Why does your company exist?
It's a tough question. We start all of our client kickoff meetings with this brain-buster and most of our clients require a few minutes to think through their response.
All businesses exist for a reason, mostly to sell something to somebody. That “something” could be knowledge or a physical product, and “selling” could result in a financial transaction or simply create a loyal user. Sometimes a business forms a partnership or hires an agency to help it sell more things to more people.
The best client/agency relationships are built on a mutually-beneficial partnership to accomplish specific objectives, measured with meaningful Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Sounds like common sense, right?
All too often, we see businesses hire a digital marketing firm to help them sell more things without clearly defining what “success” looks like. This can lead to unmet expectations, or worse, a decline in overall sales as teams work towards competing ends.
Two things need to happen in order to minimize scope creep and avoid aiming at moving targets:
1. Establish measurable SEO and PPC goals that matter to your business (increase sales by X%, lower acquisition costs by Y%, or engage Z% more prospects online)
2. Translate your objectives to Key Performance Indicators to track progress towards your goals (Conversion Rates, Cost Per Lead, Revenue, etc.)
So how can a business and their agency establish a framework based on measurable goals and meaningful KPIs? Here are the 6 ways we have found work best to “level up” the communication between clients and their digital marketing agencies:
1. Set Goals Early in the Engagement
Ideally, the client communicates their business goals when requesting a proposal from an agency. This should set the tone for the conversation and make sure the agency’s proposal is customized to the client’s needs. So what if you skipped that step and jumped straight into strategies and tactics (the ready, fire, aim approach)? Sure, it can be awkward to bring up the subject of goals once the agency is already working but it’s never too late to set goals and adjust your course to accomplish them.
2. Confirm the Goals and KPIs in the Kickoff Meeting
A kickoff meeting or discovery period is a great time to confirm a client’s business goals and translate them into measurable KPIs. We prefer Avinash Kaushik’s Digital Measurement Model approach, but there are several ways to accomplish the same thing. The end result of this meeting should be a mutually agreeable set of objectives and KPIs to inform the agency’s strategic development and tactical execution.
3. Share a Common Vision
All too often, a marketing team’s goals won’t align with their company’s higher-level objectives. For example, a marketing manager might instruct an agency to increase brand awareness while the CMO or CEO is depending on lowering the Cost Per Acquisition to meet the company’s needs. It is imperative that all levels of management and decision makers within a client organization acknowledge and agree to the goals and KPIs to avoid missed opportunities and provide input.
4. Start Account Update Meetings with Progress Towards Goals
Start each meeting or status call with a recap of the goals and progress towards them. This helps keep the conversations from straying off on tangents or becoming too bogged down in details that don’t move the business forward. Monitoring trends and comparing against goals helps focus the team on what really matters while still leaving room for new ideas and conversations about the weather.
5. Evaluate All Proposed Strategies and Tactics Against Your Goals
We always say, “There are no bad ideas, just ideas that don’t help accomplish our goals.” By focusing conversations around goals, it instantly becomes easier to prioritize to-do’s and develop hypotheses to test. Ideas that don’t seem to help accomplish the team’s goals can be reworked or revisited later.
6. Focus Reporting on the Future, Not the Past
Monthly reports are great for looking at what happened in the past. This type of “rear view mirror” reporting is outdated but unfortunately is too common in our industry. It needs to die quickly and return as a forward-looking dashboard that highlights progress towards the current monthly or quarterly goals (e.g. 43% to goal) and support the data with context. This is a great time to expand on, “what is working and what isn’t” and “what we are going to do next.”
Are you having these conversations with your digital agency? You should be. Why not start now by setting goals, measuring progress, and reporting on what really matters to the health of your business?