The Recurring Check-ins That Keep Us on Track

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Meetings can get a lot of flack. Meeting announcements can be accompanied by a chorus of groans if they're chronically mismanaged, and Mark Cuban's policy is well known: "No meetings or phone calls unless I'm picking up a check."

Well, if that works for Mark more power to him! On the other hand, at BranchLabs we believe consistently good communication is one of the most rewarding aspects of a working relationship.

When it comes to ensuring smooth operations, regular meetings are invaluable—as long as they're structured. Everyone who's attending needs a reason to be there and the goals need to be clear.

Inconsistent communication is one of greatest frustrations clients face with eCommerce agencies, and they hurt the client and the agency alike. For clients, lack of information means they can't see measurable results and feel confident in an agency's performance. When agencies are in the dark, their developers and project managers are unsure of priorities, unaware of the latest requirements, and can't deliver an optimal product.

BranchLabs follows a communications plan with a set meeting schedule because it keeps both our clients and our team informed, organized, and better positioned to manage projects while planning for the short and long term.

At these meetings, we may not be getting the kind of check Mark likes, but we're getting the kind we need: a reality check. Here's how.

A Process that Works: Weekly, Monthly, and Quarterly Communications

Weekly Calls & Emails | What’s new?

Each week, BranchLabs sends email updates to our clients and arranges a call between project managers from the client and agency teams. In these meetings, we summarize last week’s work (what was done, what's still being worked on, and what’s still in queue); review the project’s status and gather required information for new tasks; and use that info to plan the upcoming week and prioritize current and new tasks.

The weekly touch base helps our team quickly respond to changes and keeps everyone’s expectations aligned. We establish one point of contact on our client’s team early on — this makes it much easier to give our clients high-level insights into a project without anything getting lost in translation. There is such a thing as too much communication, though — especially if there aren’t any newsworthy updates to provide. But not having any major updates still warrants some kind of check-in: A simple message that says “All’s well, nothing to report at this time” can provide a lot of relief for a client. It’s a small communication with a big impact.

Monthly Progress Reports | What’s happening?

Monthly meetings are a deeper dive than the weekly meetings. We cover overall project status and also take the temperature of the client-agency relationship. We provide progress reports to recap achievements; explain the resources used to get there (designers, developers, analysts, etc.); and speak with the stakeholder directly above our to client's project lead to learn what's working and what can be improved (e.g. deliverables, dynamics, processes).

Having these conversations every few weeks is great for trust-building. Our clients appreciate the transparency and the proactive approach to improving our working relationship. Since we’re making macro-level adjustments to timelines and budgets in these meetings, we’re able to improve efficiency and speed up deliverables while making working together way more fun — an ideal dynamic that sets the stage for our quarterly meetings.

Quarterly Meetings | What’s next?

Frequent check-ins are where we course-correct and improve processes, but quarterly meetings create opportunity for changes that have greater impact on the business. Every three months is just the right amount of time to discuss a client's high-level growth strategy with stakeholders from both sides of table. We’ll compare quarter-on-quarter performance, but much of the work focuses on longer-term goals. We review upcoming initiatives for marketing and product development in order to understand how those will affect our future eCommerce initiatives. This is where we unpack bigger ideas like changes in brand direction, new customer insights, or ideas our clients want to test with our help.

These meetings are powerful and inspiring. When all of the key players are drawn out of the day-to-day details to really look at what they've done and where they're going, there's energy in the room. We’re reminded of what we love about what we all do. It’s a purpose-driven meeting that becomes a terrific reminder for everyone at the table — our team included — of what we're really passionate about.

The Big Shift: When a Quarterly Meeting Brings About Bigger Change

Sometimes, more than what’s expected comes out of quarterly meetings: significant paradigm shifts. This happens most often because we're changing the way we think about a process, or the way we collaborate to improve outcomes.

We noticed this with one client who couldn’t shake a “get more with less” mindset. Rather than investing in system-level improvements, we were regularly staging interventions on the feature level. Case in point: Our developers would be asked to add custom sliders instead of creating administrative capabilities to let them change content themselves. Acting without a strategy kept both sides in constant “fix-it” mode, and it was hard to see results from stop-gap implementations.

It was at a quarterly meeting that we were able to zoom out and make a case for looking at systems rather than one-off solutions, using the sliders as a concrete example. We explained how we could spend a bit more time and resources now to create an editable slider would be a huge time-saver later, and let us focus on building out even more capabilities for them in the future. That’s when it clicked: building the right system now rather than staying reactive would help them get the most out of working with us and help them grow their internal capabilities much more in the long run.

Wrapping Up

Having a system that keeps a client and eComm agency in regular contact means everyone feels informed and confident in the direction of the project. Bringing an efficient “built in” process to each new client relationship saves time and lets us focus on what matters: maintaining forward progress. With those processes moving like a well-oiled machine, we can aggregate knowledge about our clients and build deeper relationships, allowing us to act like plugged-in extension of their team.

There may not be a check at these meetings, but that’s a huge payoff.

Still not sold on meetings? Let’s talk about it.

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