5 Tips for a Successful Annual Review

Business person in a suite with review diagram in foreground

As we begin a new year, you might be tasked with preparing a presentation for an annual review meeting to cover 2020 campaign performance. Whether your client’s business was lucky enough to have survived or thrived in the volatile year of 2020, you’ll have your work cut out for you presenting performance data for such an unprecedented year. Hopefully, the tips below can help you navigate these uncharted waters.

Allow Enough Meeting Time

An annual review is potentially one of the most important meetings you’ll have all year. You spent plenty of time and hard work digging up data, analyzing for learnings, compiling recommendations, and putting it all into a visual, well-flowing presentation – don’t lose out now but not allowing enough time to cover all the material.

How much time do you need? That depends on a lot of factors.

  • Did you find that evergreen strategies from previous years were able to keep things afloat in 2020?
  • Did you have to test a lot of new strategies to keep leads or sales coming through the pipeline?
  • Did your client have to completely shift their business model to survive?

Essentially, the fewer changes that had to be made, the less time you’ll need. A good benchmark is 1 – 1.5 hours, but only you know what the previous year was like for your client and how many crucial topics need to be covered, so use this as a guideline but trust your instincts as well.

At the same time, you don’t want to be droning on for three hours. One way to provide a concise yet thorough presentation is to focus on only your main points for discussion, and then you can just provide more data context in an appendix at the end. So, do some initial data gathering and brainstorming, then work to narrow things down to the most important points and topics to cover during the presentation.

Back Up YoY Performance Comparisons

Last year was unlike any other year ever. You can provide year-over-year performance views as long as you sufficiently back up your 2020 data with information to support how last year was different. Hopefully, you could find and share this information with your client as the year progressed, but if you didn’t then now is the time to provide it.

What kind of supporting information would be helpful?

  • Reputable articles/graphs/statistics about how consumer buying patterns changed, specific to your client’s vertical if you can find them.
  • Data from auction insights to help showcase how competitive landscapes changed.
  • Clearly outlined changes the client made that impacted performance. For example:
    • Did they have to greatly decrease their advertising budget?
    • Did they have to lay off some of their sales team?
    • Did they launch a brand new website that was ramping up?
    • Did they have fewer or more sales or special offers in 2020?

These are just a few examples. Some research and legwork here will go a long way to give a more holistic view and provide context to last year’s numbers.

Take Time for a Competitive Analysis

Your client’s business may have suffered in 2020, but did their competitors have a successful year? I’ve found that a competitive analysis is always a value-add, but if your client’s competitors had a stronger year then a competitive review is crucial to include.

For instance, we have a client who completely rebranded and launched a new website early last year. The pandemic hit as their new site was trying to ramp up and they were trying to increase new brand awareness. Needless to say, some of their competitors seemed to have had a stronger year than they did.

As a result, we conducted a thorough competitive analysis and shared all we could with the client to help them have a more successful 2021. As we dug into competitor websites, we were able to compile a good list of suggestions for our client to help improve in the New Year and drive more sales. This meeting was one of our most successful, and they greatly appreciated our research and suggestions.

Outline All of Your Learnings

What did you learn from your 2020 efforts? It’s fine to spend a bit of time on what you tried that didn’t work, but I’d suggest spending the majority of your time on what DID work.

  • Did you test a new audience that proved to efficiently drive leads or sales?
  • Did you test a new channel that was successful?
  • Was there a new sale or offer that really resonated with your audience that you could try again this year?
  • What ad copy won out in tests that you can iterate on?

Get the client forward-thinking about what you can take into the New Year.

Include Lots of New Ideas

Even if your client isn’t intending to increase budgets, even if they didn’t ask for new ideas — provide them anyway, and try to leave some time at the end of your meeting to cover them at least at a high level. Your client will likely appreciate the fresh ideas and who knows – they might be willing to invest in them if they have a strong start to the New Year. (If you know your client wants to scale up this year, check out a post I wrote last month with ideas for how to reach aggressive growth goals).

Here are some ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • Are any of your top-performing campaigns limited by budget?
  • If Lookalike audiences are performing well – have you tested audiences past 1%?
  • Does the client have additional product lines you could expand into?
  • Are there any new Betas you can be a part of?
  • Are there new channels, with good targeting features and the right demographic, you could suggest expanding into?
  • Are there additional ad formats you could test?
  • Does the client have new, fresh content you could leverage into a top of funnel or mid-funnel strategy if you’ve maxed out bottom-funnel efforts?
  • If you know your client has the resources, then review a key site page or landing page and make some recommendations for improvement.

Also, when is the last time you actually went through your client’s website? Sometimes even our most responsive clients forget to tell us about additions or updates. For instance, we noticed one client had added a ‘Quick Ship’ option — in-stock items that will ship in 2 business days — and we didn’t know about it. We’ll certainly be adding that to our efforts for them this year.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, 2020 was a rough year for many businesses and reviewing that performance data might not be a walk in the park. I hope these tips can help you find some wins for your presentation and keep you encouraged to look toward new ideas in this new year.

What tips do you have for conducting a successful yearly review? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!