How You Handle These Two Strategic Decisions Will Decide Whether You Miss Or Make Your 2019 Revenue Goals
This is an interesting time of year for CEOs and for marketing and sales pros. We’re in the fourth quarter and everyone is trying to finish the year strong, but at the same time, savvy business leaders are starting to think about getting ready for 2019.
Because of those competing objectives, businesses make the same mistakes over and over again this time of year. The good news is you still have time to make different decisions this year so that 2019 becomes your best year ever.
Here are the two monster mistakes you’re probably making right now and how to fix them in the next two weeks.
The first mistake is you’re holding off getting started with 2019 marketing and sales initiatives until January, and the second mistake is you’re hiring new marketing people and salespeople now without a plan on how to really impact revenue growth.
Let’s break these down in detail so you can understand how what seem like standard decisions are actually major mistakes.
Mistake #1: You’ll talk about the 2019 plan for two or three months, with the idea that you’ll get started in January.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. We all think like this. You plan in the fourth quarter for kickoff in January. Big mistake. Marketing, sales execution and revenue growth work differently than planning for HR, accounting or operations.
We know why this happens. Mostly, it’s due to the budgeting process. You need to plan for 2019 and you need a marketing budget, so you produce a number that goes into the 2019 plan. The only problem with that is you can’t start spending any of the money until January.
That means you’ll need to wait until at least February at the earliest to see any results, and more likely you’re looking at March, so you’ve already wasted two months out of the year.
You also need to get agreement on your 2019 plans, so the last three months of the quarter includes planning meetings. If you use EOS or Gazelles, you’re running through the rituals to evaluate what worked in 2018 and start laying your big rocks in 2019.
One prospect we talked to last week stated, “We just came out of our 2019 EOS planning and we agreed marketing is going to be our big rock next year, so we’re spending the rest of the quarter figuring out exactly what that means.”
That’s great, but you need to be working on 2019 right now. You need messaging, metrics, content, website upgrades, video assets, a new sales process and a handful of new technologies installed and configured. This takes time, and if you wait until January, you’ll be off to a slow start — guaranteed.
Fix the mistake: If you want to hit your January goals and get off to a great start in 2019, you should start right now. Get everything set up next month, so when January comes, the programs are firing on all cylinders.
If you’re thinking about using an agency, this impacts the entire process and makes any mistakes even more significant.
If you’re looking for an agency now and thinking that all you need to do is hire the agency before the end of the year, you’ll be in the same boat, waiting at least 30 days to see results.
Good agencies are going to want to help you with strategy first. They’re going to want to dig into your data and scientifically assess what’s working and what’s not working so well. They’re going to want to set goals and make sure tactics are orchestrated and that any necessary technology is deployed.
They’re going to look at your competitors, audit your content assets and create a well-thought-out set of priorities based on the work that will produce the biggest lift for the least amount of effort. Do you really want to wait until January for that?
This is how you get the results you’re looking for, and it generally takes between 30 and 60 days to get set up. It might even impact your fourth quarter, too. Wouldn’t that be a nice bonus?
Mistake #2: You’re planning on hiring new marketing people (maybe even a VP of marketing) to improve your top-line performance in 2019.
That’s not the mistake. The mistake is planning on doing the hiring without a plan. Hiring is never the answer. Having a plan and hiring to that plan is going to produce better results 100% of the time.
Here are some real-life scenarios to illustrate the difference:
Scenario 1 – We’re not sure what we need, but we’ll hire a VP of marketing to help us figure it out.
Scenario 2 – We have an agency helping us, but it’s taking too much of my (the CEO’s) time, so we’ll hire a marketing director to work with the agency.
Scenario 3 – It should be cheaper to hire in-house than to use an agency, so let’s find someone who can do what the agency would do but just for us.
From personal experience, all three of these scenarios are going to result in a subpar 2019. Fortunately, all three of these scenarios can be fixed quickly with some simple planning:
Scenario 1 – You’ll start the search and it will take a couple of months. Your new hire will take another couple of months or more to get settled and figure out what’s needed. Anything they do start will take a couple of months to generate results, so you might start to see significant results in June, when you’re halfway through the year.
Instead, come up with your own plan and hire to that plan. Look for someone who has experience executing similar strategies. Look for someone who understands your vision and can make it a reality. Look for someone who can hit the ground running now, so that in January, you’re already seeing early results.
Scenario 2 – There’s generally a weird dynamic between new marketing people and existing agency partners. Some of that is trust and some is control. But generally, these new relationships don’t work out well, setting your marketing back months, wasting time and money, and killing your chance for a good year.
You mitigate this with a plan and hire your marketing director into your plan along with the agency. Set the tone early that the agency needs your new person and your new person needs the agency. If you like your agency, make it clear that you’re not interested in switching.
You hired your new marketing director because she understands your plan, your vision and the current execution already up and running at the agency. You might even ask your agency to participate in the hiring process. Everyone will play nicely in the sandbox, because that’s what’s required for you to hit your revenue goals.
Scenario 3 – It might seem like an in-house hire is going to be cheaper, but that’s rarely the case. Your director or VP makes between $70,000 and $120,000 per year without benefits. Then you need to hire a freelance writer, find a designer and get someone who can work on your website. All in, your new in-house team is costing you around $20,000 per month.
Plus, everyone has to get to know each other. Your VP or director has to keep your freelancers on the same page, making sure they get paid, get trained and understand your technology. Someone also has to manage all of the initiatives, so it’s likely going to be slow and potentially filled with stops and starts.
Check out this tip guide to see the real costs associated with in-house vs. agency service models.
Again, you might see results in June if everything works out OK.
When you hire an agency for $10,000 to $15,000 per month, the agency brings all of the resources, who already work together effortlessly. The agency trains those people and they work with your technology every day. The result is your program gets up and running faster and produces results much faster.
This isn’t a criticism on hiring in-house resources. Our best engagements have in-house people who work closely with us on strategy, tactics, analytics and technology. But those “best” engagements all have a plan and everyone is on the same page.
In fact, we make it a part of our process to ensure we’re on the same page, with strategic sessions every 90 days to align plans and definitions of success. Once these are defined, everyone knows exactly what to do, who’s doing it and the agreed-on results.
This process should be highly valuable to you, and typically it’s the outside agency that brings process and methodology like this to your company.
Do these two big mistakes sound familiar? You might have already made one or both of them, but the good news is it’s still early enough in the quarter for you to correct the mistakes and try something different.
You have plenty of time to get your plans in place, build any foundational tactics that need to be up and running now, and make January your best January ever.
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