Third & GroveThird & Grove
May 18, 2020 - Justin Emond

How to Get Your Ongoing Support and Optimization Efforts Unstuck


While we previously wrote about the principles that drive results in ongoing support, we haven’t talked about the number one challenge brands coming to TAG for ongoing support talk to us about: how can they unstick their support and optimization efforts. All too often, we hear that their ongoing support efforts are failing, that “everything takes forever to get done” and “the team isn’t proactive, I always have to ask for changes.”

The marketing does not feel like the support team is helping them succeed, because they aren’t.

What is happening here is that support is in a tactical rut. It is in a tactical rut because it wasn’t set up for success from the start. In these situations, the brands are reaching out to Third and Grove because they find little strategic value in their current efforts. They need to turn the ship around, but they don’t know how. 

Because we have provided ongoing support and optimization for so many organizations for whose sites we didn’t build, we have developed a process we use to accelerate development velocity and turn support from a tactical effort to a strategic asset for the marketing team.

Here is how we do it:

Step 1: The Kick-Off

The TAG digital project manager assigned to the client schedules an introductory session to set expectations around operational mechanics, schedule releases cadences and regular check-ins, run through an inventory of systems we need access to, provide an overview of the audits (see next steps), and outline what the next steps are. 

Step 2: Technical Audit

This is the first of two critical audits we conduct. The technical architect assigned to work on this client runs through our 75-point checklist, which covers a variety of best practices, as well as security, performance, and SEO website checks. We document each of our findings in an audit report for the client, and for each item, we identify the general level of effort to address the issue and how critical the issue is to the interests of the client. High-impact items like security issues are tagged priority 0, while less critical or impactful items are assigned lower prioritizations.

About 85 percent of the time, we find a security issue that presents an active risk to the client and that needs to be addressed quickly to protect brand equity (and often customer information).

The technical audit is crucial to dealing with the problem of technical debt, which does not go away on its own. You have to chip away at this debt. The technical audit is how you balance the need to address issues that move the business forward (net new refinements) with investing engineering hours doing the work that will ultimately increase developer velocity for support tasks in the future.

Step 3: Digital Audit

For the second audit, we turn to our digital strategy and creative teams to dig into the overall site experience. We look at analytics data, analytics configuration, any data from personalization, A/B testing, and heatmap tools. We look at the site navigation, the information architecture, and how content is being used. We look at competitor sites. We look at the design system (if one exists), the brand voice, and the brand position of competitors. We review any documented customer journeys and personas.

From this review, we prepare a deck that outlines areas of opportunity. These could be refinements to the navigation, landing page changes, refinements to the homepage, tweaks to lead generation forms, you name it. Anything related to experience is fair game, and the smaller the refinement the better.

Why are small refinements better?

Two reasons. First, it is far easier to measure the impact of a small change because there is less data pollution. If you make a major site change, it takes longer, and more time means other changes happen in the interim, and potentially other changes go live with it. This makes it more tricky to attribute positive (or negative) impacts to specific changes. With a small change, the impact should be clearer. Remember: You get what you measure, and if you measure poorly, you get poor results.

The second reason small changes are better is that we believe effective digital marketing is agile digital marketing, and agile marketing is all about a continuous process of making a small change, measuring impact, learning, and then repeating the process.

Step 4: Bringing it all together in planning

Now it’s time to bring together our technical findings and our digital audit findings with the client’s own backlog and priorities. With all of this information,  we work together to create a roadmap of support tasks for the next three quarters, leaving time each month for the unknown unknowns that always happen. This roadmap strikes a balance between experimentation to improve key KPIs, the tactical refinements that are the bread and butter of support work, and investment in the overall platform to make longer-term improvements in development velocity.