A Best Practice in Digital Program Management: Quarterly Program Reviews

Many companies wait for annual planning activities to undertake a full “business review” or assessment of the current landscape and existing program/tactical performance. It is based on this once annual process that the plan for the current year gets assessed and the plan for the next year gets built.

Other companies are overwhelmed by data, receiving frequent monthly, weekly, or even daily reports on performance from their agency partners, but not knowing what to do with it or what it all means. And since these reports cover shorter periods of time, clients and their agencies tend to be less inclined to make decisions that impact marketing mix allocations (e.g., kill or continue?): “Well, it’s only been a few weeks…”

How Often and How Much Information?

Our agency has found that quarterly performance reviews, or “deep dives” as we call them, are the happy medium – it gives our clients the business-relevant information they want, a level of frequency that enables timely optimization, yet doesn’t overwhelm them or take up too much of their time.

While of course we do not discourage frequent, deep data analyses and optimization on the part of the agency, the average client doesn’t need or want to be exposed to the complex machinery that often lies just beneath the surface. The fact that your agency has been doing daily optimizations of your paid search campaign is worthy of mention, but the specifics around what was actually done may be too much information. You should mine all the data you need to optimize your campaigns appropriately, but you need to be more selective about what you show your client.

The goal is to give them just a peek under the hood, in a way that makes it relevant to them and their business.

What Should the Review Consist of?

When undertaking a digital quarterly review or deep dive, it is ideal to look beyond your client’s own performance data and at the broader ecosystem. A holistic business assessment will ensure that decisions are not made based on a single data point, but based on a combination of insights.

Using a funnel approach often makes sense, starting from the very broad (their industry vertical) to the narrow (their own brand(s)):

  • Their industry:
    • Any news or prevalent trends that will likely shape the industry in the coming months (e.g., digital trends, relevant new stories, shifts in popular opinion, etc.)?
    • Any specific category developments that might be relevant (e.g. industry guidelines, government policy shifts, etc.)?
  • Their competition:
    • Are there any new competitive entrants on the horizon?
    • Has the competition shifted their digital strategies or introduced any new creative in market?
  • Their audience:
    • Are there any recent market research learnings that are applicable?
    • Is there new data from comScore or other sources that provides additional insight into the target audience?
  • Their brand:
    • How have the existing tactics been performing over the past three months (assessed against core KPIs)?
    • Are there any new brand programs/assets that have become available that might be leverageable in digital promotions?
    • Has there been a shift in strategic objectives or business focus over the past few months?

Whatever information/data you intend to include in your quarterly review, adopting this practice will go a long way in demonstrating a strong understanding of your client’s business, as well as set you up for success for future efforts.

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