So, you’ve hired an agency to help you market and sell your company. As you should—you’ve got more pressing matters to attend to (like actually running your business), and it’s a weight off your shoulders knowing that the experts are diving into a detailed marketing plan and strategy that will produce results for you.
But how do you know if your marketing agency is getting results? That’s where reporting comes in. Your agency should frequently and consistently provide you with a marketing report that reflects the ROI of employed marketing strategies: paid advertising, paid search campaigns, social media campaigns, etc. When produced insightfully, marketing reports act as a running record of the success of your marketing and sales strategy, highlighting key metrics about your target market and audience, the growth of your reach and leads base, and the increase in traffic to your websites.
So, how can you tell if your marketing report is being produced insightfully? The answer is simple: you should be able to understand it, even if you’re not a marketing expert. Here’s a quick checklist of the three basics that differentiate a smart marketing report from a useless one.
Is your marketing report digestible?
Reports come in all shapes and sizes: Word docs, spreadsheets, PowerPoints, PDFs, digital dashboards, email—even a good old printout—the delivery methods are numerous and there isn’t necessarily one right format.
What matters more than the format of the report is the meat of it. Your marketing report should be like a cut of premium steak: trimmed of gristle and fat, and so perfectly prepared that you can cut through it with a butter knife. In other words, the report your agency provides should deliver only the highest quality data, in a way that you—the layman—can easily dig into.
A marketing report that is 60 pages long and filled with data isn’t a premium cut—it’s sausage (we love sausage, but let’s just all admit we don’t really know what’s in there). A bunch of data means nothing unless interpreted and analyzed within context. Your marketing agency should be the one to trim the fat and serve up what matters—an analysis of the month’s key metrics and an explanation of what this means for your business.
Is the data meaningful?
We’ve read more than one report with a statement or key take-away such as, “Our ads got a 2% click-through rate (CTR)! This is fantastic and 2x the industry average”.
Sounds great, right? More than percentages and numbers, we love being above average. But does a 2% CTR matter? What does that mean to your business? How is this great CTR moving your sales needle?
If you come across a claim like this in your report, ask your agency those very questions. The answers should be provided in your report—if they’re not, it’s time to sit down with your agency and revisit your marketing goals and key benchmarks.
Successful reporting depends on an understanding of what your marketing strategy’s key metrics are. Say your agency recommends launching a banner retargeting campaign; what are the key metrics? You’ll want to know the number of people directed to your website and how many leads called or emailed after clicking on the banner.
So back to that 2% CTR: the number is fantastic, but did it result in conversions and sales? That’s what your agency’s marketing report should be able to tell you.
It’s not always easy to reverse-engineer a campaign to answer these questions in hindsight. Work with your agency to determine goals and key metrics before any campaign launch so that your marketing report provides valuable data—data you can actually use to adjust the campaign or strategy if performance is less than optimal.
Is the report action-oriented?
You have a CTR that is 2x the industry average, your website traffic is up 5%, your Facebook ads are out-performing Google Adwords—this is fantastic news!
But in these digital times competition is incredibly fierce across all industries and it’s survival of the fittest—evolve or become extinct. Just because people are clicking through your website today does not mean they will be tomorrow. So while it’s important that your marketing report includes data that demonstrates successful strategies, make sure your report also outlines recommendations for how your strategy should evolve based on this data. The most important page in your report is not the one with the fancy graph on it, it’s the action plan. When you come to the end of your report, you should know how your agency plans to use this month’s data to make smart marketing decisions for the coming months.
That’s just about it. Marketing reports shouldn’t be intimidating—they should be an easy and useful tool that anyone can read and interpret. That said, we get that data isn’t everyone’s thing, so we try to make monthly reports as succinct and informative as possible for our clients. But we’re also marketers, so we can geek out hard on metrics and analytics. If you want numbers, we’ll give you numbers.