Reinventing Reporting for Marketing Performance
By Brenna Lofquist, Marketing Consultant for Heinz Marketing
Throughout the history of Heinz Marketing blog posts, reporting has been mentioned a number of times but it’s a very important topic and we are going to write about it again! I still hear people talking about reporting, sometimes it might be they aren’t sure what to report on or even how to do it, so I thought I would jot down a few helpful tips and additional notes to think about.
Also, when I say reporting I mean pulling together the necessary data into a report itself or creating a dashboard which can be used to track the performance of your marketing efforts and the impact or influence on deals.
I’m going to take this all the way back and start from the beginning. Whether you are creating reports or a dashboard from scratch or looking to optimize your existing reports, this post will relate to all readers. If you are using a tool or platform that helps you collect data from multiple sources or track attribution, make sure you have taken the necessary steps so you are maximizing the functionality of your tools.
#1 What should you include in your reporting?
No matter what, you should always have a conversation with the person responsible for making executive decisions, aka your boss. Aside from the usual or standard key performance indicators (“KPIs”) you would include, make sure you are incorporating everything important to your team or reviewer. You can also ask or confirm with them you are presenting the marketing performance data in a way that makes sense, anything to help them easily understand the data you are presenting to them. In my experience, executives aren’t interested in the impressions and number of clicks from your paid search campaigns in Google AdWords, so follow best practices and have the conversation before you present anything. If, for some reason, they are asking you to present that type of information it’s probably worth it to have a conversation about the data you should be focusing on that is going to show a higher level of performance and impact.
#2 Reporting is a work in progress
Eventually you will create your dream report or dashboard but, that’s not going to come easily. It’s a process to ensure you are capturing the data correctly and as much, if not all, as you possibly can – the more the merrier in this case. The report or dashboard you start out with will not be the same when you get to the point of perfection. Just keep in mind it will evolve and change over time so, if you aren’t completely happy with it right off the bat, don’t sweat it. Maybe try out a few different formats and see which one you think best displays the data you are gathering. At Heinz Marketing, we have been trying to develop our Marketing Performance Management arm of the business and it evolves and changes all the time!
As for the report or dashboard itself, when you are starting fresh just get something down! Meaning, maybe you do start with collecting the vanity metrics of your marketing campaigns – start somewhere. As you collect and input data you will think about the story you are trying to tell and should be able to imagine how the data will roll up into the bigger picture you are painting. You should also make sure you are using all the necessary measure to capture data whether that’s through the tool or platform you are using or as simple as UTM parameters. This part might not have directly related to the main point, but it’s important to keep in mind!
#3 Make sure it’s actionable
If you create a reporting dashboard and find your dashboard is difficult to understand what is being presented, it is highly likely your reviewer is going to do the exact same thing. You can’t throw a bunch of data into an excel spreadsheet, create some pretty graphs and expect it to tell a magical story about how your marketing campaigns have influenced a closed deal. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way, although I’m sure we all wish it could. You should be able to clearly see if your marketing strategy is performing the way you anticipated or not; through review, you can take the necessary measures to either remove the bad or continue to improve the good. I believe the most common problem we hear and see is that people don’t know how to use the data to make decisions for your company/clients, which basically means your data is useless.
I’m not going to go into the specifics of how to make sure your reporting is actionable, that can be discussed in a later blog post, but realistically it could take multiple posts or even a guide because we all know this isn’t something that happens overnight. It does take time and effort, but I’m basically saying to stick with it, you’ll get it right and then you will be overjoyed and proud of what you have accomplished, and your team will be happy too.
While these points won’t help you to create the report or dashboard, I at least hope this gives you some confidence and points you in the right direction to create your dream marketing performance dashboard. Reporting will always be a hot topic in the marketing world and there will always be ways to improve and optimize what you have. It might be you are reporting manually using an excel spreadsheet, if that’s the case, it could be time to look into a platform or tool that can help you automate the tedious tasks that manual reporting entails. This is the last point I will leave you with – there will most likely always be a step or two that requires manual work however, you should strive to automate as much as you can. I’m not sure reporting will ever be fully automated, but you also want to make sure you are spending your time wisely and I’m sure you have other responsibilities outside of reporting.
If you have any tips or things you have learned along your reporting journey that would be helpful for others, I would love to hear them!