OUR BLOG


INTRODUCTION

Design is a conversation. The sooner you as the client see your ideas come to life, the faster we as your agency can start talking about work that impacts your business. Speed to Proof™ is the agency philosophy we’ve developed to support this conversation.

Your business moves at a fast pace. Lengthy agency processes are a legacy of a different era before digital marketing, where testing and iteration took months, not days. In today’s business environment, lost time is lost opportunity. The longer you spend getting to an end product, the more it actually “costs” you. 

As a client or stakeholder waiting for the solution, the longer the wait, the higher your expectations climb, and the more perfection you anticipate seeing. This can lead an agency to operate from a place of fear as they are creating, needing to spend time not just producing the end product, but investing hours in fortifying the argument to prove its “rightness.”

You’ve hired an agency for a reason, they have a set of skills you don’t have and this often comes with a vocabulary you don’t speak. Bridging the communication gap is a key factor in ultimate success, but neither side has the time to learn the language, so how do you start communicating faster?

HOW IT WORKS

As an agency or designer engaged in creative problem solving, there are hundreds of decisions to make, each with its own ramifications, and the circle contracts more and more with each round of decisions, until you arrive at a solution. This path dependence only increases as you spend more time solving the problem, often to the point that you lose sight of the original question you were solving for. You could spend an eternity trying every variation or you could only ever go with your first instinct and miss a better option. Speed to Proof™ balances these extremes. 

The most critical part of the Speed to Proof™ process is bridging the gap from ideas and strategy to execution. This starts with very clearly defining what success looks like for the project with the client. We always set an expectation that we’ll be making a lot of decisions quickly based on an initial discovery session and using our expertise to fill in the gaps. If we can get to a place that is about 70% “correct” for a first proof to the client, that is a win. Define the deliverable, define good enough, and deliver a meaningful amount of work so minimal imagination is required in the initial client review. 

Internally, we set timelines and stick to them, which is always easier said than done. Our keys to success in this area include narrowing scope, building mental walls, and identifying tomorrow programs to stay honed in on the most critical work. Getting organized at the start allows you to spend brainpower on creative thought, not file organization or finding an asset or tracking down an email. Focusing decision making where it matters enables speed. 

Once we’ve identified the starting line, finish line, and deadline, work can begin. We start by asking lots of questions, both of the client and of each other as a team. Always asking for what you need, an opinion, a clarification, a second set of eyes. This enables us to generate lots of ideas quickly and then narrow down mercilessly. Only the best ideas make it to the first client review. 

WHY IT’S THE RIGHT APPROACH FOR US

Speed to Proof™ isn’t for everyone and it isn’t about unreasonable deadlines, it’s about taking the exact amount of time you need and no more. 

Taking this approach allows us to set our team up for success. No one likes to fail or to struggle, especially when chasing the ever elusive “perfect” product. Setting a 70% there goal gives the team permission to be imperfect. By adding parameters to creative work, you can define timelines and create urgency, without undue pressure.

It also gives the client space to react honestly to the work, giving them permission to have an opinion, in a more directed way. You’re not asking if they “like it”, you’re having a collaborative conversation on how to get to a finished product that solves the original agreed upon definition of success. 

Don’t mistake this process for MVP. It’s not a minimum or a compromise or good enough. It’s about engaging the client and the agency team in the project in a meaningful way and giving everyone ownership and agency in the final result. 

Marketing and design are about communication. Why shouldn’t the process to arrive at these products involve effective communication as well? The ability to bridge the communication gap starts with Speed to Proof™, creating a longer lasting and more rewarding client/agency relationship.

IS IT READY?

Bonus Speed to Proof™ Checklist—a couple simple steps to evaluate “done”:

  1. Do you have message/audience alignment? Know who you are speaking to and ensure they’ll get the message.  
  2. Are there 1-2 obvious takeaways for the end user? Always invite them to take the next step. 
  3. Would someone with no context understand? Take a step back to be sure you haven’t lost sight of the goal. 
  4. Have you addressed all the original asks from the client? Repeatedly refer back to the (clearly defined) original asks for the project.


Unprecedented—“These are unprecedented times.” A word seldom used is now ringing in my ears. From the precall recording at my child’s pediatrician’s office to a text from my Shipt shopper, everyone seems to have gotten on board with the idea that we are indeed in unprecedented times. With the economy in crisis and graphs that show sharp and quick declines, we have to act quickly. How do we move forward though when the data changes are unprecedented? And should we move forward? While the circumstances are more challenging and the analysis more cumbersome, we can still be data-driven decision makers by examining past trends more closely, expanding our data sets, quickly implementing a measurement plan, and finally, acting! We should move forward and that limited data set might just contain the guidance your organization needs.

Look For Your Trend In Historic Data

When we see sudden changes in data that leave us with limited amounts of data, we can expand our data points by identifying if the same change occurred during another period or for just a segment of our data set. It can be helpful to look back at historic data (I find a time period of about 2 years a comfortable place to start). Look to identify if the same trend you are seeing today has occurred in the past. For example, set out to answer the questions—has there been a time when total onsite traffic decreased by 10% for 2 weeks? If the answer is “no,” dig a little deeper. Ask, has there been a segment or a specific channel that has shown the same data trend? 

Now, narrow your date range to look at just that timeframe, and examine how users were engaging in that period. We are most interested in the data that changed during this time. The same traffic sources, goals, and pages will likely be your top performers. However, we want to identify what changed. Given traffic volumes will be volatile, stay close to your rate metrics, i.e., goal conversion rate, percentage of total page views, and percent of traffic. We are interested in pinpointing how user behavior was different during this unique time. Included below are some good questions to ask:

  • Did a specific goal’s conversion rate stay steady while others decreased? 
  • Did a specific article take up a larger percentage of total page views?
  • Did a larger percentage of total traffic come from desktop?

Conduct Strong Market Research

Given our limited data set, we can also increase our indicators by grabbing data from the market. Google Trends is one of my favorite tools to provide an idea of how others are responding to change. Look for industries that haven’t experienced the same volatility, or have quickly recovered. 

Once you have identified a few organizations that have been able to avoid the change you are seeing, put in place a Google Alert to watch. Over a few days, you will gain information about their promotions, sales tactics, and messaging. A pro tip: Track their marketing messages versus their own Google Trend, determining for yourself where they are seeing success. Once you have tracked competitors or other industries, compare this data set with your own. Graph the trends together, pinpointing where similarities and differences are occurring. 

Put In Place a Measurement Plan

Quickly implement a rigorous measurement plan. Your measurement plan should be automated and hone in on the volatile metrics. Dashboards can quickly be created using Tableau, SuperMetrics, or Google Data Studio. Our team prefers the ease of the SuperMetrics Google Sheets plugin. Put a reminder on your calendar to look at the report every morning. Tell stakeholders you will be reporting out. Give yourself accountability—anything to make sure that this task doesn’t get pushed down your to-do list.

Once you have a report in place, now is the time to know your data more intimately. By understanding nuances in your data set, you can learn how users are responding on a daily, or possibly hourly, basis. While the overall trend may lean heavily in one direction, by reviewing small segments of your data, you can identify outliers. Disecting a limited data set by segments provides more opportunity for analysis. Within the larger trend, can you find segments of your traffic that have begun acting positively? If so, what caused the increased engagement? Once you identify the stimulus, it’s simple—do more of that. 

Just Do Something

Given limited data and sudden changes, the stakes are often high and the circumstances uncertain. But, by delaying decision making, you forfeit time that your team could be testing and optimizing. A basic economic principle—there is an opportunity loss for not acting. Discarding a limited data set forfeits your opportunity to learn from the market, study nuances in day to day changes with the data, and lean on past trends seen in historical data. Lean into the guidance that data provides, enabling you to make the most informed decision possible. 

Move forward with confidence!