Writing reports is my favourite part of my job. Said no one ever. But in all seriousness, there is a certain amount of enjoyment I get from taking a close look at how a campaign performed; where it went oh-so-right, what didn’t meet expectations, and how it could go better next time. Collecting and analyzing stats is far from exciting, but there’s no greater feeling than discovering that juicy little insight that will make a big impact on future results.
So while I may still groan at the beginning of the month, knowing I have a heap of reports on my plate, I still look forward to the satisfaction of delivering a truly insightful report.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years that will help you write more thoughtful and impactful marketing reports. Who knows, you might even start to enjoy them…maybe.
Dig deeper than just the stats
While it’s often necessary to see the results of a campaign in pure numbers, leaving it at that and calling it a day does not an insightful report make. You’ll need to dig a lot deeper. Diving into the data means going on a journey that will most certainly take longer than simply ‘pulling the stats’ and putting them into a spreadsheet. Anyone can do that, but you’re doing it because you have the knowledge and context to extract more meaning out of those plain ol’ numbers.
Writing an insightful report takes time. We’ve worked towards automating the tedious parts of reporting so we can spend most of our time exploring the data, but it can still be a lengthy process. Like most things, though, the more reports you write, the faster and easier they become.
Don’t sugarcoat the data
Reporting provides the perfect opportunity to discover and communicate any issues. Be upfront and transparent with any failures; we all fail after all. Lost some data when you forgot to put the UTM parameter in? Address it. You’ll gain the trust of your client.
And while discussing problems can be uncomfortable, trying to sugarcoat or cover them up can lead to a much more uncomfortable conversation when they’re inevitably discovered. Communicate early and often to nip these situations in the bud before they snowball.
I’ve found the most challenging months have often lead to the greatest improvements in the long run.
Be open to being surprised by the data
There have been plenty of times where I’ve come up with a narrative in my head about what the data will say and why only to be proven completely wrong by the data. Rather than trying to twist the data to support your original hypothesis, embrace the new narrative. You’ll probably find your initial thoughts were superficial, and a closer look at the data has uncovered something deeper and more valuable.
Cut out the bullshit
Don’t try to make your report sound more important and thought-provoking than it is by sprinkling in a bunch of marketing buzzwords and jargon. This isn’t 9th grade English class, and you don’t have a minimum word count to achieve. Cut out the fluff and write plainly. Your goal is to precisely communicate your data in a way that’s easy to understand. If you’re finding the need to fluff up your report, you need to dig deeper into the data and find something more substantial. A fluffy report is a waste of everyone’s time.
Know the audience and speak to them appropriately
No, I’m not talking about making sure you’re not dropping f-bombs. I’m talking about tailoring the language you use and the data you present to the person who’ll be reading the report. Say, for example, you’re creating a report for a small business owner who is extremely busy and has a limited understanding of digital marketing. Consider calling your conversions ‘form fills’ and present only the highest level of data rather than the nitty-gritty statistics that would be more appropriate for a digital marketing manager.
Ask the client what they actually want to know
Speaking of tailoring the data, there can be an overwhelming amount of it. Some of it might not even be important to the person reading your report. Sometimes simply asking your client which areas they’d like to focus on, or what is important to them can help narrow your detective work and improve reporting. Many times this has actually helped me to eliminate extra work, or at the very least, focus all my time and energy on what’s actually important to the client.
Let it evolve
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on with reporting was thinking I needed to stick with a template and never deviate from it. Your campaigns are ever-evolving, so why shouldn’t your reports evolve with them? Even if your campaign didn’t change much, results can. Maybe last month Creative A suddenly spiked and far outperformed Creative B. You’re going to need a new slide for that.
Create actionable insights (whenever possible)
We like to end our reports with a page or slide devoted to clear, actionable next steps. While not all of the insights you uncover will be immediately actionable, they can often be useful to apply to future campaigns.
If you have a curious mind, and a desire to always be learning, then you have the fundamental skills to write an insightful marketing report. Apply these tips and you’ll be impressing your client with an insightful and valuable report in no time.