Delightful Communications is an award-winning 40 person integrated marketing agency based out of Seattle and London, founded in 2012 by CEO Mel Carson. Originally a consultancy, their offering has grown and evolved over time and in the last few years they have tripled in size.
With a clear mission to build brilliant brands, they focus on helping B2B Tech clients in two distinct areas - integrated marketing and executive communications. On one hand they provide social media, content marketing, demand generation and content production to clients who want their message to be more discoverable, shareable and memorable. They also work with C-suite executives to help them build their personal brands through the use of thought leadership.
Clients include Microsoft, Meta and Intel, among others, for whom they create next-generation experiences that help businesses and leaders keep pace with growing digital audiences.
Delightful, like many ambitious agencies, have experienced some of the stresses that come with scaling fast. “When you’re a small company, it’s easy to have visibility into all the client projects and how your people are doing from both profitability and bandwidth perspectives. But as you scale it gets harder, especially with remote working”, says Bianca Hu, Director of Client Services.
As they began to grow faster they realized they needed a tool that could unlock data-driven decision making, ensuring they were making the best choices for growth, profitability, clients and their people.
Growing the Business with Data-backed Decisions
A lack of data to inform decisions, particularly when it came to resourcing and pricing meant Delightful had an opportunity to do better. A lot of decisions were made on experience or gut feel without the numbers to back it up. This could mean a piece of work quoted at 100 hours might actually end up doubling, which they would only find out later. There were cases that they felt like they were overservicing, but without the right tools they couldn’t prove it.
“Without data it’s impossible to understand the extent of overservicing, and you can’t let the client know anything concrete either” said Bianca.
Delightful began tracking their time, which was a first step towards getting clarity on resourcing and financial performance. In the beginning they were using a simple point solution to track time, which helped give them an understanding of how to price and resource projects.
A nagging issue, though, was combining this time tracking tool with other systems used within the business. They had tried using Asana for project management alongside other tools, but it never really stuck. Firstly, the team didn’t buy into it and secondly, they were just using too many different tools. Especially when you factor in all of the platforms used by their clients. Trying to juggle multiple systems was counterproductive for their team.
They felt there was no tool designed that could specifically help agencies, but that was when they discovered Forecast.
“Forecast is the only tool we found that could solve all three problems of time tracking, project management and financial/resourcing insights.” added Bianca.
Getting Resourcing Right with Forecast
“The implementation of Forecast was great, we had a pilot team of 7 to 8 people to test the platform and then rolled it out across the company. It’s been smooth.” said Bianca.
Delightful have found the biggest impact of Forecast has been on resourcing. Previously without data, they would make a hiring decision based on their impression of how busy the team was. E.g. if someone left, they would hire someone new or if a new project came in, they would recruit new team members. Now if someone leaves, they can identify if existing team-members have the bandwidth to take on their work, rather than just automatically hiring a new person.
The scope view has also been very helpful, giving them a view of who’s owning what project-wise in the company. Employees are also happier as they have access to their own productivity data and can have a conversation with their manager about their workload. For example, if they have bandwidth they can switch to work on specific projects that may bring new experiences or make good use of their particular expertise.
“With Forecast we have fundamental data that we use to analyze and get an idea, based on revenue, what level of support we need and what hours are needed for new projects. Every client, every project is different. Pricing is still complicated, but in Forecast, it’s easier to see budget numbers associated with our efforts.” said Bianca.
“It helped us to grow more scientifically with data backing up our decision making. Whereas we would have broken down the data on a quarterly basis before, having Forecast means we can check things like resourcing and financials on a real-time basis.” she added.