This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.
"We need to convert ourselves from a ‘light bulb’ for our clients and become, instead, a ‘laser’ whose efforts drive improved results for them."
From "Madison Avenue Makeover: The transformation of Huge and the redefinition of the ad agency business" by Michael Farmer [Book]
In our Q4 2022 debrief earlier this year, we tasked the Team Leads, myself included, with writing a memo about one initiative they thought would positively impact the business in 2023. Coming out of the debrief, I was eager to begin work on the topic of my memo: rolling out a client performance dashboard where we'd start monthly reporting on our client's e-commerce metrics alongside any website changes or notable campaigns.
Not every client hires us to track and report on their KPIs. For those who don't, my hypothesis was getting project teams closer to the client's e-commerce metrics might help them regularly generate ideas about how to help the client succeed. A basic example might be if we saw a client's AOV increase and conversion fall after configuring Rebuy, we could proactively design an A/B test to experiment with tactics for lifting conversion. Without the dashboard, our client often drives where we spend our time, which may not be backed by data. Or we're making suggestions based on best practices without digging into the client's e-commerce performance.
In Q1 of this year, I started working on a client performance dashboard template with James, a strategist on our team. Before onboarding him, Peter, our CEO, and I decided on the metrics to report on. Once James got going, I quickly saw that building this out would not be as straightforward as I thought. We struggled with doing a first pass of all the metrics we had decided to track and couldn't imagine how anyone would do this every month. On top of that, we were using Pitch to show all the numbers, thinking we might share the document with the client. The slides were becoming crammed with numbers and difficult to follow.
In hindsight, these challenges were easily solvable, but as the year gained traction, new, more critical initiatives required my focus. We decided to put the client performance dashboard project on hold.
Months later, the client performance dashboard project came up during my weekly meeting with Peter. Given our progress in the year, it felt like the right time to give the client performance project another go. Reflecting on the challenges earlier in the year, we committed to tracking only a few KPIs in a spreadsheet. While the plan was always to get the Client Services team involved in this project, we didn't make it that far in the first attempt. This time around, we'd not only get them involved, but they'd play a critical role.
Following my conversation with Peter, I created a rough draft of the dashboard in Google Sheets. It was exciting how quickly James turned this into a working prototype. While I thought I had set James up for success the first time, I realized I hadn't taken the time to visualize the outcome myself. How would James be able to see it? Making this first draft was much more helpful.
Next, I gave the Client Services team an idea of what was coming and worked with Kate, Director of Client Services, to schedule a kickoff. James was out on paternity leave, so I led the meeting. I outlined the vision, showed the prototype, and brainstormed how to get this off the ground with our clients. It was great to hear so much enthusiasm from our account managers about the project and their willingness to take ownership of populating and managing the dashboards.
There are some lessons we learn and re-learn throughout our lives and careers. Unfortunately, we may not recognize them in a new context until we repeat the same mistakes. Looking back on the start of this project, I was moving too fast, telling myself I was delegating responsibility. However, without getting specific on how I'd be involved, I became a bottleneck for the team making progress and had to put the whole thing on pause.
Following the Client Services kickoff, I was impressed by the team's commitment to seeing this project through. Kate proactively took over where I left off and coordinated pilot clients with her team. Then, rather than add another meeting on the calendar, she had James record training videos to show account managers how to populate the dashboard.
All of this happened while I was out on an early paternity leave. You can imagine how pumped I was to return and hear from Kate that account managers had populated dashboards for five clients and already had some initial insights. For example, for one of our small retainer clients, we saw how much of an impact the launch of a new product had on revenue after populating the dashboard. The client hasn't done anything to promote this product to past customers who bought complementary products. Our team is brainstorming a strategy to activate these customers through email/SMS.
While we still have work to do in building the SOP on how the client performance dashboard works, I'm happy with how it's shaping up. I'm proud to see the team embracing the project and taking ownership of its rollout.
Beyond helping our clients succeed and achieve their desired results, below are some other outcomes we're aiming for with this initiative:
Where am I getting in the way of my team making progress on an important initiative? What could I do to empower them to take the lead?