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Shortlist Q1 2024 Update

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a quarter can go by (not to mention that Shortlist is already close to 6 years old)!

Regardless of how the previous year went, I always begin the following year with a lot of optimism. 

Perhaps ironically, this often coincides with how many things I see that are inefficient, sub-optimal, or for lack of a better word, just wrong. 

And I know I should be focusing on the positives, but the truth is, sometimes I enjoy seeing the negative. 

And that’s because, for me, the negative is an opportunity. It’s something that in all likelihood can be fixed, improved, and result in a better business. 

Which means faster production, better results for our clients, and hopefully, growth. 

In short, positives can be kind of boring!

That being said, let’s review Q1 of 2024, and see what some of those negatives were and how we did (or didn’t) fix them!

Major Initiative #1: Fix The Website!

We wouldn’t be practicing what we preach if we weren’t holding our website to the highest possible standards. 

While I’m a big believer that a website shouldn’t be fussed over month after month, it’s usually due for a tune-up every 1-2 years. 

When we looked at our website we asked ourselves whether or not what was there continued to represent who we are and who we want to be. 

The answer was no. 

We were misrepresenting ourselves – devaluing ourselves actually and making it appear that we were only competent at a single service (link-building). 

The reality is that we have developed amazing services for a number of SEO, Content, and Branding-related campaigns. 

Thus, a major goal was to add to the website and make sure these service pages were represented, that they spoke to our target audience of agency owners, that they abided by our guiding principles of transparency and adherence to process, and above all that they looked really, really pretty. 

And of course, as a digital marketing agency, we took ourselves on as our own client. 

And I’m proud to say that as the client, I’m very pleased with the end result (not that I had any doubts). 

The website, in my unbiased opinion, looks terrific. 

It improved upon our already existing and beautiful style while also adding a tremendous amount of depth and content about what it is we do and how we do it. 

The best part is that it was a team effort. Just about everyone on the team touched the website in one way or another, either through design, development, or copy. 

Many people in fact owned a service page and oversaw it from start to finish.

It was a true, company-wide initiative.

Major Initiative #2: Clearer Organizational Structure

Having a great-looking website is terrific for how you represent yourself to others, but it is not a substitute for having clearly defined roles and responsibilities internally. 

And this was something we were lacking. 

It wasn’t intentional, however, as the team has grown and the company has evolved, roles and responsibilities started to get a little cloudy. 

Add to this the fact that I am never present in the office and somewhat unable to contribute in this way daily. 

The result was a lot of people unclear about what they owned, and doing things that weren’t exactly in their role. 

The department heads and I had an end-of-the-year discussion around this and after some open and honest conversation, I believe we all walked away on the same page. 

We set in motion a plan to carve out a new department to handle client relations and reassigned two people from bizdev into it. We then clarified which work would be done by each department, what their KPIs and goals were, and what my expectations of each of them were. 

Additionally, to somewhat make up for the fact that I am not in the office regularly, we agreed that I would meet with every member of the team at least once a quarter and with the department heads, individually, once a month (in addition to our already standing weekly meeting). 

These conversations have proven very valuable for several reasons, such as getting to know team members better, discussing their long-term goals, and allowing them to get to know me. 

Overall, transitions like this take time, but I feel we have a much clearer distinction within the team than we had a year ago. 

Major Initiative #3: Start Producing Content Again & Networking

In all the years running Shortlist, we’ve generally been sub-par at creating content. 

  • Once in a while we’d put together an article on the blog
  • Occasionally something would go out on our social media
  • We had a handful of case studies, but most of them were fairly dated
  • I rarely, if ever, published anything personally and was not really known in the space
  • I barely went to networking events

It was decided that all this had to change. 

After all, people follow people, not companies, and we wanted to make sure that our people were out there engaging in thought leadership. 

And not just me, mind you, but members of the team too. 

We came up with some great ideas on how we could showcase our industry knowledge, such as:

  • Me launching a founder series all about the journey of Shortlist
  • Members of the team talking about the tools they utilize at work
  • Shortlist and myself publishing actively on Linkedin 
  • BizDev creating case studies to showcase all the client success stories from our services
  • Me going to networking events primarily through Philly Tech Entrepreneurs

And I would say, after all of this, it really feels like night and day.

While I’m not sure we have achieved a best-in-class strategy just yet, our production levels are through the roof, and some of our content is quite good. 

Even members of our team have been reading it, enjoying it, and complimenting it – and it’s given us more things to share internally, which is nice for team morale. 

Honestly, I forgot that creating content isn’t just about sharing with potential customers, but also about inspiring and motivating the team.

What’s Next & Industry Trends

First and foremost we’re looking to build on all of the accomplishments of this quarter and to make sure we not only keep up with what we’ve been doing, but refine the strategy around them. 

Because at the end of the day if we stop with the website progress now, or give up on content, what will have been the point?

However, we also have to take on new initiatives, that’s just the way of the world. 

With that in mind, some of our major initiatives going forward are going to be to incorporate AI wherever it’s possible, and appropriate, to increase our efficiency and improve our production.

We are not in the business of growing the team size substantially – it’s just not economically feasible. 

So if we’re going to do more, we have to make the things we’re doing now take less time, it’s just simple math – and the solution has never been clearer and it’s two letters.

Secondly, we’re going to double down on Inbound and hopefully, that means launching and promoting a suite of free or affordable products for agencies to further grow our top-of-the-funnel leads. 

We have a few in mind that are gearing up to launch, such as Shortlist Metrics. 

Overall, I continue to be optimistic about the next quarter and the remainder of this year!

Let’s get you Shortlisted to the top!

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