Planning for 2023
Q4 is always a very busy time for agencies: current projects demand a great deal of time and attention; new projects pop-up as clients return from summer vacation; and there’s often a mad push for incremental revenue this year - all while also responding to RFPs for next year. Who has time to plan?
But planning is the key to any successful business. It aligns leadership, provides guidelines for decisions, and when well communicated, informs your team on the direction and goals of the agency – critical information to increase employee loyalty. All of this clearly takes time, but we believe it’s mandatory for any successful business.
So, how should you approach this planning phase? What should you look at? What should be your outcome?
As we’ve said many times, you should approach planning as a statement of intentions, a roadmap to success, and not simply a budget exercise.
In its essence, a good plan should answer three questions:
1) Where do you want to be?
2) What do you need to do to get there?
3) What are the roadblocks?
Step 1 takes a lot of listening and examination: what’s worked so far? What are you seeing among your competitors? What are you hearing from your clients? What ideas do your employees have? Direction is a combination of desire and realism – not too far out, and not too status quo.
Step 2 is a list of actions you need to take now, and throughout the year. What needs fixing? What needs improvement? What needs reinforcing?
Step 3 identifies issues you need to address and/or monitor to ensure they don’t stop you from taking the actions and achieving your plan.
And likely your clients are doing the same process, so now’s the time to be conducting account planning and business conversations with them. Find out how they’re thinking about next year and where you fit. What are they struggling with? What business challenges do they need to address? Many are also in their budgeting phase. See if you can be of assistance. This is a great time to “walk the halls” and check-in on future needs.
The marketplace has changed dramatically in the last couple of years so you need to be sure your brand is known, appreciated by your current clients, understood by your employees and highly relevant to today’s business environment.
A good place to start is to look at the work you’ve done this year. What are the valuable case studies that demonstrate your agency’s ability to solve your clients’ problems and impact their success? Make sure you have pictures and data points from past projects (and/or plans for such on Q4 projects). Based upon this, evaluate your marketing materials and ensure they tell your current brand story as powerfully as possible.
And don’t forget, your brand story is delivered by your people, who likely have changed substantially over the past year or two. Do they have a clear understanding of your brand promise? Do they have questions? Concerns? Suggestions? Even though things are busy in Q4, there's no doubt your employees would appreciate a check-in from leadership.
Q4 is also a good time to do a realistic analysis of your staff: who’s essential to your business? Who are your rising stars? And who’s no longer performing at the level you need?
A performance evaluation (and associated actions of promotions, reorganization, and exit strategies) can set the table for a stronger team ready to take on the challenges of 2023.
Don’t forget to also evaluate your freelancer pool and your vendor pool. Do you have the resources you need? Are they getting what they need from you to do their best work? You could reach out to key freelancers and vendors to have discussions around these issues so you can identify actions that will address any holes or enable better work. This will solidify relationships and ensure great work in the future.
And lastly, the numbers. For many, 2022 was a significant turn-around. For others, 2021 was a growth year with additional growth in 2022 (along with the attendant growing pains). If you’re one of these successful agencies, you’re probably anticipating one of your best bottom lines in years.
So, this is a good time to analyze the best way to leverage that success. Do you have a bonus plan in place that encourages and rewards your employees' positive behavior employees (rather than simply gives out dollars as thanks)? Do you have the right tools to ensure your employees are working as efficiently as possible? Do you have the right organizational structure for your current (and projected) size, with the right support for your leadership? A flush bottom line makes this a great time to invest in any of these areas.
It’s been very hard over the past few years to make financial predictions, and, once again, it’s unclear what 2023 will bring with the current turmoil in the economy and the markets. But based upon 2022, it seems clear that the demand for live events (supported and expanded by virtual and other digital experiences) will continue to strengthen, and agencies need to be ready to answer that demand.
The best way to prepare for demand is to develop a budget that’s realistic, and to have the financial systems and reports in place to monitor the numbers quickly and accurately so you’re ready to make timely decisions about investments, hiring, or belt-tightening.
Q4 is always a busy time in agency life. But if all you deal with is the here and now, you'll inevitably fall behind and miss opportunities. The key is to prepare so that you head into 2023 with an informed plan, giving you the ability to quickly make smart decisions that’ll ensure greater success for your agency.
Tonic Consulting Group works with live event agencies, marketing agencies and related companies providing the insights, expertise and direction necessary to create enduring competitive advantage. We work with leaders to build new pathways to growth, create
high-performing operations and develop companies people love working for.