If you’re struggling to deliver meaningful marketing reports to the right people at the right time, you’re certainly not alone. While most marketers are struggling to measure content effectiveness, the C-Suite is turning up the heat and asking for results that show a quantifiable contribution to the bottom line. Avoiding reporting overload while still delivering reports that answer the questions executives are asking is a growing challenge for marketers. Having marketing and intelligence tools with easy reporting functions is the first step to overcoming the burden of data delivery and, let’s face it, there are better ways to show marketing successes than delivering detailed Excel spreadsheets across the organization.
Marketing reports the C-Suite can use
Gain the respect and appreciation of your executive team by providing reports that are less detailed than the reports you use within your team or for your direct manager. Because the C-Suite is looking at reports from a variety of sources and may be comparing numbers between departments, they don’t have the time or the bandwidth for all the granular listings of individual teams and performance reports. Meaningful reports for them include:
- Analysis of the details
- Lessons learned
- Results over specified periods of time
- Bottom line results
- Next steps
“Make information about what people are doing across different departments both informative and easy to understand,” suggests Erin O’Brien, COO. “Include how efforts affect the bottom line, the logical next steps, and recommendations for future improvement.”
Prepare a short executive summary that gives the 6,000 foot view of your results, whether quarterly, or campaign by campaign, and include the details as an attachment. The executive summary is an opportunity for you to show your analysis of the data and an opening to provide some education about initiatives, such as content marketing, which may not show immediate results and need time to gain traction. The analysis of the data should include:
- Current campaigns and initiatives
- The decisions that led to current strategy
- All the activities within campaigns that contributed to the numbers
- Recommendations for continuing/discontinuing current activities
- Elements that worked
- Components that didn’t work
“When I’m looking at reports, I want to get a quick overview, because I may be looking at reports across multiple areas. I’m not just looking at marketing reporting. I’m looking at product reporting, sales reporting, uptime for the platform, and other information. Sometimes I’m making conclusions based on snippets of information and I want to be able to get detailed information on something specific I want to know, but not on everything,” notes Erin.
Reports that stem the data tide
The constantly growing number of marketing channels and marketing mediums has given rise to a multitude of marketing tools. Most marketers and marketing teams are using different tools for different puposes and are trying to cobble together a reasonable report based on a deluge of disparate data from a variety of tools and team members. Throwing it all in a great pile and delivering it to the executive team will only add to the confusion. One solution may be to create a reporting workflow and schedule that allows time to analyze the information and create a summary based on asking questions and getting clarification for conflicting data.
Consider a report delivery schedule that extends past the last day of the month. Getting all the data together, analyzing it, and creating a summary takes time. When people feel rushed to meet a deadline that includes data from that day, the resulting reports can be just a handful of everyone’s data stapled together and handed off without any kind of analysis or summary.
“Another time that happens is when people get excited because the numbers reflect a big win,” notes Erin. “We get excited and we want to go report on it without knowing whether or not it’s spurious data or whether or not those are real results that are based on reliable data. So I think taking your time and planning out is important.”
Creating and agreeing upon a common template for reporting across all areas of the marketing department will make aggregating individual data easier and faster. It’s a lot easier to compare and compile data if it’s formatted similarly. It sounds basic, but there are a lot of marketing departments who haven’t been able to standardize their reporting methods and are drowning in report overload.
Marketing Metrics that Show ROI
The metrics you show for your marketing efforts should reflect the medium, method, and message. The idea is to show how specific elements of your marketing have affected change. Take advantage of the executive summary to explain how you’re going to take the knowledge of what has changed and make better decisions moving forward, or how you’re going to amplify the good decisions you’ve already been making.
“When I’ve worked in the agency world or for larger corporations, I’d get a report that showed an increase by X percentage without an explanation of why,” remarks Erin. “I want to know why there’s been a change and how that informs next steps.” Erin suggests including:
- Does this data show a trend or a one-time blip?
- Was there an increase in budget during that period?
- Was there an anomolous event like a famous person retweeting something?
- What were the contributing factors?
- Have we started some messaging that’s resonating?
If you don’t know why you’re getting the results you’re getting, then you can be left with simply feeling happy that something good happened without having the information you need moving forward. An upward swing in engagement may signal that you’ve stumbled upon some messaging that’s getting traction and you’ll want to duplicate it across your mediums and your methods.
By now marketers have figured out that content is not an overnight game. Anyone who hopes to be successful has buy-in for the long haul. Once you’ve established a content marketing initiative, you’ll hopefully see increased organic traffic over time. Measuring the effectiveness of content also takes a long-term approach. You’ll want to show the lasting long-term effects of your content by identifying the top traffic drivers. You might be surprised to find that some of your top-performing assets are blog posts that are over a year old because they’re still the top findable content for the subject.
Besides including data on those older assets in your reports, look at the messaging and consider whether it’s something you want to create more content around. Turn a blog post into a slide share, create an infographic, update the blog post, or write a new blog post to include more up-to-date information and get even more traffic from that evergreen content.
Reports inform future marketing strategies
Even if you aren’t responsible for regular progress reports, creating a reporting template that allows you to look at data by campaign or quarter can make end of year reporting less of a hassle and inform your strategic decisions throughout the year. Creating reports that you aren’t required to deliver sounds like a lot of extra work, but they can actually make your life easier in the long run. You’ll be able to make smarter decisions in less time without having to wade back through old data or look at reports that others need, but may not be relevant to the decisions you need to make.
Whether you’re in a large corporation or working in an agency, chances are someone is going to ask for a report that doesn’t contain the data you need to inform your decisions. In those cases, provide them with both the data they need and the data you want to show them.
“If you’re on the agency side, your clients are wanting specific data to feed up the food chain of their own organizations,” notes Erin. “Add value to those reports by sending them the information you think is important along with your insights and recommendations.”
Of course, it you’re at an agency, you’ll want the opportunity to white label your reports to establish yourself as the person providing the data. White labling is not a difficult feature to include in any marketing platform, so expecting it is not unusual.
Establishing a routine of regular data collection, analysis, and summary starts at the individual level and should help marketers understand what’s driving the numbers, predict where the numbers are going, and plan how to affect them in the future. If you can’t get the data you need from the standard reporting structure at your organization, change it to help you get the information you need to be successful. You can make your own reports, even if you’re the only person who reads them. Having better insight into the data you use will help you analyze the reports you have to deliver.
Share all the data – good and bad
If you’re creating reports regularly, they’re not all going to be showing an upswing in visits, page views, conversions, or whatever other metrics you’re tracking. Here’s where the analysis and executive summary come into play. Take ownership of what you can and explain what steps are being taken to turn the tide. Every business has its ups and downs and understanding what elements are contributing to swings means being a good data investigator. Be able to answer these questions:
- What happened?
- Did we try something new?
- Did our competitors change messaging?
- Was there a shift in the market?
- Is there an annual seasonal explanation?
“Going in and investigating changes in data is really important, ” advises Erin. “If you owe information before you have the chance to do a good investigative analysis, I would include a note that further analysis is forthcoming. In the analysis include a timeline for correction and provide incremental reports to show the progress of the correction. One of the features of the GinzaMetrics tool that people really like is the ability to add your own annotations into the dashboard. So if you see a spike or a drop in data, you can easily note when something has changed and watch to see the effect other efforts have on it over time.”
Having the right marketing intelligence tools that allow you to create your own reports based on what you and your organization need makes the whole process a lot easier. When looking at reporting features consider the following:
- Modular reporting capabilities
- Ability to add notes and annotations within the report
- Data customization
- Visual data that gives an overall picture
- White labeling