The calendar year is full of events and dates that oftentimes lead us to take some kind of action. Of course, we are all familiar with New Year’s: an opportunity to resolve to change our ways, start new initiatives, or better ourselves or businesses in one way or another. Daniel Pink reviewed this concept as a “temporal landmark”: much as we would refer to directions from one place to another by physical landmarks, a temporal landmark is something that helps us navigate time. The year is scattered with more than a few of these “fresh starts”. Whenever people ask if my business is seasonal, I point to a few weeks of the year where things really get a bit busier from a business development perspective. Obviously, New Year’s brings about a bevy of potential customers who are looking to begin new projects. Oftentimes, it’s the second or third week of the new year where we see the most lead activity. These leads are often fired up and motivated by the fact that a new year is upon them, and ready to get started as soon as they can. It’s an exciting time.
A second milestone is after Memorial Day in the United States. This is one of the weaker fresh starts that we see, but it does result in an uptick of traffic to our website and a bit more lead volume. Most likely, the leads that had a busy first quarter wait until the end of the Memorial Day weekend to get going on their projects. Or, perhaps they see it as a milestone that the year is almost already halfway done and they haven't progressed. Either way, it’s an odd timing, but it happens year in and year out so it is worth mentioning.
However, the most valuable and forward-thinking leads we see are those that come a week or two after Labor Day and continue until about Halloween. Leads that come through in this time period are often indicative of potential customers who are in one of two scenarios. Either they are rushing to get something done by the end of the year, or are beginning to plan for a new initiative that they want to begin after the new year starts.
Either of these types of leads are both now subject to what we call the “90-day sprint”. One one end, you have customers who are looking to get something done, to move the needle so to speak, before the end of the year. And on the other side, you have those who are planning for major initiatives and want to get ahead of the game. Either way, they are looking to get into a position to start the new year in the most positive and efficient way possible. The purpose of this post is to look at the 90-day sprint in detail, and see how this time period can be productive for you as well.
Scenario One: Timeframe? END OF YEAR!
It is a good strategy to utilize these 90 days as the period in which you can affect positive change to your web presence before the new year begins. In fact, the fourth quarter is where I spend the majority of my time making improvements to our own agency website. The fact of the matter is, if you are a provider of B2B services or sales it’s likely that the new year serves as an accelerant to your sales process as well. However, it’s important for you to understand what can and can’t be done in that timeframe.
I believe the 90-day sprint is best suited to those looking for continuous improvement, as opposed to holistic redesign and redevelopment projects. The fact is, redesigning an entire website or digital asset in 90 days is challenging, especially if you are custom designing a user interface. Custom design takes time, and it isn’t something you can accelerate without losing focus, affecting the overall quality or unknowingly creating some other oversight. The exception to the rule would be agile development, where you are building something utilizing a UI/UX that already exists. But, I digress.
If you are looking to make movements in the fourth quarter that will affect your sales efforts positively in the new year, look to the items of the most potential impact that you can implement quickly and efficiently based on metrics and other statistical evidence. Now isn’t the time to undertake a rebranding campaign, and thinking you can launch it by January 1st. It’s time for you to spend on those tweaks and changes to your site that can positively affect your bottom line almost from the day that they are implemented. Some possibilities include:
- Conversion Rate Optimization: CRO is a great project to undertake in a timely fashion, that doesn’t require a complete redesign to implement. Focusing on user conversion will aid you in developing a contact list, and when developed, you can market against that list to increase sales. This type of campaign can begin in early to mid-October and be humming by the new year in an automated fashion. Which leads me to my next point…
- Marketing Automation: If you do not have an automation mechanism in place – you are behind the times. Installation of marketing automation software in addition to a CRO campaign can mean your site is a conversion tool building you a valuable list of contacts from the first day it is deployed. This is a valuable and effective practice. And, the best part is that most marketing automation providers will be more than happy to license you their software at a nice discount prior to the end of the year.
- Search Engine Optimization: This is something you can do RIGHT NOW that will affect you positively in the new year. SEO isn’t an overnight thing – plant seeds today with the hope that by the new year the changes have taken effect, and your site will attract more traffic that can be converted with the above marketing automation and CRO changes.
- Server Cleanup: The end of the year often means software may be coming to the end of life. In our previous post, we talked about this very issue. Find out if any of your software is affected by end of life issues and take the time to update and upgrade your underlying technical stack.
- Acquire new licenses: As I alluded to in my point above about marketing automation, if you are ever pondering moving SaaS services from one provider to another, the fourth quarter is the best time of year to do it. Service providers are eager to sell you their software, and typically you can drive the best deals to do so. This especially goes for software that requires any sort of service commitment: services cost those providers little and they are willing to discount heavily this time of year.
Scenario Two: The Planner
Not interested in some quick changes? Planning for a large initiative in the new year? Then this 90-day period is essential for you to determine how you will be undertaking your project in the new year. The key thing you need to focus on is planning, scoping and procuring the providers you need to accomplish your goals.
Planning is something you can take on yourself, in-house. If you have begun discussing a project or something you are hoping to achieve, you are already in this phase. Before reaching out to designers, developers or any other consultant, you should have an internal plan of attack and series of objectives in place. You don’t have to have a complete agreement amongst all team members at this stage, but rather a consensus that something needs to happen. Agreement and specifications can be achieved in the next step, so don’t get bogged down in details at this stage. I always recommend that at a high-level planning session, speak about the problem first, and what a good solution looks like to this problem. Have a less-than-detailed list of possible approaches to the solution and take all of that to the folks you’ll be talking to in step two. You’ll learn more that way, identify roadblocks earlier and accomplish more in a shorter period of time by following this strategy.
The second phase is scoping. Scoping and procuring providers are something that is hand in hand these days, so I’ll address them in one fell swoop. When I refer to scoping, I’m describing the process of creating a specification or architecture for your project. Without this step, you’ll never know what you are getting. We create a scope or spec by conducting a discovery session, which we’ve covered countless times in this blog already. Rather than repeating how these sessions work, I will instead at a high level give you reasons for why this is necessary.
You see, procuring digital services is challenging. You have massive pricing divergence. Some vendors can literally charge you 20x what others will for the same work. Furthermore, you have a variety of approaches that a developer or designer can take to realize your goals and objectives. This muddies your ability to compare one resource to another – there is too much noise in the process and too much to muck through.
Yet despite all of that, without a specification or architecture, you are in a tough spot. You’ll never know what you are getting. Your risk is multiplied. This is why scoping and procurement go hand in hand. Your goal, in order to start a project by the new year, should be to engage a vendor in this discovery process so you have a scope in hand by end of the year and have the ability to make a decision about your pathway forward proper to the year ending.
Undergoing discovery is less time consuming, it lets you get to know an agency before you proceed with a project, and lets you understand exactly what you will be building. The old method of procurement? Putting out an RFP, asking for the world, and every vendor promises it to you without much other insight. You may not even ever talk to the vendor through a process like that. It’s horribly inefficient and quite risky.
So what is your 90-day sprint? Plan internally. Conduct a discovery session, and then take those findings and get a finalized budget and timeframe. By January 1st, you’ll be ready to go and the project will proceed in a much smoother way versus the old, archaic method of vendor procurement.
As I write this, 90 days has actually already come and gone. Have you started planning for your project? Have you begun making the changes that will lead to a successful 2019? Whether you are looking to update what you have or start anew, this period is important. Consider how the above tactics can help you reach your objectives and get started. As we all know, usually starting is the hardest part.