Musings & Rants Principles

Stumbling at the finish line

It seems like everyone is doing “strategy” when you browse LinkedIn these days. I like to zag when everyone zigs, and so I’m steering away from being a regular digital marketing consultant. I want to help you communicate your analysis and results more clearly and convincingly. Let me tell you two (and a half) stories about why I think the world needs this service.

The “clueless” client

One of the first clients I ever worked for sold bikes. They sold them offline and wanted to sell them online. We got to work and did the things we did back then. We search optimised their site, set-up a Google Ads campaign, and improved the usability, images and sales texts. We invested time they hadn’t bought into them because we saw there was a market for them.

We informed them regularly about the progress we made and results we achieved. At the end of the year, we invited the client for our yearly review and renewal meeting. The account manager and I were going over all our numbers in the presentation, and we were pretty relaxed. No-one could dispute the phenomenal progress we made. Where they struggled to sell a bike before they started working with us, they were now selling a dozen bikes a day. This meeting was crossing the I’s, dotting the T’s and pointing out where their signature would need to go to renew (at the bottom left please).

But the client stopped us when we came to our “Year Two” slide. They told us that they weren’t interested in renewing since we couldn’t prove that we were responsible for all that progress. They even pulled in the classic “I have a sixteen-year-old nephew who can help us run the website” line. We were flabbergasted. In our eyes, we had delivered everything we set out to, and then some.

We dismissed that they rebuffed us because “they didn’t get it”. No-one could look at those results and doubt them. But as the years went by, I’ve come to realise that it wasn’t that they didn’t get it. The truth is that we stumbled at the finish line because we didn’t get them.

The “clueless” co-worker

I’ve grown a lot over the past few years. And in retrospect, I should have handled myself differently with this particular co-worker. I worked with someone for five years, and for the entirety of those years, I wondered how they rolled into that job. For me, they lacked vision, pro-activity, tactical and problem-solving skills. You always look for your strengths as weaknesses in others when your ego is large but fragile.

Despite all of that, their customers were happy. Results were flat or non-existent, but the feedback was always glowing. They were perceived as caring, involved and on top of things. I couldn’t figure it out. Feeling wasn’t how my data-driven world was supposed to work.

It took me a while, longer than I care to admit, to figure it out and above all, accept it. It’s not just the results that matter; it’s also the story and how that connects to the client. As long as the client feels we get them, we have room for a conversation about the results.

Communicating results requires the same marketing tactics and strategies that we apply in our campaigns. Without them, we cannot expect a client to see the value we brought to the table unless they are experts themselves.

The meeting that’s changing my career

Earlier this year, I sat through a boring reporting meeting with one of the agencies that work for us. The sessions last up to 4 hours, during which we’re shown a waterfall of detailed data, with little actionable outcomes. There is so much information that I couldn’t give you the top five points if my life depended on it.

Staring at yet another slide with yet another detailed table, I had an epiphany. I have regularly sat through meetings like this for my entire career, and I wasn’t going to take it anymore. I was going to learn from my and others’ mistakes and take action.

The focus in my career and on my blog is shifting towards helping you communicate analysis, results, and change more efficiently.

I’m taking on — in no particular order — things like:

  • dashboards,
  • presentations,
  • running meetings,
  • stakeholder management,
  • effectively communicating analysis,
  • and anything else that prevents you from stumbling at the finish line.

It’s exhilarating to gather my thoughts and ideas here. I’m looking forward to finding a way to make this the next phase of my career. I hope you’ll join me for the ride!

Lose fewer clients.
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