A Practical Guide to Producing Insightful Reports
A marketing report is a document that summarises a company’s marketing activities and performance over a given period of time. It can be used to track progress against objectives, identify opportunities and challenges, and make recommendations for future marketing efforts.
The rise of analytics has allowed marketing reporting to be a much more thorough endeavour. With so much data available these days, businesses have access to more and deeper insights than ever before. A data-driven report will help you to understand which initiatives are producing results and which aren’t and if you operate in a complex environment and have multiple streams of revenue, this is especially challenging.
There are many types of marketing reports that each serve a different purpose. For example, you may want to report on traffic, social media engagement, PPC, brand awareness, and many other factors that form your overall strategy. While a report varies in this manner, there are a few best practices to keep in mind regardless. In this article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of producing an accurate, useful report, and some tips to get the most from it, whatever your goals are.
Planning and Data Analysis
Data is the foundation of any good marketing report. Without accurate and up-to-date data, it’s impossible to gain insights into what’s working and what isn’t. Remember to use data from a range of sources, depending on the purpose of your marketing report. Some sources include:
- Sales data: This includes information on products or services that have been sold, as well as the revenue generated.
- Marketing campaign data: This includes data on leads generated, conversion rates, and other measures of success for marketing campaigns.
- Website analytics: This provides data on website traffic, engagement rates, and other measures of success.
- Social media data: This includes information on engagement rates, reach, and other measures of social media success.
- Customer surveys: This is qualitative data that can provide insights into customer satisfaction, perceptions, and needs.
As well as quantitative data, it’s worth adding good sources of qualitative data to your marketing reports. This can include comments from your customers, feedback on your website, or quotes from industry experts. For example, let’s say you want to prove that a new landing page is working – you can add quantitative data such as the click through rate and the number of people who sign up for your service. However, if you can also find a few comments from readers who have seen the page and find out exactly what they like about it, and why they chose to engage with it, you’ll add a whole lot more value to your report.
Define Your Key Metrics
Before you start reviewing any data, define which metrics are most important for assessing whether your goals are being met. You might want to report on the following:
- Revenue per channel: Of course, revenue is the most important metric for any business. In a multichannel marketing strategy, reviewing the revenue per channel allows you to determine which channels are performing the best – on that basis, you may want to invest more in those channels, as well as troubleshoot any channels that are not performing well and make suggestions on how to improve their performance.
- Customer retention: You need to know how many customers you currently have, and how many of these are loyal to you. This way, you can track how well you are retaining customers and see which channels are bringing in the most loyal customers.
- Customer lifetime value: You can also measure the lifetime value of your customers, the financial value of your customer over the lifestyle of their patronage. This metric can help you develop methods to reduce churn.
- Conversion rates: You need to understand how many people convert on each channel.
- Leads and cost per lead: Again, it’s important to understand which channels are generating the most leads and are doing so in the most cost-efficient way.
- Traffic: Reports focusing on website traffic will indicate which sources are providing the most traffic and the conversion rates for each source.
- Bounce rate: If you’re reviewing your website’s performance, this is an important one to include, along with other data on customer behaviour. This may be used to suggest ideas for conversion rate optimisation.
For PPC, the most important metrics are impressions, click through rate, cost per conversion, ad spend, and return on ad spend.
If your report is focusing on SEO, you’ll want to demonstrate how keyword rankings have changed compared to the previous period. All tables should be sorted in a logical order – for example, keywords ranked from highest priority to lowest priority. You’ll also want to look at the number of new backlinks, among other metrics – depending on what SEO strategies you’re using.
Social media reporting may focus on engagement metrics such as likes and shares. It’s important to be consistent across channels and refer to the same metrics for each.
Once you’ve gathered the data, it’s time to start analysing it. During this process, it’s important to keep an open mind and let the data define your recommendations, and not the other way round. In other words, avoid being biased and focusing only on the data that proves the points you want to make because you have a good idea that you want to test. Instead, be objective and focus on the bigger picture. After all, by making data driven decisions, you will get the best results.
Let’s consider an example of some insights you might gain from data on your website traffic. As mentioned, reports focusing on traffic will show you which sources are providing the most traffic and the conversion rates for each source. Are your website visitors coming from email marketing, social media, or SEO? Understanding the metrics for each channel can indicate whether those sources are directing visitors with a genuine interest in your product or service, allowing you to maximise your investment in the sources that are paying off.
In addition, understanding which sources are not generating enough traffic allows you to focus on why they’re not effective and what you can do to improve it. For example, if your social media engagement metrics show high post engagement but your click through rate is low, your target audience may find your content entertaining or interesting, but the copy is not compelling them to click. In this case, you may want to review the use of copywriting and improve your CTAs.
Producing a Marketing Report
Every marketing report will be different depending on its intended audience and its purpose, but we’ll go through the key sections that any report should contain.
Always ensure the title clearly indicates the purpose of the report and make sure the reporting period is defined. If the report is going to be viewed by an external stakeholder that does not know the ins and outs of your marketing strategy, you may want to include a section at the start of your report that explains who the target market is, defines the project scope, and details which channels are currently in-use.
The Executive Summary
The executive summary is one of the most important sections and should provide a clear overview of the data and analysis, as well as any insights or recommendations. It’s important to keep the executive summary concise and to the point; you don’t want to overwhelm decision-makers with too much information. If they want to explore the data in more depth, they can view the report in full. Recommendations should be clear and actionable, and it should be made explicitly clear whether the numbers are positive or negative. You can also include recommendations for enhancing what is already working well.
After the executive summary, you have the opportunity to discuss your findings in more depth. You should compare data from month to month, or with previous quarters or years, to show any key improvements in the performance of different initiatives. You should also compare data to the previous period year on year I.e., compare August 2021 to August 2022.
This part of the report will contain various sub-sections depending on what you need to discuss. As well as discussing what is working, it’s important to address what is not so it can be resolved.
You can also review your marketing projections here. While you will want to highlight the key points in the executive summary, this is the place to expand on them. If your report is for a client, make sure that whatever you are discussing, you present it in a way that focuses on their interests.
Summary and Next Steps
Use this section to reiterate the key points you made in the executive summary and what the actionable next steps are in terms of your recommendations.
Remember to always tailor your report for the audience that will be reading it. If your report will be shown to people in different roles, it’s better to create a separate report for each of them. If your report is for a client, include their logo. Also ensure that all reports are branded and are consistent across channels.
Make sure you use visualisations of data as much as possible so that whoever is viewing the report can quickly understand your findings at-a-glance. Also, discuss the most impactful and relevant data first – while insights that are less significant still have their place and should be reported, discuss them later in the report. Reserve the executive summary for the most crucial information and place everything else after.
When producing a report in slide format, keep the following in mind:
- Use one branded template
- Give titles to every slide
- Talk about one key point per slide to avoid crowding
Marketing reports are essential for uncovering which initiatives are paying off and for getting stakeholder buy-in for allocating resources and implementing new ideas. Using quantitative data proves the financial value of your ideas while qualitative data such as customer feedback adds weight to your insights.
Choosing the right key performance indicators depending on your goals is the starting point for creating a marketing report. From there, you can gain insights and develop recommendations. A solid executive summary should present your ideas in a clear and concise way, and you should use visual representations of data throughout the report. Finally, always tailor your reports depending on the audience that will be reading it.
If you need assistance with your marketing strategy, feel free to get in contact – my team and I will be happy to help.