The Critical Question’, this can be a great segue into other factors that need to be addressed.

Some great questions that we start with are:  

  • Is this a new product?
  • Is there a specific attribute to the product you want to highlight?
  • What do you want people to know about?
  • Who do you want to know about it? (Patient? Caregiver? Moms? Increased awareness among dads?)
  • What messaging are we thinking of using to resonate with this decision maker?
  • What are the primary and secondary goals or KPIs to support ‘The Critical Question’? 

Nimble and effective partners

By clearly stating goals, the entire team associated with the campaign can now be nimble and effective.

Understanding what success is going to look like allows teams to make decisions without having to go back to the client for approval, because they already understand how to make adjustments in their best interest.

Week over week, and often daily, these goals will allow all stakeholders to optimize towards the stated KPI and create the very best campaign possible at every step along the process: 

  • Creative messaging
  • Tagging portions of the site that tie back to the stated KPI
  • The media buy and the channel partner selection
  • Optimizations along the way and how to focus reporting to give meaningful insights 

Reporting should align with goals 

The answer to ‘The Critical Question’ should often drive your weekly meetings and check-ins.

This can stand as your team’s central guidepost for weekly insights, learnings, and recommendations as the campaign runs. 

For example, we pull reports daily, make optimization decisions and then the following week we see the results of our decisions. We’re constantly tweaking to back into those goals.


Change is okay. Just get it in writing. 

Along the way of any campaign, there sometimes can be confusion.

Clients may like the “new shiny object” and feel compelled to try new tactics based on what they see competitors doing, or suddenly feel their missing out by not jumping on new trends (“Should we be on Snapchat!?”).

This may not fall in line with what everyone agreed to as the success metric.

This is the time to have harder conversations to remind everyone what we are gaining and what we are losing by changing course. “OK, we can try that tactic, but we will not all be high fiving each other at the end of this campaign based on the goals of driving sales.”

If possible, this can also be the time to reiterate goals based on new learnings or the lifecycle of the product.

Typically, this is met with appreciation that the client and agency partners keep their eye on the original, long term, or ultimately beneficial goals. 

If along the way, the answer to ‘The Critical Question’ changes, that is ok. Just get changes to goals in writing, so you can adjust your creative, optimizations and reporting to be in line with the new goals.

Then we can all enjoy the high five.

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