The last quarter of the year is an important one. No matter what audience you’re targeting, many decisions about next year’s budget are determined by this year’s Q4 performance. Accordingly, our August series will highlight where our team’s experience has uncovered key PPC management techniques for this critical business period.
What you can expect to see this month…
To start our series, we have a group post on some common misconceptions in account management for Q4. Topics include campaign preparation, execution and reporting.
Things will take a bit more of a technical turn from there, with posts examining B2B and B2C-oriented accounts, and covering search, social and display campaign tactics to help you maintain focus on your entire lead or revenue pipeline. We’ll also pay special attention to enterprise-level ecommerce and how to implement specific strategies for those businesses during arguably their most crucial few months.
On the flip side, you can expect specific tips geared toward smaller accounts that will help maximize potentially limited resources in Q4. Finally, our team works with a handful of non-profit organizations, so we’ll share some highlights on how those accounts are able to maintain engagement during a potentially slower (but no less important) time of year.
There’s a little something for everyone, and you may even discover a few recommendations to apply to your accounts in reading posts for different industries – so be sure to stay tuned all month!
A few organizational tips to get us started…
One thing is certain when it comes to all things Q4 – organization is key. Not only do ongoing or recurring tasks still need attention, but you’ll have quarter-specific projects to balance into the workload and probably a few surprises or urgent tasks that will need folding in.
I’m personally a bit of a sucker for organization, so here are a few things that might help along your Q4 journey:
If you literally or figuratively just rolled your eyes and thought “obviously,” I would ask you to quickly go check your calendar or project management system and tell me when you have ‘Start Q4 Prep’ on your list…
Many of my colleagues will be discussing why getting a jump on as much as you can for the fourth quarter of the year can make or break successful campaign strategy, but I want to also suggest that you begin testing and implementing some of the quick tips from this post sooner rather than later so you yourself can gain familiarity with a slight change in routine. Every good PPC manager has a method for prioritizing their work – Q4 simply requires you to revise that method, and it may take a little practice before you’re used to the adjustment.
Another reason to start thinking about your Q4 processes sooner rather than later is that you’ll likely uncover a few modifications to make based on how your account needs fully take shape.
Time blocking will be your best friend
Forever one of my favorite bits of advice for life and work is the implementation of time blocking to your schedule – because it emphasizes and empowers the idea that you are truly in control of your time, so long as you allow yourself to be.
For example, Q4 tends to be a busy time outside of work for holiday gatherings and all the preparation that goes into them. I’ve found myself feeling completely wiped out come January when I overcommit to too many pitch ins or cookie exchanges. So I try to set a limit on the number of events I’ll RSVP to and then I pre-block time for those (and any prep time needed) on my calendar immediately. Will I say ‘no’ to all other invitations once those spots fill up? Probably not! But then there’s a grace period where I can make a mindful decision about whether I can reasonably add something else and where. At minimum I give myself a little more time to develop a plan.
My previous suggestions on time blocking definitely still apply, but especially for Q4 I would recommend setting aside time for known and unknown tasks or account needs. This will help you maintain effectiveness during high volume months and keep things from piling up.
Temporarily adjust communication or meeting schedules
As you’re working through where you need to block time in the last few months of the year, you may start to notice overlap in existing obligations or that there’s more to do than time available. Before you become discouraged, consider where there might be colleagues or client contacts who are feeling the same sort of pressure. Be the proactive cog in the machine and bring up whether standing meetings or calls need to be temporarily adjusted.
Determine if there are weekly recurring calls that could be moved to bi-weekly until after the first of the year, if the applicable account has reduced volume during Q4. Perhaps you can cut internal bi-weekly meetings to 30 minutes if they’re scheduled for 60. If the discussion isn’t urgent, cancel a couple meetings a month and take the agenda to your team chat. You can still keep momentum (so long as everyone knows they can participate within a certain amount of time) and track outstanding needs in a shared doc, but give the team actual time back in their calendars to use as needed.
Institute a ‘five minute rule’
Last but not least, there are going to be unplanned tasks that pop up here and there and you can’t necessarily block out time for everything. Take it from me, if you schedule a ‘Miscellaneous Catch Up’ time block, it’ll be the first one you manually override to take a call and it could start a slippery slope of not following your time blocking rules. Time blocks have to be followed to work, but the nature of digital marketing (and life) does require occasional quick turn items to be handled so we can continue our organized day.
When something outside of your known to do list for the day comes in, take a moment to consider how much time it will take to respond and/or execute on the request. If it’s under five minutes – handle it now and cross it off the list. These small things pile up faster than you might think, and you’ll find yourself worrying more throughout the day about them than the five minutes they might take to knock out.
Don’t let it get out of hand, of course. If you start spotting patterns in the small requests coming up, build them into an existing time block or consider a new one if it’s a unique set of tasks.
We hope these small organizational tips help you get started on your Q4 planning journey, and that you enjoy following along this month. We’ll catch you back here for a wrap-up and review of major takeaways in a few weeks!