Aligning reporting and strategy

and the key components most marketing reports miss

The two following statements are true:

  • Reporting is a key component of a digital marketing strategy
  • Most marketers are doing a bad job of reporting

We have seen countless reports come across our desk - all looking very similar. Boilerplate exports of analytical software and platforms with no context or long term trend analysis.

No insights. No recommendations. Just data and graphs.

More importantly, they fail to align metrics with strategic business goals.

Every month a report is being generated - and it is designed around the metrics and jargon that advertisers rely on. However - advertisers are doing a poor job of connecting those metrics to real business goals that business owners can understand.

For example, you just received a report from an agency that is running a Google Ads Search campaign for you. In it, they indicate that the campaign is a success because you are receiving more website traffic - along with a handy bar graph showing what days this month you received clicks.

Does that mean the campaign was a success?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Is your business goal to get more traffic to your website? It is probably more complex than simply getting more eyes on your website.

So, what makes a good report?

Define strategic marketing goals

It starts with defining strategic business and marketing goals - and then finding metrics that can help measure the success of those goals.

For example, in a B2B industry - you may want to drive inbound leads to hand off to your sales team. A great way to track this would be to count how many site visitors fill in a contact form on a key service page. Or perhaps pick up a phone and call you! These are the metrics you should be tracking and reporting on. The ACTIONS and EVENTS that occur on your website that lead to you hitting your business goals.

So when we design our reports - we start off with primary and secondary goals. Primary goals will typically include bottom-of-the-funnel type activities like completing a sale or generating an inbound lead. Secondary goals usually assist primary goals. These might include increasing brand awareness or increasing newsletter subscriptions for future email marketing.

Then, we design metrics to measure success in those goals. This might look something like the below:

Primary Goal

Generate new customers

Visitors filling a contact form on the website

Visitors clicking on email addresses on the website

Visitors clicking on phone numbers on the website

Secondary Goal

Increase brand awareness

The number of people visiting the website

Size of social media footprint

Measure overall success

Once we have defined the overall marketing goals of a company, we can start to organize the data to paint a picture of what has been happening. It is important to gather more than just the reporting period’s worth of data.

A single data-point is nearly worthless without context or comparison.

If you are looking at, say, a quarterly-report - you should not only see 3 months of data.

You should be seeing the previous three months, as well as going all the way back to (at least) the same 3 months in the previous year - as many industries are seasonal.

This long term view helps you identify trends that may be hidden when you are looking only at channel-specific stats. Perhaps your Google Ads campaign is doing great - but you are still trending down on overall inbound leads. This gives you the opportunity to start digging deeper and solving problems before they become bigger.

Measure tactical success

Digital advertisers are often given a channel, such as Facebook or Google Ads, to manage and report to. Then they design their reports solely around those channels - answering basic questions:

  • How much did you spend on that channel this month?
  • How many clicks did it generate?
  • What was the cost-per-click (CPC)?

The better agencies will work with you to set up special tracking in your websites that help answer more important questions:

  • How many people filled in your contact form after clicking on an ad?
  • How much did they spend on your online store after clicking on an ad?
  • How much did you pay, on average, for a new customer (CPA)?

These are all great questions that you need to know the answers to in an effort to determine if that channel is generating results for your business. But without including the previously mentioned “overall success” element of the report - it is still missing a wider perspective of your overall marketing efforts.

Provide insight and analysis

Automated reporting tools lack the experience and depth to connect the dots and highlight important trends in data and communicate how they impact your strategic marketing goals.

This is the required human element that bridges the past to the desired future for your company.

Your marketing reporting should be including:

  • Observations and trends that aren’t obvious.
  • Highlighting what is working and what isn’t
  • Identifying red flags that need attention
  • Recommendations and suggestions on how to improve

A complete marketing report

Only when these 4 critical components are packaged together do you have a solid marketing report:

  • Identifying strategic goals and metrics
  • Measuring overall success
  • Measuring tactical success
  • Insights and recommendations

If you aren’t receiving this level of reporting for your advertising partners - we suggest reaching out to them and working together to design your reporting requirements. You have nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain!

If you are looking for a new marketing or advertising partner - we would love to connect and see if there is a way to help you achieve the results you are looking for.