{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Mid-Year Goal Checkup and Planning

{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Mid-Year Goal Checkup and Planning

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris pause to take a look back at the first half of the year and do a mid-year goal checkup. What should you be thinking about at the midpoint of the calendar year, and how does that thinking inform your goals for the rest of the year? What do you do when you’re behind on your goals? Learn why some data isn’t helpful, how to boil down what you need to focus on, and why you need to be re-evaluating your goals on a regular, frequent basis.


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{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Mid-Year Goal Checkup and Planning

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:02

This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, it is the start of q3 it is July of 2021.

halfway through the year.

So Katie, we’re halfway through the year.

What are you looking at and thinking about and talking to clients about, as we reach this, this midpoint in the marathon, that is the, you know, the, the combined 2020 2020, whatever, this is

Katie Robbert 0:31

a, you know, midpoint, just like, January first, July 1 is always a good time to reevaluate your goals, you know, just sort of do that general health check of, am I coming close to the things that I wanted to accomplish? Like, it’s, you can break it down in very simple math, you can say, am I halfway? Am I at least halfway? Am I more than halfway? Did I set up my goals in such a way that I can measure to see if I’m even halfway, that might be a good place to start as well.

And so, you know, the general counsel right now is do your health check, you know, are you getting where you want to go? And if you’re not, it’s a great time to pivot.

I mean, any time is a great time to pivot.

But if you’re looking for those, like, you know, pillars on the ground of January 1, July 1, this is a great time to be doing that.

What about you, Chris? Do you do sort of those mid year or even just general health checks on your own data?

Christopher Penn 1:27

I do a lot more frequently I do around monthly, because one of the things that we started doing, because we pointed out last year, when we did our big, you know, started the pandemic re evaluation was that we weren’t doing any of the techniques that we do for our clients for ourselves.

So we started doing monthly SEO reports, monthly attribution models, monthly content analysis models, monthly SEO, Search Console models, just to see what’s happening with our business.

And I include my own stuff, and you know, the marketing over coffee, coffee podcasts or anything that we have access to, I put into the our software, because why not? It’s there, we wrote it, we may as well get some benefit out of it for ourselves.

So yeah, I look at a more month basis.

But I typically I look at a rolling 90 day time frame to see what what’s happening, but with an emphasis towards like, what happened in the last 30 days.

Katie Robbert 2:19

Do you think that there’s too much of an emphasis on those, you know, once a year, twice a year planning sessions, and it’s like it, the stakes feel like they get to be too high.

So if I say, okay, July 1, we’re going to evaluate our goals.

I think what happens a lot of time is everybody starts scrambling to pull all that information together becomes sort of like a big overwhelming.

Meeting, people were like, Okay, I need to know exactly what’s happening.

And really, if you do your point, Chris, if you’ve been doing it all along, you wouldn’t need those big, like, company wide meetings to look at all of the metrics all at once.

So that aside, you know, as we’re talking about analytics, you know, mid year, once a quarter, once a month, regardless of when you look at it, you should be reevaluating your analytics, and this includes your Facebook analytics, your Instagram analytics, your, you know, website analytics, your email analytics, basically, any marketing channel that you’re using, you should be re evaluating to see, am I getting close to my goal for the year did I set a goal is now a great time to set a goal, you can set a goal anytime of the year, it doesn’t have to be on the first of the month, or of any month, it can be on the 13th of a month, it can be on the 27th of a month, just set a goal and start measuring toward it.

Christopher Penn 3:43

It’s funny, when we used to manage people, one of the things that you and I both used to say a lot is that someone’s annual review should never be a surprise, right? By the time they have their annual reviews.

Oh, yeah, I’ve heard all this at least a dozen times, if not more with monthly, you know, committee reviews and weekly touch bases and stuff like that daily stand ups to the point where, you know, a review should not be a surprise, it should be boring, right? It should be like, yeah, you just, you know, when you say, people scrambling for these big meetings, I think of like, you’re planning like a road trip, right? And suddenly, like, everyone’s the destination is a surprise like, Oh, my God, we’re not at the destination like Well, no, you you put the destination in your Maps app A while ago, and you’ve been driving along this route.

And yeah, you may have gotten lost a few times.

But the destination really hasn’t changed.

I mean, the destination substantially change, then obviously, you would want to wait six months or 12 months to tell everybody Hey, we’re not going to San Francisco anymore.

We’re now going to how isko like what that’s a totally different place.

What How did that happen? And so I feel like that part of the process of a health check should definitely not be a surprise but also if you know you’re changing destiny That should be something you communicate sooner rather than later.

Katie Robbert 5:05

I agree with that.

Yeah, if you’re on a road trip, and you’re in it, and you’re in the car driving towards someplace, you don’t, to your point, Chris, like, why would I wait six months to tell people like, Hey, I know, you thought that we arrived in San Francisco.

But really, we arrived in Tampa.

And I just waited to tell you, I’ve been deceiving you this whole time.

Like, that just seems like a really bad road trip to meet personally.

No, but I think that the example of performance reviews is spot on.

Like really, the purpose of a performance review is to literally sign the paper of everything that you already know, you should not be bringing up anything new and surprising at that time.

And the same is true with your analytics checks.

And so, you know, you could make the argument, well, I do the monthly reporting.

Okay, well, is your monthly reporting useful to the point where you can look at and go, I know exactly what’s happening? And like, I can make a decision, or is it just something you do to check a box? And so that’s where I would start in terms of determining, you know, am I keeping track of my analytics in such a way that I know exactly what’s happening, and I don’t need to worry about the big twice a year meetings where we have to pull everything together.

Now, the other side of that is, you know, a company or a marketing team might say, well, we’re so focused on our client work that we don’t have time to worry about ourselves.

And that is, you know, and we fall into that trap as well, you have to prioritize your company, your team as a client and give it equal value in order to make sure you don’t fall behind and go, Oh, crap.

We’ve been trailing for six months.

And we didn’t even know that we were on the road to Tampa, and we thought we were going to California.

Christopher Penn 6:50

Exactly, exactly.

And the thing that I think a lot of people still have a lot of trouble with in any of these analytics reviews is understanding the difference between a metric and a KPI right, being able to say, Hey, this is what you’re getting your bonus for.

And you are, you know, this close to getting like your 40% of the way to your bonus, if you’re if you’re held accountable for website traffic, you’re 40% of the way there.

But we’re 50% of the way through the year.

So you got some catching up to do, right, or you’re 80% of the way to your your goal, and we’re 50% of the year, you know, keep it up, and you’ll get a bonus and then some.

But I don’t know that we think like that.

I think, again, because of the lack of analytical skills, we just kind of barf data everywhere and hope that somebody can help interpret it and make some sense of it, as opposed to saying, when you have all this data, what stuff are you getting paid for? Right? And that’s what you report on is, here’s what you’re paying me to do.

Like when we give stuff to clients, the client is paying us for a deliverable, right? They don’t necessarily care, except, you know, beyond the terms of the contract, how long it takes us to do it behind the scenes, they shouldn’t care.

They’ve just bought a thing.

And yet, when you look at the way, PR firms and ad firms and all these different companies work very often, they’re barfing back, here’s all the things we did like that’s that’s not what we’re paying for.

So when we’re talking about a meteor health check, we’re really talking about, have you done the things you said you were going to do whatever they are, in the time allotted.

And one of the things I do when I look back at client projects is wit, what were we paid to do? Did we deliver that in and meet the expectations of the client? And then if we like the client, did we go a little bit above and beyond that a lot? Not to the point where it’s irresponsible.

But, you know, do we do something a little extra to say, this client, hey, we think we can continue adding value to you.

And so my health check for clients is how happy are they right? Ultimately, that’s what I measure myself on is, is the client happy? And obviously, the easiest side to measure that is, does the client keep paying money? If the project’s over, like, Hey, we want to do another, okay, they were happy.

And they saw value.

What do you do when you do your media health check for yourself as as the chief executive of the organization?

Katie Robbert 9:13

Well, you know, I was just thinking about that.

And it comes down to the so what, like, to your point, Chris, like, you can look at a bunch of numbers.

But so what do these numbers mean anything to you and the company and so this is where setting those goals is really critical to say what are the things that I care the most about, and then start to do that KPI map.

So you have that trickle down of, here’s all the things I need to pay attention to.

And then here is just all the extra noise.

So I personally don’t care about Facebook followers for this company for the context of what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

Because after having collected that information for a while, we know that the number of Facebook followers that we have doesn’t necessarily impact our bottom line of revenue.

So, what I, the way that I do it is I look at Well, you know, at the start of the year or the end of last year, what was the revenue goal that I set? And can I break it down? You know, roughly estimate month over month, the numbers that we should be hitting? And then Am I hitting those numbers month over month? And then six months into the year? Am I halfway to that goal? If not, oh, crap, we have a lot of work to do and start working backwards that way to say, what are the things that we need to do? What are we not doing to meet that goal? What are the things that we’re doing that aren’t contributing to the goal? And can those things be shelved for now? So that’s the way that I look at it.

And I’m using revenue as an example.

But there’s other metrics that people care about, it might be Facebook followers, because that’s what your business is based around.

And so using that same goal of I need to hit 100,000 Facebook followers over the next year, you break that down month over month and say, am I hitting those? Am I hitting that number every single month? If not, it’s a great way to adjust instead of waiting for the whole entire year and say, Did I hit it or not?

Christopher Penn 11:07

So talk about that in more detail.

Once you know that a number is not where you want it to be? What are the steps that you take to rectify and break that down? So okay, we know this, you know, this number is at 40%.

And it should be 50%.

What What’s next? What do we do? We’ve got so what? Now what?

Katie Robbert 11:26

Yeah, so you know, so let’s just take the revenue example.

You know, let’s say I wanted to make $100,000 this year.

And so you would think halfway through the year I should be at $50,000.

But I’m not.

I’m only at $30,000.

So my first question is, you know what happened? So I need to understand why I’m only at 30 and not at 50.

So did I bring in less business? Did I bring in more business, but for lower amounts? Have we been spending more money to sort of drained from the money that we’re bringing in? And so I need to figure out all of those things.

And then I need to figure out, okay, what’s working? So if we are selling things, what are we selling? Can we sell more of those things? It might be talking to the community and saying, hey, do people have budget right now at all? If not, I need to start to adjust my goal to say maybe I want it to bring in $100,000.

But it’s only realistic to bring in $75,000, for example, it’s okay to change the goal once you have more information.

So I might have this lofty idea that $100,000 is the target we have to hit.

But in reality, the money doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist anywhere in the industry, because budgets are so locked down.

That Unless, you know some sort of a miracle happened, we’re never going to get that money.

So it’s an unrealistic goal based on the day that I have.

So that’s where I start to adjust as I’m evaluating the metrics.

And the goal is to say, Do I have the data to support that this is the number that I’m trying to hit?

Christopher Penn 13:01

That’s a really interesting example because budgets typically trail reality, right? Like you get your annual budget, for example.

And it’s, it’s kind of like warfare, right? It’s like you’re always fighting last war.

And so 2021 budgets, in a lot of ways are reflective of where organizations were at the end of 2020.

After, you know, the the punch to the face that the pandemic was for the first half of it.

Now, we’re in a very different reality, where, for good or ill in the places at least we do business things are opening up and so demand is there.

But companies are still operating on it in a 2020 budgeting mindset.

How do you help somebody you know, as they’re at this media checkpoint say like, yeah, your your budget is completely out of touch with reality, you budget $10,000 for marketing for all this year.

But the demand you have now is such that you should be at $100,000 of marketing budget, because you’re you’re basically giving up customers to your competitors.

Katie Robbert 14:03

Well, so that’s where you start to look at those individual metrics and see what the return on investment is.

So let’s say on doubling down on email, for example, well, I need to start to look at my email channel and say, is it doing anything for me? Is it bringing in, you know, new prospects into my database? Is it the reason people buy something? Is it where people buy something from and so then you can start to say you can it’s you know, it’s it’s a bit of math like and you can do the back of the envelope math, or you can do the full analysis of each but the say, let’s say I only budgeted you know, $100 for email, for example, but for some reason, email is bringing in you know, 3x ROI.

Well then that says to me, I can probably comfortably continue to increase my budget, just to continue to bring in, you know, more of those customers.

And so you need to i, when you’re talking budget, when you’re talking money, people tend to act a little bit more because There’s two schools of thought there’s either the super conservative, and you do it incrementally, or there’s the completely chaotic, and you just throw money at anything.

And just hope that it sticks and hope that it works.

And I tend to be more of the conservative incremental.

Okay, so if I have $100,000, for the whole year, I’m not going to spend it all at once, I’m going to incrementally continue to increase it.

And see, based on the information that I have, that’s how I would approach it with a client to say, Okay, let’s take a look at what’s been working.

And let’s continue to increase it, you know, maybe spread it out so that you have a little bit less risk of just one channel.

Maybe we do two channels or three channels, but we don’t throw it all down at once.

Because then, you know, a month from now, your money’s all gone.

And you still have five months by the year.

Christopher Penn 15:47

Right, exactly.

So the thing that I would add to that is we need to bucket your metrics into sort of where they are.

So one of the things that we tell folks all the time is, you’ve got to have really good attribution analysis, what’s what’s converting, right, that’s sort of the bottom of your operations funnel.

Know what those numbers are, then there’s the middle, but what kind of engage when you’re getting getting people to your website, right, and what and by what channel that’s for the middle layer.

And then at the top layer is all those activities, Facebook and Twitter and press releases, and Google ads and all that stuff.

And you have different layers of metrics, each one, but they all have to come out at the bottom, they all have to come out and say like, yeah, this is what’s making us money.

And when you’re doing your media evaluation, you want to look at conversion rates within those layers.

And then between layers, so if Facebook is doing great, from impressions to clicks, but then they get to your site, and they like I’m out of here, they’re like, Okay, so that’s clearly not, you know, Facebook’s not working there to get people to the bottom.

Whereas if you look at your typical email, email, your email, open rates might be like in the toilet, right? But those that get through, convert really well, it’s like, okay, like 94% of people who get to the bottom from email are in like, there, there are a sure bet.

So as you’re putting together your half your review, instead of having all the metrics on a spreadsheet, and hoping that someone can find their way around it, put it in some kind of logical order, like a story like, here’s our customers, you know, buyers journey, from awareness to engagement to conversion.

And then when you look at stage by stage, you can figure out which is where the problem was, when I was looking at our search console data this morning.

There’s search impressions, which is Google saying, Hey, I think you’re relevant for this, this search query I want to show you so like, cool, we got the nod from Google.

And then this clicks, which is, when Google shows that in results, and the US goes, Hmm, I want to click on that, and then click on that.

So it’s this the machine and the human.

And for us, the Our problem is actually the human, not Google, we’re actually okay with Google, it’s that we’re not okay with the human who sees the Google result.

And so, as part of our review, I can then look at it and go, Ah, I see here that the descriptions the way our our, our search listing looks, which is really an ad kind of sucks.

Kind of, it’s not very appealing.

And so now we know what to pivot and go fix.

But I think the key part that’s missing from everybody’s reviews, ours include, because we have never really written this down we probably should, is, here’s what this number means.

And here’s what it implies is to do about so like search impressions means Google likes you.

If it’s bad, what should you do about you need to put no more topic research and things about search clicks means the user likes you.

Here’s what this means.

If the hits low, it means that your appearance and search sucks.

And you have you have terrible, it looks, looks looks on appealing.

And I don’t think people have it written down to say like, so you can hand it off to someone with a more a more junior person, say, do the analysis, do the media review for your stuff.

But include back to me, here’s what this number means to me.

Because if I get that back from my analysts, and I read and go, that that’s not what that number means, then I know, I’ve actually got kind of full circle to what we talked about earlier, I’ve got a change management problem, because this person does not know what I need them to know to do their job effectively.

And now, because they’ve repeated back what they’re so what is I can say we need to educate we need to train.

Katie Robbert 19:25

You know, it’s interesting, as you’re describing, you know, going through every channel, creating the funnel for every channel, my first thought as well, people are gonna think that that’s a lot of work and really overwhelming.

If you only do it once a year.

If you’re doing it consistently week over week, month over month and you set it up, that you’re just maintaining these numbers, then it’s not an overwhelming or daunting ask at all.

It’s something you should just be able to look at.

You should theoretically have a lot of it set up in some kind of like an automated Data Studio dashboard or a suito dashboard or whatever.

Automated reporting system it is that you use, and you don’t have to set it up all at once.

You don’t have to sit down one day eight hours and get everything set up, you can incrementally set things up over time.

As you have more information about what it is you need to know.

So let’s say you are a brand new marketing team brand new startup, and you’re like, I don’t know what to pay attention to, it can feel very overwhelming to feel like you have to be looking at everything all at once.

We’ll start with one number, start with one metric, and maybe it’s number of visitors to our website.

Why? Well, that’s usually a good indication that you’re marketing correctly.

And then you start to build from there.

So if you have a website, you probably want people to go visit it.

So start there and see, what can I build off of that? What other things do I care about? Okay, if I know, people are coming to my website, then do I also have an email newsletter? Okay, should I start tracking number of subscribers week over week, and start building off of that instead of trying to do it all at once.

And then that makes it a lot less overwhelming and daunting, and it makes it more manageable.

But then you’re starting to see those trends over time, because you’re collecting the information consistently.

And not waiting until once a year, when it’s too late to do anything about it.

That’s sort of the other side of the conversation is if you’re waiting for that once a year, twice a year, those big meetings to go, what happened is too late to do anything about it.

It’s already happened.

It’s past, some of it might have happened four months ago.

And you could have done something then but now you’re in July, and it happened in February.

You can’t change that.

Christopher Penn 21:40


And I would say if you’re if you’re unsure of like, why even have prioritize that start from the bottom up, right? What’s the closest thing to your paycheck, right, it’s for a lot of us has got to be some kind of conversion, right? Start with that.

Because if you can’t figure that out, you’re hosed.

It’s time to update your LinkedIn profile.

Because you know, the company’s got a pretty serious problem.

So if you can’t tell, you know, if I’m a marketer at SEO, a B2B company like ours, and I need to turn marketing qualified leads over to sales.

That’s the first number that should be on my dashboard.

Because that is ultimately even if it’s not what I’m paid to do.

It is what will keep the company in business.

So if I can’t figure out how to get marketing qualified leads, I’d say there’s a pretty serious problem.

So when you’re prioritizing start from the bottom up, don’t try to do everything to top the top of the funnel stuff is easy.

Like, yeah, you can download all your Facebook analytics data, but you don’t know if it matters yet.

Don’t waste your time on stuff that doesn’t matter.

Katie Robbert 22:35

So I think that that’s a really good example, Chris.

So you could even say, okay, you and I, specifically for Trust Insights, were responsible for different things in terms of conversions.

And, you know, for the sake of this conversation, I could say, I’m responsible for people filling out our Contact Form saying, I want to buy something from you.

That’s the conversion number that I’m responsible for.

And then Chris, the conversion number you’re responsible for is people, you know, downloading your talks, signing up for the newsletter, making sure that they’re paying attention to the content.

So already, we’ve started to split apart the conversions into two individual disciplines.

And you and I can focus on different things.

Christopher Penn 23:16


And that’s, that, again, if you’re maybe your health check, and you’re unclear about your responsibilities, this is a great time to clarify that because you really, really want to know, what am I being held accountable for? What am I not being held accountable for? Because there may be things that you like, Yeah, I thought I was in charge of this.

But actually, I’m not.

And if you can, if everything that you put on your plate to do takes time and energy, and there’s a point after which you can’t do a great job on anything, you may be able to do a okay job on 20 things.

But you really should be doing a great job on five.

Katie Robbert 23:53

And I think that that goes back to one of the original points in the conversation is if you’re waiting until the mid year effect, to figure out what you’re accountable for responsible for.

You’ve probably waited too long.

These are conversations that you should be having throughout the whole entire year.

So I guess sort of the so what of the analytics health check is, don’t wait until the one big meeting a year.

set yourself up for success by making sure you’re doing things consistently and incrementally throughout the entire year throughout the entire month, even throughout the entire day.

And it could be okay, here’s five minutes today that I’m going to spend setting up one thing that I can measure, here’s five minutes tomorrow that I’m going to build on that and five minutes on that the day after that.

I’m going to build on that.

And you will start to see that you can look at those trends over time and take action sooner rather than waiting until December 31.

When just too late.

You’re so well.

Christopher Penn 24:54


The other thing I would say is if you do have predicted analytics capabilities in your company, or you have a good agency partner that does then use that to also govern when those reviews are occurring.

Because one of the things that with any kind of review, people don’t do them because they feel like other than the minimum required to meet internal company requirements, they have to because they feel like they don’t have time, right.

So if you have either a really strong sense of the seasonality of your business, or you have predictive analytics capabilities, pick your review times not based on an arbitrary time on the calendar button when you are least busy, so that you can devote as much time to it as possible and say, Okay, this is the time when, yeah, nobody’s doing anything.

So let’s invest most heavily at those times, like we close the company.

Towards the end of the year of to the outside world, we closed the doors, we’re like, okay, we’re not working on client stuff.

Because typically, there isn’t a whole lot of client stuff to be done, because a lot of people just vaporize.

Now, those are the times we’re like, okay, we need to dramatically overhaul our email server, this last legs, and these things that require more deep work.

But we do that knowing the seasonality of the business.

So as you’re at this media point, yes, it’s a good idea to check in.

But if Also, if you know, in three weeks time, that’s when you really actually be the quietest, then use the midyear checkpoint, see, I’m gonna prioritize the things we can do now.

And then when we are deep work period comes up, we’re gonna close the doors or block off half the day on our calendars, whatever, and burn down the stuff that we know we’re not investing in otherwise,

Katie Robbert 26:27

well, then I think that that’s a really good place to start to wrap up the conversation is, you know, there’s so much psychology that goes into it.

So if you think about, you know, this whole idea of January 1, New Year’s resolutions, how much pressure are people putting on themselves to set a resolution of some sort of change that they’re going to make about themselves, whether or not they really feel passionate, but they feel like they have to.

And so to your point, Chris, instead, use the data that you have about your business to determine when you should be setting those new year’s resolutions.

And it doesn’t have to be January 1, maybe it’s March 13.

Maybe that’s a better day for you to start a new resolution or to set a new goal, because that’s what works for your business, and it’s more likely that you’re going to stick with it, because you are mentally prepared to do the thing rather than feeling this pressure of what everybody outside is also doing.

Do what works for your business.

Christopher Penn 27:23


So it’s the video chat health check.

If you’re having trouble doing a health check of your own and you would like some assistance.

That is certainly something that I’m one happy to have a chat with you about go to over to Trust insights.ai slash contact.

If you got questions about anything we’ve talked about in today’s show, go to Trust insights.ai slash analytics from are free slack group with almost 1900 marketers asking and answering questions all day every day and wherever it is that you watch or listen to this episode go to Trust insights.ai slash ti podcast we can figure out how to follow it on the channel of your choice.

Thanks for tuning in.

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