You spent all month hammering away, implementing your digital marketing services for a new client. You made some significant strides in helping them achieve their goals, as well as discovered some enlightening new digital marketing strategies that work great.
This can be an exciting time for all digital marketers. Getting into a groove and forming a great working relationship with your clients is an ideal scenario, but a good relationship can often become disjointed with a few major reporting errors. When it comes to reporting your digital marketing efforts to your clients, make sure you avoid these critical mistakes.
Within the Report
There is a lot of work that happens behind the scenes of digital marketing, and your report is your chance to explain what exactly you are doing for a client and why. This is your opportunity to tell them things like why certain click-through rates from one strategy are boosting their efforts in a different strategy. Your goal should be to provide customized insight so that your clients will understand how useful your services truly are.
Your client doesn’t just want to hear good news; they want to hear the truth—good and bad. Fostering a transparent relationship with your client is the key to having a good working relationship. Clients want you to show them what you have done for them. While earning your client positive results is obviously very valuable, there is a certain value to uncovering potential problems and inefficiencies.
It’s important that you pick the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but make sure to show both sides of the coin. Also, make sure you explain what is going on. Your clients probably don’t understand all the data the way that you do. Your comments and insight can shed light on why the “bad” isn’t necessarily the end of the world, and what measures are being taken to fix it. Or, how excelling in one KPI could mean that another KPI decreases. Without explanation, this critical association is left to guesswork.
Not Separating Out Branded Search
The search query “Walmart Shirts” would be considered a branded search for Walmart. A branded search simply means any search query that references your brand name, as opposed to a non-branded search—the query “Shirts,” for example. Branded search can be great to see who is searching for you by name, but, normally, most of your traffic is going to come from non-branded search.
It’s important to remember that branded and non-branded search terms typically yield very different results and, if you don’t specify which one you are targeting, you could end up getting mixed results. Be sure to consult with your client which they want to target. You can use Google Webmaster Tools to help you filter out branded search queries. This also applies to paid media campaigns when you purchase your brand as a keyword.
Not Considering Offline Marketing
One thing that a lot of digital marketers tend to forget about is offline marketing tactics. Offline marketing can create spikes of traffic to your client’s site. If your site is featured on a TV show, or you run a radio or TV ad, you are going to get additional traffic that has nothing to do with your digital marketing efforts. That needs to be taken into consideration when reporting to your clients.
Not Reporting Phone Call Conversions (or in-store visits, if applicable)
Sometimes converting is always online. Sometimes a phone call or a visit could count as a conversion. If your efforts result in a phone call, don’t you want to take credit for it? Sure, you do. You’re getting your client results. Therefore, you need to be reporting these to your client with the rest of your data.
However, tracking your phone call conversions isn’t as easy as opening up Google Analytics, but it is a great way to add a real-world element to your marketing performance. Use CSV files to import phone call conversion data if you don’t have a system that integrates with your offline marketing tracking tool.
Every bit of effort you put into your marketing campaigns must be measured, and presenting this to your clients is an excellent way to reflect on your performance.
Not Identifying Discrepancies
Sometimes data can look like it has gone awry. Not identifying discrepancies will not only confuse your client and chip away at your performance credibility, but it can also confuse you.
You are likely using multiple platforms such as AdWords, an analytics software, and a CMS that are all either integrated or, at the very least, which all observe similar information. Cross-reference your data to make sure your numbers are identical across all platforms. Poor numbers can be due to basic measurement problems, like bad analytics settings and tracking instead of poor performance.
Double Counting Revenue
Double counting revenue can be a more serious offense than not identifying basic discrepancies in traffic. No one wants to have uncomfortable conversations with clients where you have to explain their revenue is substantially less than you initially thought. Avoid this, at all costs, to keep up your professional integrity in the eyes of your clients.
Unfortunately, this situation is more common than you think. Some platforms, like Shopify, can double count conversions in AdWords, which can create issues in managing AdWords effectively. Since one or many of your KPIs probably revolve around revenue, an error here can mangle your performance across the board. This is why it is very important to cross-verify your data across all platforms.
Not Combining the Right Data Sources Together (and isolating channel categories when need be)
It’s important to consider data from all of your sources when you are analyzing your marketing performance. Create two different reports: one that shows each data source combined in the appropriate category, and one that shows a breakdown of specific channel categories.
Consolidating all your data sources together based on the platform is a great way to give your client a bird’s eye view of their marketing efforts. For example, when providing a social media analysis, don’t isolate each platform individually but put them all into one comprehensive dashboard to understand how they work together. That way, your client can get a big-picture view and understand KPIs based on a digestible category such as “Social.”
Not Looking at the Big Picture
If you are analyzing a specific marketing campaign, sure, it’s important to look at that campaign’s specific data, but it’s even more important to look at that campaign within the scope of your entire marketing efforts. This is where looking at assisted conversions is ideal. This helps to qualify certain components of your strategy in the grand scheme of things and can help explain a lack of performance in certain KPIs.
For example, if your Facebook Ad campaign is bringing a ton of traffic to your client’s site, but it isn’t converting, you may try to unnecessarily pivot to a different strategy that converts better. However, your Facebook Ad campaign might only be the first entry-point for the conversion. It could lead users to subscribe to your client’s newsletter, where they will be more likely to convert.
Not Choosing the Right Visuals (or enough types of visuals)
Choosing graphs that display your data in an optimal format helps to get your marketing efforts across in a digestible way and reduces the mental payload necessary for the client to understand why they hired you in the first place. Incorporating some visual demonstrations of your data is a great first step, but one or two pie charts aren’t going to cut it. It’s also important to vary the types of visuals, so that:
The audience doesn’t get bored.
Different types of data should be presented differently depending on what it is showing (a trend, a distribution, historic data, cost, etc.).
The Report Itself
Digital marketing agencies can be pretty expensive, and your monthly report is your chance to really validate what you can do for a client. Your report should be viewed at as an opportunity to keep doing business with your client and must be treated with the same intensity as when you first offered your services.
Making Reports Too Long and Monotonous
It can be a very exciting moment when you get to show your client what you have done for them. However, many digital marketers go overboard and email their clients a lengthy and monotonous report. The truth is, your client doesn’t actually care about the specific data the way you do. They care about whether or not you are doing what you promised and if you are making them money.
Also, your clients don’t have the attention span or time to go through a fifty-page document once a month. Keep your reports short and concise, and get to the point quickly. Split up your sections with headers to make it easier for the client to navigate through the report through a series of glances.
Some sections of the report, such as social media reporting, can be such extensive components of your digital marketing that you may even want to create a separate report that just focuses on social media, and then provide a brief summary of this in your main report. This provides a much better viewing experience for the client than having to flip through a bunch of lengthy sub-reports (SEO, analytics, PPC) in one single document.
Trying to combine ALL your data into one single report can sometimes create a giant report that just becomes unwieldy. Make sure that everything in your report works well together and needs to be there. If not, split up your reports so that they’re easier to read. The start of creating your report is simple: Ask yourself the right questions.
Not Customizing the Report for the Client
Each of your clients is going to have different preferences for what they want when it comes to their reports. Some clients will just want a brief overview, while others want an in-depth analysis they can look over with their team. Be sure to establish guidelines for what they are interested in before making any assumptions.
This applies especially to the types of KPIs you’re going to choose, but also to the entire visual layout. This is where you can add all the small touches that make your brand stick out, such as customizing the logo, the overall look and feel of the report, and other creative components.
Not Taking the Time to Talk to Your Client
A one-time report doesn’t really do much for your client. Think of your monthly report as an opportunity to have a discussion, with someone with whom you are doing business, in order to see how things are going on both of your mutual ends.
This is a great time to relay information about your work, but also to understand what your clients are happy with and what they aren’t. It gives you a chance to see how your relationship is evolving, and what you can personally do to improve your service. These reports are opportunities to help solidify the agency-client relationship. Report comments and insight can be helpful, but they simply don’t compare to having a real conversation.
No Summary of Work
The purpose of your report is mainly to summarize the work you’ve done, and how it is helping your client meet their goals. Part of your monthly work summary is adding insights and comments on how the agreed-upon strategies are doing, and how the client can expect them to develop over the next few months of working together.
Without a description of what you did this month and what you are going to do next month, the data is just a series of numbers. Adding a narrative backed by analytics is a great way to keep your client interested and looking forward to next month’s report.
Reporting Too Frequently or Infrequently
Having an inconsistent reporting frequency can cause unnecessary static in your relationship with your clients. Monthly snapshots are a good frequency, due to having a big data sample size.
Depending on your campaign, a different reporting frequency might work better. For example, variable time-frame campaigns could be reported at the end of each campaign. Sometimes you will launch different sub-campaigns, such as a Facebook Ad campaign in the middle of a much larger one, and those must be either reported at a different regular frequency or integrated seamlessly into your regular monthly reports.
The trick is having enough data for a new report to be worth it, without waiting so long that issues can become crises.
Spending Too Much Time on Reports
Time saved on your reporting means more time can be spent optimizing your client’s accounts. Even though you want to add a personal touch, don’t create reports by hand every month. Once you have a template that works for this specific client, replicate and update it with the new pertinent information.
Campaigns change, situations change, but you can still build a malleable template at the start from which you can work, and this will save you time in the long run. You can create a customized report template very easily or find a report template online and tailor it to exactly what you need (SEO, analytics, social media, etc.). After that, customize your report for each specific client and campaign.
Going Fully Automated Without Thinking of the Client’s Preference
While saving time on your reporting can be incredibly beneficial for both you and the client, going too far into automation also has its downsides. No one really wants fully automated reports.
Some clients may prefer having an attached PDF report that can be printed or shared at their convenience. Others may prefer a password-protected URL link where they can explore the report themselves no matter what device they’re on.
Talk to your clients and see how they want their reports given to them, and manage your report dispatching accordingly. Solutions such as DashThis make reporting very efficient and allow both you and the client to focus on your respective core business models.
Again, the secret is understanding your clients’ wishes from the get-go and having regular conversations with them to make sure that they’re still satisfied.
Your work, and the way you present your work, is a direct reflection of your professional identity. Helping your clients understand your role and how you’re affecting their bottom line will help you foster a happy long-term relationship with your clients.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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