One Metric That Matters (OMTM) in Growth Hacking


Growth hackers use the One Metric That Matters (or OMTM) as the single most important target metric for their growth experiments.

Keeping this single metric goes in line with the principles of Lean Analytics and helps entrepreneurs stay focused, and cut through the noise.

What is One metric that matters (OMTM)?

The one metric that matters (OMTM) is the single most important metric for any startup at its current stage. Improving this metric would lead the startup to success. This changes over time as the startup goes through various phases.

Let’s understand more about this metric by learning about the characteristics of the One metric that matters:

How to Define the OMTM

Use the guideline below before you select and define your ‘One metric that matters’ the most to your startup:

  1. The OMTM is the most important metric that matters the most to a startup’s growth at a given point of time.
  2. Since the startup’s focus will change over time, the OMTM also changes with time.
  3. It acts like the North Star for the startup, a reason for the team to execute, and the measure of the success or failure of growth experiments.
  4. It answers the most important question of a startup at the given time.

OMTM Guidelines

Here are some guidelines to follow in order to pick your OMTM. Note that these are just guidelines and not rules:

  1. The OMTM is usually a number
  2. You should be able to generate it anytime
  3. You can take action to impact the metric (keep it actionable – don’t pick something that’s outside your control
  4. You should be able to compare the metric over time

Why do startups need One Metric That Matters?

  1. To make it easier to measure the success of growth experiments
  2. To create an environment of experimentation and guide the environment to a reference target
  3. Keep the focus on growth over vanity metrics
  4. Provide direction to startup teams and reduce noise
  5. Put resources to use on the right goal

What is a good OMTM and how to pick one?

The rule is: What gets measured gets improved if focused on.

A good OMTM is a metric which, when focused on, will make the greatest impact on the startup’s growth at a given time.

Let’s take an example:

If your startup is a mobile app, your OMTM today could be ‘increasing app installs’ in the acquisition stage and it could change to ‘reducing churn rate’ in the next stage when you focus on retention.

These are good metrics to have and can be further defined by how much you want the app installs to increase (either in percentage or actual numbers) or how much you want to reduce the churn rate (usually in monthly or quarterly numbers).

Here are some more examples of the OMTM that a startup can focus on improving:

  • Shopping Cart abandonment rate
  • Average In-app Purchase size
  • E-commerce conversion rate
  • Content Creation rate
  • Social Media Engagement rate
  • Ad Clickthrough rate
  • Shopping Cart size
  • App Installs-to-reviews ratio

It could be something as simple as ‘increase in weekly views of a blog post’ as shown below:

blog OMTM
OMTM tracking: Weekly views on blog

In order to pick your OMTM, you’ve got to ask yourself this question:

What would you focus all your energies on if you had only the next 40 days to grow your startup?

Imagine this:

You’re running a startup and it’s time to exit. You’ve got to make an exit from your startup after 40 days.

Your startup’s valuation will be decided on how your startup looks at the end of 40 days. Now, you have only 40 days to improve the growth metrics of your startup. Which one would you pick?

Over the past years consulting startups on growth hacking, I’ve found this question to be the most effective in helping entrepreneurs and marketers figure out their OMTMs.

RELATED: Learn more growth hacking terms here

My Approach to OMTMs

In my experience working on 60+ startups and their growth experiments, I do not completely subscribe to the idea of making the entire startup focus on a single metric.

Imagine this situation:

If all your startup team is working on adding social media followers at a given period of time, you have no one focused on improving the product or managing your search marketing campaigns.

Similarly, if all your startup team members are working on improving a landing page, you’ll probably have to do a lot of catching up on all the other areas of your marketing in the coming months.

The idea is that your startup will have to work on multiple metrics at a given time to grow effectively.

Your startup might also have multiple campaigns running at a given time including campaigns in different stages of the funnel for instance, you could be running campaigns for user acquisition and retention running in parallel.

If everyone in the team is just looking at a single north star at this time, it will be fatal for the entire startup!

So here’s my approach which solves the problem:

My approach is to use OMTMs at the growth experiment level and not the startup level.

This means:

  1. Each growth experiment should have a single metric that matters the most.
  2. Every startup can have different teams working on different growth experiments each having a unique OMTM.
  3. This maintains the advantages of the OMTM concept while making sure the startup is growing effectively in multiple areas.
  4. This approach is also scalable and can be deployed to startups as they grow in size since each experiment has an OMTM or North Star and the team working on that experiment can focus on that metric.

This is the right way to approach the OMTM for startups. It helps keep focus while being effective and scalable.

To learn more terms about growth hacking, get my growth hacking dictionary here.