Why Your Marketing Agency Should Be Doing Quarterly Business Reviews

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Business Leadership, Marketing Strategy

Finding the right cadence to work with clients is influenced by a lot of things: different industries, timelines, deliverable types and levels of engagement. These are just a few of the many factors that influence how often to meet with clients on projects and collaborate on new opportunities. At OTM, our goal is to tell our customer’s story through meaningful and purposeful experiences. This requires a deep understanding of the client and a pretty frequent cadence of planning and strategic guidance and management. Historically, we have relied heavily on a monthly meeting with our clients where we review completed projects, current projects, upcoming projects along with campaign results and new opportunities.

The Hurdle

For the last 18 months, we have started to look for ways that we could evolve our meeting cadence. After reviewing traditional best practices, we realized that we were missing out on a quarterly business review (QBR). To add these in, the solution was obvious – swap one of our monthly meetings with a QBR meeting to focus on budget reviews, burn down charts of utilization and a few new opportunities for each client.

As we started to look more at introducing a heavier quarterly meeting into our cadence, we found it to be a square-peg, round-hole situation. If we swapped one of our standing monthly meetings, we would lose our sprint cadence and agile marketing delivery. If we added it to the meeting mix (surely another meeting would solve this), we found it to be incredibly redundant to what we traditionally do in our monthly meeting. The question remains: how can we introduce a larger quarterly meeting while simultaneously adding value all while not diluting things?

The Plan

The first thing we started to review was the meeting cadence. We mapped out our monthly meeting agenda, planning requirements, outcomes and KPI’s that were expected from it. This gave us a benchmark to compare against, but it also served to ensure that we didn’t lose any critical parts or intangible deliverables.

Next, we identified the activities that were high-leverage and high-impact that we could DO MORE of. This is where we veer from the QBR model. We started to come to the conclusion that our QBR was more of a bolt-on to our monthly meeting and less of a different meeting type. Specifically for us, it was around our external forces, SWOT and customer experience mapping. For us, this supported the unknown result that we had really been doing quarterly reviews, on a monthly basis. We simply needed to tweak what was already there.

Lastly, we wanted to transition into this meeting cadence with our clients smoothly. We opted to choose a portion of our clients each month and run them on a staggered schedule. By using a staggered schedule, we could align a few off-cycle clients to their ideal schedule, and allow us to flatten out the resource demands internally.

The Result

Our result isn’t what you’d read about when you read about traditional QBR’s. For us, it was important to double down on what works for us. That meant avoiding the burn-down charts of resource utilization (we don’t bill or engage on that model) or coming in with pitch decks and focusing more on curiosity, opportunity identification and strategy development to create and maintain healthy relationships.

If you’re interested in getting more value out of your marketing strategy and identifying opportunities, let us know. We are always happy to help you connect with your audience, inspire action and grow your business.

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Long walk up steps

A Change Log: Tracking Success – A Monthly Status Report

We live in a fast-paced world. And with that comes change, both planned and unplanned. Tracking these changes is important to our business growth, but it's also important for us to remember what we've done right. This blog post will discuss how you can keep track of your success by utilizing a monthly status report or "changelog." Building a business from the ground up means you have to build your systems and processes from the ground up. As the organization matures and you begin iterating on existing processes, keeping track of the changes across an organization is virtually impossible. We have SOP's for just about everything in the company but we started to lose perspective on the changes in terms of the quantity, impact and timing. What I wanted was to get a snapshot of the changes in our organization. One afternoon I was reading a Change Log for a tool that we use trying to understand if an issue we'd been experiencing was fixed yet or had been changed. I thought this would be a simple and effective way to track high-level business changes. If software developers had used changelogs for decades to document their systems and platforms, why couldn't we do the same for a business? They're different but similar. I took the idea and started off in a core tool of ours, Notion. I set up an empty page and created a header with the Year-Month at the top. Underneath I created four more sub-headers, Team Changes, Client Changes, Operational Changes and Service Changes. That was it! Our first entry looked like this: 202109 -Team Changes: Dee joined our team as a storyteller, "XXXX" has started maternity leave. -Client Changes: No new clients. -Operational Changes: No operational changes. -Service Changes: Decided to pilot a shift in our subscription services in terms of project configuration, moving them to annual plans After some refinement (and copying over data from our leadership team report) we were able to backfill the first two months of our changelog. To be honest, I'd forgotten about some of the changes we've made over the last few months. It was nice to look back and realize the meaningful and purposeful change we've introduced over just the last 2 months. Moving forward, we will append snippets from our weekly team meetings to this changelog as we go. Since its really a changelog around how the company operates, we'll be sharing this with the full team and keeping it accessible to all within Notion.
Post-it note ideas

When Is It Time to Change Your Most Successful Plans

As a leader, I’ve learned that it is important to always be trying new things. If you are not constantly evolving and changing your approach, then someone else will come along and do it for you. However, this doesn’t mean that we should change everything at once. So how do you know when to change? It's typically easier to create new change but what about changing what was once "right"? In this blog post, I want to share a thought around revisiting your customer journey and KPI metrics and how leaders evaluate past decisions and know when they need to stop doing what has been successful for them and start looking into other ideas or approaches. The first element to focus on is your customer journey and how your customers are interacting with your products or services. Many aspects of your customer journey, defined or undefined, evolve over time for a variety of reasons. A primary driver of change would be technology, but who knows, maybe a pandemic will upend everything you've built. As external factors evolve consumer's lives, you must continually evaluate each stage of the customer journey (i.e.: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, Advocacy) is being experienced. Are the tools and tactics you're using inside of each stage still relevant to you AND your customer(s)? Take an hour out of your day and re-walked the customer journey and participated in the process yourself for a moment. Take a look back and 3-4 of your past leads/prospects and do some research around their experience with your organization as it relates to the customer journey. Once we've reviewed our customer journey and realigned it with the customer expectations, metrics are your next stop. We all have metrics and we're not going to cover in this post discerning between vanity and real metrics, but let's spend some time looking at the metrics as they relate to the customer journey. Each stage has metrics nowadays we can track everything from impressions on ads, to engagements within email newsletters, live chats on your website and thats just scratching the start of the customer journey. Now is the time to make sure your metrics are applicable and I'll give an example that we see happening a lot right now. For example, retail storefronts typically count "door-swings" as a KPI. This is a great measurement for the Consideration stage, but what happens when those numbers fall lower and lower but your sales are climbing up and up? Does it mean that you have a hot product? Or that you have targeted better customers? Or does it simply mean that the customers have done more evaluation (consideration) online (typically Awareness) and your customers are self-qualifying themselves? If you make an assumption that it's one of those three scenarios without analyzing the reality, you're making broad assumptions and doubling down on something that is unsubstantiated with data. If so, maybe you should consider adding live-chat functionality and pairing that with your door-swing KPI! So in closing, it is important to remember that you are always a student of your customer. If you're not constantly re-evaluating and learning more about how they interact with your business, then someone else will come along and change the game on you!
Key Result Areas

How to Create Accountability for Your Creative Team through Key Result Areas

What are Key Result Areas and why do they help create accountability for creative teams? Everyone on team OTM is constantly looking for ways to improve how we do things, from how we collaborate on big projects to how we communicate results to our clients, no one is excluded from the conversation about being 1% better every day.  However, with so many people contributing to and collaborating on projects, how does anyone know who is accountable for the outcomes of those projects?  In many companies, creative or not, accountability has become a bad word. It’s thrown around when things go wrong and it’s typically a finger-pointing game that can be detrimental to culture and team communication. No one wants to be blamed when things go wrong, but what about the benefits of accountability?  The leadership team at OTM believes that accountability can be a positive thing - when communicated clearly and celebrated often. As stated in the book, The OZ Principle: Getting Results Through Individual & Organizational Accountability, accountability is “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results—to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It.”  So how do you set expectations when it comes to accountability for individual team members?  Introducing KRAs (Key Result Areas)  What is a KRA? KRAs are Key Result Areas (sometimes called competencies) that are used to define the outcomes that an individual team member is responsible for, providing clarity through a well-defined, measurable outcome that aligns what they do in their role with what the organization needs in order to be successful. KRA Quick Tips:  KRAs should be created for the role and not the individual A well defined KRA should show a team member how they can “win” in their role  A strong KRA should set clear expectations and a framework for feedback  How to Create a KRA  Creating a KRA can be tricky. KRAs should be broad, but clear - if they are too vague, they will cause confusion and ultimately allow for more ways to avoid accountability, but they should also not be so specific that you begin micromanaging how the team member does their job. 5 Steps to Creating a Clear KRA:  Observe all of the tasks that the role is completing or should complete Identify primary tasks that have the highest probability of return for the organization and then group these tasks into categories Take these groupings of tasks and assign outcomes to them (you may end up with 3-5 key outcomes for the role) Assign key metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to the outcome, answer the question “what are the results that will happen when I achieve this outcome?” Evaluate the KRA outcomes by asking yourself the following questions: Do they make sense? Do they set clear expectations? Do they provide a clear feedback loop? Auditing KRAs and Roles  When you work in an industry that is constantly changing like ours, it’s important to re-evaluate your team’s KRAs regularly. Depending on how often the needs of your organization change, we recommend auditing KRAs and roles bi-annually by having a conversation with your team member that is separate from the review cycle where you can work together to adjust the KRA based on any new outcomes that are needed from the role for the success of the business.  Performance Reviews and KRAs KRAs, if done correctly, should make your performance reviews easier because you have an agreed upon set of outcomes that you can measure against.  How we perform Performance Reviews at OTM:  First, we have our employees rate themselves on a scale of one to four (so that there are no neutral answers) for each of their KRA outcomes, our agency core values, their individual growth plans and how they are contributing to the agency’s strategic goals. Then, we schedule a 15-minute meeting to discuss any discrepancies between our evaluation and their self-evaluation. Because the review is simply a review of the past quarter it should not take more than 15 minutes.  If a conversation needs more than 15 minutes, it is no longer part of the review and should be part of a performance coaching conversation.  Communicating KRAs Companywide  How does the team know what others are responsible for? We suggest having an accountability chart for your company that outlines who is responsible for what so there is no confusion.  At OTM, we follow EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and we use the Ninety EOS® Software to integrate our vision to our team's roles, placing the KRA outcomes into each of the accountability chart boxes so everyone can clearly see who is responsible for what.  “A culture of accountability makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable.” - Henry Evans Do you have questions about how to improve your organization’s People, Product or Profit? Reach out to OTM to see if we’d be a good fit to help you solve your organization’s problems.
66 day habit cycle customer journey on a pad of paper next to a compass

How the 66 Day Habit Cycle Will Impact Your Marketing

We’re all in agreement that 2020 was “unprecedented”, “disruptive” and “once-in-a-lifetime”, and we are all looking at how to navigate the changes that came with it. One of the things we have been looking at with our clients is how new habits have formed in consumers since the beginning of 2020 and what that means for their marketing strategy. We are choosing to look at this from the perspective of James Clear who wrote one of our favorite books, Atomic Habits. Consumers Are Changing Their Habits As consumers, we typically purchase out of habit or regular tendency whether it's the grocery store we always go to or restaurants we frequent because of familiarity. We choose products and services that align with them, and we make decisions using our habits in a generally predictable manner. Once we entered into the pandemic, our routines changed and that affected the habits we created. For example, a large number of people who typically would shop for groceries in-store switched to shopping for groceries online. This is important for us now because it changed an existing habit and businesses are pivoting to accommodate that. Changes Happen In 66 Day Cycles James Clear references numerous studies in his book that highlight the 66-day average. One of these studies states that it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. We are approaching our fifth ‘66 day cycle’ since the pandemic began meaning we've been through multiple cycles to figure out how we prefer to buy groceries, change our meal and dining preferences, replace in-store experiences with online shopping, work from wherever and more. This has caused multiple people to change their minds, habits and routines. What This Means for Marketing It’s time to revisit the customer journey. Start looking at how your customers are purchasing goods and services in your market. For example, if you find that you have more online traffic than usual, it might be time for you to up your digital marketing efforts to accommodate your consumers. Some of you may have customers that only buy every 3 years for example. Remember that their journey includes approximately 2-4 months of pre-purchase research. Look into how your customers might be researching other purchases they make in the meantime. Chances are that they have shifted to an online research experience. This means your online presence needs to support the customer through their research process further and the customer will likely be visiting your location further along and closer to a purchase than before. Have you considered what this shift means for your business or your team? Are you prepared to accommodate or convert consumers in a different way that aligns with their newly formed habits? As the pandemic ends (whenever that may be), we believe that some of our habits will revert to the "old normal" and some may stick to the new habits. At the end of the day, a successful business has the responsibility to create the best experience for its customers, so it is time to reconsider how they are creating their journey no matter what changes have occurred. If you are interested in more information on this, feel free to reach out to our team. We are always happy to help you create meaningful and purposeful experiences.