How to Do a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) and Why They are Important

          Matthew Taufaasau

          A question that comes up a lot at Portent and in agency circles is, “What defines a good quarterly business review?”

          To be sure, it’s a very subjective question, but at its heart, the answer can be pretty simple: a good QBR is one that shows value. Value in the work you’ve done. Value in the relationship. Value in the time and money that you’ve spent! Your teams have dedicated countless hours working hard to deliver on the client promise and now is your time to highlight the fruits of your labor. However, don’t get caught up in thinking you can throw out some numbers that, in a vacuum, impress an SEM specialist or a content writer. It would be best if you were aligning everything in your presentation back to the goals of your client.

          Graphic of a blue box with a star in the middle and the words wins, challenges, and opportunities inside

          Your Quarterly Business Review Should be Tied to Client Goals

          You Have Client Goals, Right?

          Don’t laugh here, because I’ve seen instances where a client can’t or won’t provide them. Perhaps they were interested in the overall general health of their website campaigns. Maybe they’ve been led to believe that when their CTA, CPA, CTR, DA, and other acronyms are all looking better, then they’re winning! Don’t get me wrong; showing a client why these metrics are important, and how your work impacted them is essential, though perhaps better suited for a monthly recap conversation.

          You should drive the conversation early on in a client engagement that bubbles up these small successes into a larger purpose—your client’s primary goals. Whether they are qualitative or quantitative, during your QBR you should be telling the story of how your work and any underlying challenges and successes affected them. Examples here could be growing revenue by 20% year-over-year, increasing cart completions, doubling traffic from paid sources to targeted landing pages, or driving up site engagement. Once you have these, you can frame your QBR around them.

          Quarterly Business Review Best Practices

          What Makes a Good QBR?

          Over the years, I’ve seen various ways that you can run a QBR. The best ones, however, center on the client’s goals and speak to the ways that we have been working to achieve them. What are we going to start working on this quarter? Did something not go well last quarter? What will we carry over? In other words, Start, Stop, and Continue (however around here, we prefer to call them Wins, Challenges, and Opportunities).

          When you highlight the wins, challenges, and opportunities from the past quarter, you’re able to run a quick retrospective (or as some may call it, a post-mortem). This thoughtful look back gives you and the client a way to pat yourselves on the back, critically examine misses, and explain how your team is going to roll the insight from the two into next quarter’s opportunities. The following topics lay the groundwork for a thoughtful retrospective.

          Start with KPIs

          Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a great way to evaluate your success against established goals. It’s nice to begin by showing the big numbers to which you and your audience are beholden. You will want to show progress to-date, projections for the rest of the year, and comparisons to previous periods.

          Graphic of a blue box with a star in the middle and the word wins inside

          Wins

          Maybe I’m just a sucker for leading with the good news, but I love setting the tone of a QBR by highlighting some wins! What kicked ass? Why did it kick ass? How did the ass-kicking impact that client’s goal?

          Graphic of a blue box with a star in the middle and the word challenges nside

          Challenges

          Not every strategy or tactic is going to produce a win. What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work? What did we learn? Most failures come with learnings and lead to the next topic: opportunities.

          Graphic of a blue box with a star in the middle and the word opportunities inside

          Opportunities

          Moving from challenges to opportunities provides a natural segue for a QBR conversation. If your retrospective unveiled a glaring gap, there must be a way forward; highlight it here. Don’t forget to promote the ways that you’re going to further leverage or expand on your wins.

          Roadmap For the Next Quarter and Beyond

          In this section, it’s time to lay out a plan. Using your existing roadmaps and items from your wins, challenges, and opportunities, let your client know what you’ll be working on for the upcoming quarter(s). Be sure to get buy-in for your plans. The beauty of this section is that you can reference it during your next QBR using the above format.

          How do I Prepare for a Quarterly Business Review?

          While there are many ways to prepare for a QBR, at Portent, we encourage our teams to be proactive in planning for these meaningful discussions. Depending on the relationship with your client and direct contacts, they might even appreciate an opportunity to preview the final document that you’ll be presenting. So with that in mind, we keep to the following schedule.

          Three Weeks Out

          Assign your tasks. Start by creating all of the assignments for the upcoming weeks For me, that means ensuring that initial drafts of our presentation deck get started, revised, and completed on time.

          Internal QBR prep. Next, we schedule two meetings. The first is a 30-minute internal meeting for QBR prep where our team will review our client’s goals The meeting organizer should prompt their team to contribute their wins, challenges, and opportunities from the last quarter.

          QBR brainstorm/work session. The second internal meeting is a QBR brainstorm/work session. Your account specialists need to come to this hour-long session prepared with specific metrics that detail how their work impacted the client’s KPIs and quarterly goals. With that data in hand, the team will collaborate on a 30-60-90 day roadmap for the client based on the opportunities that were uncovered during this brainstorm session.

          Two Weeks Out

          Schedule internal slide delivery. We typically ask that our teams deliver their slides to the account manager two weeks before the final presentation. Each team member should include wins, challenges, and opportunities sections. These must match the template’s formatting and include high-resolution images and charts. Ensure that your team’s slides are rooted in the client’s vernacular, and tie tightly back to your client’s goals and KPIs. Don’t just add sexy numbers. Show your client the “so what?”

          Compile your presentation. Once your account manager has the slides they need, it’s time to compile the information into one comprehensive presentation. If you’re using PowerPoint, gather your slides an create the master deck. BONUS TIP: Use an online version of a presentation from the outset, and you’ll save time compiling the final version later. Not only that, your contributors will benefit from additional insight as their peers gather their thoughts. We’re all about breaking down silos, and we find that this process furthers the collaborative spirit. Some examples of online presentation resources include Google Slides and Microsoft’s Office Live.

          Internal team presentation. An internal presentation is your chance to give your QBR a dress-rehearsal. Your team should be prepared to speak to their sections (if applicable). We also highly suggest involving senior leadership or some other stakeholder from your agency or company. These additional eyeballs provide an objective perspective and ensure that your presentation is delivering on your company’s promise. Any final updates should be implemented following this meeting.

          One to two Days Before the QBR

          Send your deck to the client contact. Sending it early serves two purposes. First, it allows you to ensure that you have covered all angles. Second, should you be presenting remotely, they’ll have it in case your connectivity goes down.

          Day of the Presentation

          You will likely want to schedule 90 minutes for the presentation. The first 60 will be for the QBR itself while the remaining 30 will allow plenty of time for Q&A.

          That’s All Folks…?

          You’re not done just yet. Be sure to see if your client has any edits to the presentation. Within a week, it would be helpful for you to update your deck and send them the final PDF for their records. Don’t forget to assign all tasks out from your roadmap.

          Final Thoughts

          In my experience, I’ve found that sticking to this schedule and format has made for some transcendent QBR conversations. The challenge and opportunity sections allow you and your client to discuss what fine-tuning your relationship needs, and you’ll both be better for it. Moreover, don’t forget to take credit for the beautiful work you’ve been doing. Your Quarterly Business Review is the perfect time to show the value you bring to your client.

          Ready to up your quarterly business review game? Check out Portent’s QBR Cheat Sheet to get started!

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          Matthew Taufaasau

          Matthew Taufa'asau

          Client Partner
          Client Partner

          Matthew is a Client Partner at Portent who has more than seven years of account management experience. A native of Hawaii, he survives cold Seattle winters with karaoke, outrigger canoe paddling, spam musubi and cheesy sci-fi shows.

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