Data is vital to progress in digital marketing. But data is only as valuable as the analysis and actionability derived from it.
When I worked on the agency side, one of the biggest challenges was showcasing performance in a way that was comprehensible, and actionable, to the brand marketing teams. At the time, we were up against the trend of “more is better” – list every front-end metric, incorporate multiple charts about impression share, find takeaways for every campaign. The list goes on. And in the end, everyone suffered. Agency analysts spent far too much time building taxing reports, which took time away from analysis and optimization, only to deliver an overly robust “data dump” to a team of marketers that did not have the time, or knowledge, to make it useful. Nobody won, and the only thing to come out of these monthly undertakings was frustration.
Reports don’t need to be massive, overly aesthetically visually appealing or inclusive of every piece of data analyzed in the previous month. They need to be clear, concise, and actionable. Here are just a few things to expect from a sound monthly report:
Short And Sweet: It is a month of performance; all activity should be showcased in a “placemat” of a single page that any brand marketing team can take to anyone in their company and review quickly. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but single page documents must be the norm.
Action-Oriented: There may not always be a “golden ticket” action item at the end of every month, but there are plenty of smaller action items to call out to help optimize campaign performance. Whether it is simply pausing a paid keyword, compressing a single image to boost site speed, or testing a new, shorter version of a :15s video on YouTube, there are always future action items worth noting. They just don’t always need to be big ticket, ‘shift the landscape’ type items.
Selective Metrics: Metrics that align to campaign objectives must be the mainstays of the report, additional metric callouts should only be included when required (abnormalities during the month, recommended optimizations, etc.). If the metrics are not pertinent or don’t add value to the story told, there is no reason for inclusion. Reports become quickly convoluted with 10 metrics from 5 different campaigns from 5 different channels on a single report.
Highlight The Objective: All reports, whether written out in text or in numerical barometers for success, require inclusion of the objectives at the top of the report so any individual reviewing it understands the point of the campaign(s) within the report. Without it, more questions than answers are raised.
Include Optimizations: It’s important to hold your agency accountable for performance, and part of doing that is understanding the approach to optimizing campaigns. A section on the actions taken in the previous month is critical to understanding their approach to improving performance while also maintaining, and even growing, trust in the partnership. As with action items, there may not always be seismic optimizations made to the account, but you still want to ensure even the smallest tactics are covered (search term report mining, demographic campaign performance analysis, etc.).
Expect more from your agency, but in doing so ensure discussions on reporting templates are aligned upon prior to activations. If your current reports are unsatisfactory, engage in open conversations on how to make them useful tools for internal brand teams. If partnering with a new agency, ensure those expectations are established from the outset. Data is critical, you want to make sure you understand the analysis and optimizations made to help achieve your digital objectives. Aligning ahead of time on what is needed and expected will save a lot of future headaches and frustrations.
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