Ask Amanda About Marketing – Episode 11: How to Take the “Ew” Out of Annual Reviews

For many companies, it’s marketing performance review season! Time to hear constructive, insightful, helpful feedback.


Oh… oh okay.

It can also mean it’s time for a self-assessment. A lot of people hate writing about themselves and dread this time of year, but it doesn’t have to be that way! How? You can use this midyear point to reflect on what you’ve accomplished so far and assess how you can improve in the future.

, Ask Amanda About Marketing – Episode 11: How to Take the “Ew” Out of Annual Reviews

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Episode 11

Episode 11: How to Take the “Ew” Out of Annual Reviews – Show Notes

This week’s question was asked of me by my company during review time:

What have you accomplished in the last six months?

Mentioned Links / Additional Resources:

Whether you’re only having the traditional review with your manager or if you’re also required to perform a self-assessment, it’s important to prepare and assess your past performance.

Step 1: Make a List Of What You’ve Done… And Didn’t Do.

Start simple. What tasks did you complete in the last six months to a year?

Overall, consider the biggest projects you finished. However, if you identify that a lot of little tasks ate up your time without being considered a bigger project or priority, it’s good to know this now so that you can try to get those tasks off your plate for the next quarter.

For example, I developed two editorial calendars, worked on a website redesign, and started this podcast (woop)!

To make sure you’re not missing anything major, re-read your position description. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks, so make sure to recall the full scope of your job and how you’ve succeeded in it.

Need help jogging your memory? (Six months is a long time!) Check past meeting notes, emails, editorial calendars, and any other regularly updated records you keep to remember everything you’ve completed.

For the tasks you didn’t do, consider why you skipped them and if they might be worth reintroducing back onto your priority list. For example, if it was a time or resource issue before, do you have that time and those resources going into the next quarter?

Step 2: Ask Yourself: Did These Accomplishments Meet My Goals?

Now that you have a solid list of everything you got done, it’s time to make a list of the goals you had set for yourself. Hopefully, you had established particular goals for the last few quarters, but if not, consider the goal of your role. How have your accomplishments helped you, your department, and your company get closer to the goals you’re trying to reach?

If you’re reading this and panicking, check out the definition of The North Star Metric, a concept used by growth hackers to pinpoint their primary goal in order to achieve growth. This can help you get some perspective on what your actual endgame should be and how you’ve worked to achieve that.

When you’ve identified which tasks correspond to which goals, dig into your analytics. What are some quantifiable results you can pull to demonstrate your success? Qualitative analysis has its value, but numbers do a lot of the talking.

For example, a quantifiable analysis would involve discovering if your lead flow increased by a certain percentage; a qualifiable one would involve ascertaining if your lead quality has increased.

Step 3: Consider Who Would Benefit From Your Self-Reflection.

Now that you’ve looked back on the work you’ve done and assessed what was the most effective, think about whether someone else at your company might benefit from your reflection.

It might seem strange that I’m suggesting sharing your self-reflection – feels like it should stay with yourself, right? – but actually this is the same kind of looking back you should be doing at least every quarter. And now that you’ve taken the time to sit down and do it, others could benefit from your findings.

Aside from your manager, maybe your teammates who are working on similar projects should know how different initiatives performed and what worked best for you; it could give them some insight into their own projects.

Or maybe you faced a challenge you were able to overcome, and people new to the company would benefit from seeing how you were able to problem solve.

So read over your reflection, and think: Who might like to hear my perspective?

Have a question you want to submit to the podcast?

Email me at [email protected] or comment below!

Have any additional insight on marketing performance reviews? Post it in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to ask Amanda about marketing, a podcast in which I Amanda, or occasionally a special guest, answers your questions about inbound marketing. Straightforward, right? If you want to submit a question email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get right to it.

At Fractl, it’s performance review time, which is what inspired me for this podcast episode and that’s because we started using a new service called Zugata. It’s online and you’re able to review your manager and your co-workers and provide feedback and they’ll do the same for you. It’s kind of more of a focus on development rather than just getting general feedback. So it’s focused on how you can grow.

So when I had to submit my self reflection into Zugata, one of the first questions of asks is: “What have you accomplished in the last six months?” At Fractl, we have reviews twice a year. So we look back on six months at a time and just hearing that question made me realize that a lot of people probably encounter this. We all have at least annual reviews or we have to talk about what we’ve accomplished and what that means for the department and the company and I thought it would be a good topic for today’s podcast since sometimes, I know we get a little lost in the day-to-day we forget to reflect back on what we’ve accomplished and what that actually means.

And performance review time is a great time to do that. Even if you’re not having your reviews, it’s still good to to sit down and really think about what you’ve accomplished and what has been actually working.

Before I jump into that though. I want to make a note that I know it’s been a long time since we’ve had a guest on the show next week. We have two guests on the show. I’m really excited to have Kim Cooper and Jennifer Johnson on the show, who work at Amazon’s Alexa and they’ve been a client of ours for a long time. I’ve worked directly with them and they’re both super knowledgeable and we’re going to talk a little bit about branding and I think they’re going to have amazing insight for you.

Also just a heads up. We’re going to have two guests next week and I have a lot of interesting guests lined up in the future as well. I’m going to try to make that a more regular part of this show.

For now, you have me and like I said, today’s question is going to be about the performance review angle. So, what have you accomplished over the last six months? Really talking about what that means, what it means for you, what it means for your boss, what it means for your company, etc.

So to do this successfully, I think there are three steps you have to consider: the first step is to make a list of everything you’ve done and everything you didn’t get to do. So this is pretty simple and straightforward. It’s the direct answer to the question of what have you accomplished; it’s to actually make a list of all the things you did get done and that’s going to sound really obvious, but I’ll explain more when we get to step two.

The important part here is to also talk about, you know, don’t necessarily put this in your review you don’t have to, but what you didn’t get done. Most of the time you’re going to have a reason why, not just you didn’t get around to it. It’s because you didn’t have the time or you didn’t have the resources and this is a good time to reflect on that and whether or not it’s worth reintroducing to your priority list for the next quarter, perhaps or the next half of the year.

You can mention it in your review if you include that context and explain maybe what got prioritized over that and whether or not you think it’s worth introducing later on. Probably more worth mentioning in the review if you do think it has value and should be brought back into your schedule. But, I think in general it’s good to consider those things that you skipped and why, because maybe you can bring that back into the fold and make sense at this time.

The other thing I want to point out about this step is, don’t just think about the tasks you completed, you know, the overall projects that you got done. Think about also the skills you may have developed over the last six months. For example, outside of work, when my work sponsors it, I’m in Toastmasters. So every other week on Monday, I go to Toastmasters meetings and I’ve done six speeches so far and I’ve been working on improving my public speaking skills.

So that is something that will benefit me. If I do, you know, go and talk at conferences, it benefits me with this podcast and it’s a skill that’s definitely going to help my role over time. So that’s something I count. If you think about the last six months, it’s not just everything you do in the office or at home in my case since I work from home, but you know on the clock. It’s anything that you’re doing that is professional development that’s going to help your job.

Another example is in order to produce this podcast, I had to reintroduce myself to Audacity which I hadn’t used since college. So it’s been fun getting to know that again. So any program you pick up, any skills you learn, consider those as well.

Okay, so some people think they’ve done step one and they’re done. They’re like, okay, my boss knows what I got done. I know what I got done. But as I mentioned this is performance reviews, you’re reviewing what you got done. So even if this is just a self-reflection you need to be considering how well you performed even if it’s not coming from your boss or a co-worker or a mentor or what have you.

So how do you go about doing this? This is step two: think about how these accomplishments you’ve written down match with your overall goals.

And one thing I want to talk about here that I think is useful to think about—I had never heard this term until I went to the Growthhackers conference because apparently this is one of the most fundamental things for Growthhackers, which is the North Star Metric. And I’ll just actually quote Sean Alice who writes about this a lot. He says: “The North Star Metric is the single metric that best captures the core value that your product delivers to customers.”

So essentially I think it’s called the North Star Metric because it’s that “guiding light.” What are you trying to accomplish? What is your end game for all the work that you and your department and the whole company is trying to achieve? So when you think about what you’ve accomplished in terms of your North Star Metric, you’re better able to evaluate whether you’ve been successful.

I’ve heard people ask Sean and others who were you know familiar with the North Star Metric whether there can be more than one. And I think the way you need to look at it is that a company has one North Star Metric, but maybe you have a subset of that metric that’s necessary in order to accomplish the broader one.

So let’s say for example—just to put this in a little perspective—that maybe your North Star Metric is increasing user acquisition for an app. So maybe the company-wide North Star Metric is the number of daily active users or maybe how long they’re engaging with your application. So you getting more users will help improve the total amount of engagement in the app, but it’s not going to be the only piece and it’s not going to be the full representation of whether your app is successful and growing.

Remember: the North Star Metric is the basis for growth hacking perspectives. However, we are marketers or you’re most likely a marketer if you’re listening to this podcast and we’re also very concerned with growth. There’s a lot of overlap there. So, even if you have a more specific North Star Metric—say, user acquisition—think about how what you’ve accomplished in the last six to 12 months has helped to increase the user acquisition numbers.

And this gets into my next point, which is: you don’t just want to reflect back on whether you succeeded qualitatively, but also quantitatively. So now’s the time to dig into your analytics, see what you can find in terms of how user acquisition has gone up, hopefully, and what tactics you can use you can attribute to that growth—but also you can use a qualitative approach.

For example, if your North Star Metric was more along the line of leads, you can increase the number of leads, but you can also increase the quality of those leads, right? And it’s taking both of those perspectives that’s going to give you the most well-rounded assessment of what you’ve done. Don’t leave out the numbers though. Numbers, when collected appropriately, can really speak toward what you’re trying to communicate. Hopefully, when doing this exercise of taking everything you’ve done—all these tactics—and matching them with the goals you’ve been trying to achieve, you’ll be able to discern what has been the most effective.

So this is something you should probably be doing once a quarter at the least—is looking back on what you’ve done and seeing what has worked and what hasn’t. Otherwise, you don’t know if you’re moving forward in the most effective way possible.

That’s not necessarily the point of performance reviews—it’s more about how you personally are fulfilling your role—but you do need to look ahead when you do a performance review. And you know, we’ve been taking that approach more internally. And I mean, if you’re going to do a performance review, yeah, it’s about measuring if you’ve been effective but it’s also about making sure you’re going to continue to be effective and continue to grow.

So this is how you do that. It’s not only to see, okay, did I do a good job? Did I not do a good job? It’s [about]: what do I do next and what have I learned and even if I’ve made mistakes or face challenges, how do I overcome them? Now how do I learn from those mistakes? That’s so much what marketing is about by the way. Marketing is about a lot of trial and error but willing to take those risks and see what happens and having the experience to know when to stop a trial, when to see it through, and when to be able to make the call that something’s working or something’s not.

So my point here is: don’t be afraid of really being honest with yourself because if you’re not, you’re doing a disservice to yourself and to your team. So take this as an opportunity, see how you’ve been doing, but see how you can improve and what you can learn from the numbers as you do dig into those analytics.

The third thing I want to talk about is—once you have all this settled, consider who would benefit from this self-reflection. A lot of the time, you know, your review that you have with your manager is just going to be between you and the manager maybe HR. But if you do have a self reflection period—or maybe if you don’t and you just want to put your thoughts down anyway—there are people who can benefit from that

For example, at Fractl, our President also wrote up a self-reflection—the same thing we all had to do—and he shared with us his answers, including the answer to that question, “What have you done for the last six months? What have you accomplished?”—and a few other question. His reasoning was that, you know, he works for all of us. He’s here for us and he wants us to understand what he’s been doing and what he’s learned and how he’s grown.

So if you’re a manager, if you ever see a group of employees and think that it would be helpful for them to see this window and how you work and what your struggles have been, you can really connect on a level that maybe you haven’t before. Maybe you’re not as communicative and as open as you would want to be in the past. This is a great way to start that—is to be open and share reflections like this.

Another example of who might benefit is maybe somebody on your team, maybe even if your teammate isn’t working on the specific projects you are. You’re still presumably working toward the same goal and finding out what worked and what did not work for you could inform the type of projects they’re working on. So, it might not seem super obvious to you at the time, but now that you have gone through the time and taken the effort to really reflect, maybe they can benefit from that and then also see that you’ve done it and reflect themselves—if this kind of a self-assessment isn’t a part of your performance review process.

So once you’re done, take a moment to consider who might benefit from it and then maybe talk to people, open a dialogue to find out how other people have been performing and what they found successful. Use this as a way to open that conversation up.

Just a quick note before I sign off, if you’re having trouble remembering what you’ve done over the last six to 12 months—if you have a bad memory like me, don’t forget that you probably have been taking notes on things you’ve been doing without even realizing it. Maybe it’s meeting notes or emails or editorial calendars or anything that you regularly update. Go back and look at those because you don’t want to miss anything that you worked on. Maybe it was a long time ago and you don’t even realize it’s in this time frame. But go back, take a look. It’ll jog your memory.

I, for one, am very happy to say, but I developed this podcast in the last six months, and it’s definitely something that I’ve really, really thoroughly enjoyed and I hope you all are getting a lot of use out of it too.

Just because we’re in this performance review season, if you have any feedback for me, I would really really love to hear it. You can comment on the Fractl blog, you can comment on iTunes or Stitcher or anywhere else you find us. Tweet at me @Millanda wherever you want to send it. I want to hear your thoughts. Thanks again for listening. If you enjoyed this episode click subscribe, don’t leave me with the realization that I’m talking to no one and please rate and review on iTunes so I can keep making this podcast better and your lives easier. Take care.

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