As digital marketers, we’re numbers focused. We’re constantly measuring results and checking performance metrics. We need to know how well that last email performed, what kind of revenue we’re generating from a pay-per-click campaign, and the social media response to our latest event. It’s the cycle of our work days: We strategize, we market, we measure, we analyze, we adjust—and numbers are at the center of it all.
However, every once in a while, we are the ones being measured when it’s time for a performance appraisal. In businesses all over the country, managers sit down with employees every six or 12 months to talk about what’s working and what’s not. And there aren’t many numbers to look to in order to check your KPIs when you’re a digital marketer facing a performance review.
Measuring the Marketer
Measuring the results of a digital marketing campaign is straightforward. We have numbers, charts, trends, spikes, highs, lows, graphs, comparisons—it’s objective. Being measured, however, is a much more subjective experience, and that can make it hard to prepare for the review.
Oftentimes, it’s a little tricky to measure the performance of a digital marketer because digital marketing is still a relatively new field—and a rapidly changing one. With new technologies popping up on what seems like a daily basis, marketers are constantly learning these new tools along with how to maximize them and therefore profit from them. So when marketers are busy figuring out how to measure the marketing, who can measure the marketer? More importantly, how can one prepare for a performance review under these circumstances?
Despite the challenges in measuring subjectively, the performance appraisal must be done—and the employee must be ready. And, as the employee, you can prepare to shine despite a lack of KPIs and charts and graphs to use for comparison. In this article, I’ll share with you four ways to walk into your performance appraisal and put your best foot forward:
- Preparing for your performance review is a year-long process. Although you only have to go through it once or twice a year, the best time to prepare for your performance appraisal is all year long. You should keep detailed notes of your work accomplishments and be prepared to “show your work”. Make sure those numbers are easily accessible so you can point to improved performance stats for your campaign or demonstrate how you “moved the needle” on campaigns or cut costs or in some other way made a difference.
- Pay close attention to your performance during the past six months or year. Prior to your performance evaluation, you should have performance KPIs and benchmarks in place to keep you in check. Have you met the goals established during your last review? In what ways are you improving? In what ways are you falling short? Be ready to talk about areas where you can improve, your strengths and weaknesses, and your action plan for moving up in your role.
- Set new goals for yourself and make sure you have a plan for achieving them. Setting your annual goals is one of the most effective ways to make yourself accountable to your job and your professional growth. Not only will it help you stay focused and on target, but it will also enable you to think long-term and concentrate your efforts on the big picture. It’s easy to get lost in the nitty gritty details of a campaign, but if you understand how it fits into your departmental and company goals, you might just approach it with a different mindset. New goals aren’t restricted to on-the-job performance. New goals might be learning specific digital marketing skills, taking on a new role at work or even earning a certification.
- Try to get the most out of your performance review by listening. While performance reviews can be trying at times, it’s also a candid view of how your manager perceives you. When you meet with your manager, come to the table with an open mind and take into consideration everything you hear during your review, even if your initial response is to disagree with what is being said. It’s likely you’ll realize where your manager thinks you fall short, which will allow yourself to better prepare and cover up those blind spots the next time around.
When all is said and done, there are still many ways to improve — not just at the individual level, but also at the team level. In addition to preparing for your own performance review, be ready with suggestions regarding ways your department and team can improve. Perhaps you’re finding that SEO efforts don’t take into account Google’s new mobile-first approach and that needs to change. Or maybe the marketing automation platform your company uses has been upgraded, but the company is still using the older version and missing out on the new features. Or the latest and greatest social media startup is growing in popularity and your business has no presence there. It’s always something because digital marketing changes daily. Pay attention and offer ways to help your organization keep up during your review.
The Best Way to Prepare? Learn New Digital Marketing Skills
Although all of the advice offered above is—of course—sound advice, there is one other way to prepare for your performance review that’s proactive and potentially impressive: Learn new digital marketing skills on your own. This is something you can do any time of the year, and use it to your advantage during your appraisal to demonstrate your growth.
You have plenty of specific areas to choose from, and you can choose between learning a new skill or deepening your knowledge in an area already familiar to you. As a digital marketer, you could tackle any number of topics, including:
- Search engine optimization (S· EO)
- Content marketing
- Pay-per-click advertising
- Website conversion optimization
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Video and YouTube
- Facebook advertising
- Programmatic buying
- Display advertising
- Marketing automation
Regardless of the topic you choose, when you pursue new digital marketing knowledge on your own and you’re able to bring this up during your performance appraisal, you demonstrate to your manager that you are intentionally striving to improve, setting goals for yourself with the self-discipline to achieve those goals, and staying current in the field. As a result, your manager might view you as someone ready for more responsibilities or a whole new role. At the very least, you’ll “move the needle” on your performance rating.
Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is the boost in confidence that comes with mastering new skills and applying that knowledge at work to improve digital marketing results for your organization. And when it comes time for your performance appraisal, your new skills are something easily recognized and therefore “measured” by your manager—no numbers required.