I can count on my hand how many corporate meetings I have been in that have left a lasting impression or impact on my career and personal development. Fact is, few do. Nothing irritates me more than to leave a meeting without a clear goal or feeling like I wasted an hour of my life. I have been lucky not to have experienced this in the last year and a half working at Avalaunch.
As I reflect on my time here, I associate Avalaunch with that of a private university. Having attended a large state school before switching to a private school, there were key differences between each experience.
Difference one: great mentorship. When you don’t declare a major, you have the freedom to explore. In business, great mentors and the autonomy to test, experiment, and learn allow you to forge your own path.
Difference two: Like a private university, our company fosters an environment for learning. Not by hand-holding, but by cultivating creative minds that thrive on problem-solving.
Difference three: The most impactful difference is the energy. As with the different vibe on my new campus, I can feel the Avalaunch energy. Being part of a fast-growing company is exciting. It has also presented challenges from a growth perspective. We have been forced as a team to quickly pivot, improve, and invent processes. I believe this type of environment has encouraged our entire team, myself included, to level up.
During a growth phase, however, you have to take the time to step back and reflect. There are many questions that many of us face during this time. How do we scale? How do we maintain quality? How does this affect our clients? How does it affect our culture? I am overwhelmed by how much each individual in our company cares about our clients and one another.
So, taking three hours of time for strategic quarterly planning turned out to be a logical, worthwhile exercise.
For an insight into the care and attention to detail Avalaunch expects of itself, and to benefit its clients, here are the key takeaways from our company offsite meeting:
Aim small, miss small.
This may not be a concept you’d think a digital marketing company would embrace. But in our latest quarterly business meeting, COO Andrew Melchior used a rifle-shooting metaphor to explain the importance of this concept in the digital marketing realm. He illustrated that if you aim for a one-inch square on a deer and miss, you still hit the deer. Likewise, when a marketing agency sets goals, it should aim for big, lofty goals.
Breaking down goals into small digestible bites ensures that when we miss, we don’t miss big. So what are we doing on a micro level to influence that achievement?
Coming Together to Form the OKR Framework
Aside from quarterly meetings, our company meets offsite for half a day each year to collaborate as a team and announce goals and direction for the new year. In more than 14 years in marketing, I have never seen an executive team so dedicated to the innovation of its company than in these meetings.
In a 2018 offsite meeting, we rolled out the OKR framework. OKR (objectives and key results) is a management process that helps businesses better align their goals. The process was developed by Intel co-founder Andy Grove in 1968. But it wasn’t until former Intel employee John Doer left Intel to advise Google in 1999 that the OKR framework gained momentum.
It’s probably no shock that, as a Google Premier Partner, Avalaunch Media uses the same framework that has helped Google become the powerhouse it is today. Establishing OKRs and setting a quarterly playbook provides a visual map of where a business wants to go and how they are going to get there. However, even with a well-thought-out timeline of actionable tasks, there is always room for improvement.
Measuring Quality Through Feedback Loops and Rubrics
There are some of us who will never see our work as being good enough. The quote, “Perfection is the enemy of progress” hits home all too well. Creating a system of feedback loops and utilizing quality rubrics eliminates the guesswork. Feedback loops ensure that we are keeping a pulse on the process before the end result is rolled out. To say I am excited to incorporate rubrics and more feedback loops into our culture is a huge understatement.
Most of us are familiar with rubrics from our school days. Rubrics provide an objective measurement of quality performance based on set criteria. How can this be applied to the constantly morphing, abstract world of a digital marketing agency?
Consider a copywriting team, for example. In some instances, a copywriter’s only feedback on their performance may be from the subjective view of the client. But as we all know, that is often not an effective or fair measurement of success. A rubric can establish guidelines and set criteria to grade the quality of work. In our copywriting department, copy is graded on the following metrics: tone and voice, grammar and spelling, optimization, formatting, accuracy, and accountability (an internal metric).
The benefits of incorporating a rubric include:
- A higher quality of work
- Increased employee retention
- An improved annual review process
- Easily identifiable leading and lagging indicators
Identifying Leading and Lagging Indicators
As a growth manager, one of the most important aspects of a rubric for me would be the identification of leading and lagging indicators. Many agencies pride themselves on tracking retention. While you should always be trying to retain clients, retention is a lagging indicator. For example, when a client cancels, it is already too late to self-correct.
In our digital realm, we utilize predictive modeling in campaigns to influence positive outcomes. I like to think of leading indicators as a method of predictive modeling. By establishing ways of utilizing data as a leading indicator, you can identify those leading indicators that will influence key decisions for an optimal outcome.
Embracing Change as a Form of Progress
Changing processes does not have to be threatening or painful. With the right corporate culture in place, your employees will see change as progress and embrace new processes with open arms. The key to successful implementation, from the mouth of our wise creative director, is: Make it official. Make it happen. Make it stick.