Best practices the top digital marketing agencies use in reporting
Most of you have outsourced parts of your marketing. If your shop isn't doing all of the below, it's a huge red flag you are not working with the right team and it may be time to consider a change...
The goal is not to sail the boat, but rather to help the boat sail herself.”
Reporting marketing success as part of a formalized process can be a huge win for both agencies and clients alike to build productive long-term relationships together. I’ve seen this both in a previous role on the Google Analytics team and on agency side while leading global digital marketing organizations.
Why is it a huge win? Digital measurement for marketing, PR, search and social media agencies is an evolving and important subject because it drives relevant, engaging campaigns and successful work. Analytics are a “meta-layer” for everyone in marketing. That is to say, both those on the agency and client side should be savvy about metrics in order to speak the same language and agree on what successful results look like. There should never be questions as to “how are we doing” because that should be determined up front and measured against throughout a working relationship. Results reports must be delivered at expected times with agreed upon cadence. Sophisticated teams even forecast and get within a reasonable margin of error.
At Google I had the opportunity to work with some of the best agency partners in the world and so to help, today I’m rounding up some things that I’ve seen separate the pros from the amateurs of digital shops. And this was all years ago, so at this point I’d consider the below table stakes for anyone you’d hire to work on your brand. If they can’t do this, at minimum, they are not ready to work on you, a serious company or individual interested in winning.
1. They use reporting to create marketing accountability and elevate their value. In a digital world, you can measure anything and everything. In fact, we have so many metrics that it’s oftentimes not what you measure, but what you don’t measure that defines your success. For example, adding a long list of KPIs that don’t mean much, such as page views, can bloat a dashboard and lead people to focus on the wrong things. As a result, formalized reporting around a tight set of metrics is critical. It creates marketing accountability for the specific results outlined in agreements and helps agencies show the true value that they’re contributing.
2. They integrate reporting as part of a process to help clients see progress. All agencies want to keep their clients happy and demonstrate that they’re achieving success. Having a formalized reporting process that involves a standard bi-weekly or monthly report (most agencies should likely stay away from quarterly reports – too far; and weekly – too frequent) makes seeing success crystal clear. And if you ever receive questions on progress from a new contact asking how things are going, you can easily send off a copy of your latest report.
3. They use results dashboards to focus programs. Making teams accountable to a dashboard with a specific set of metrics helps agency leads pay careful attention to the tactics used to run programs. They’ll artfully focus on the results-oriented tactics, always looking for ways to optimize and improve. There’s only so much time in the day and there is an unstated elegance of focusing a data-driven online marketing program. Amateurs boil the analytics ocean, professionals focus on the KPIs that matter to their specific area of work. Certainly there may be overlap with other teams, of course.
4. They add metrics objectives into agreements and forecast results based on spend. Successful agency professionals clearly identify the metrics goals a client has and ensure they are reflected in agreements. Many brands are often unsure of what they need to be measuring, so this is an opportunity for agencies to be consultative and make the proper recommendations they know will move the needle for a company (and so, ensure their own success as well). Also, always take care to under-promise and over-deliver on forecasts. You can always adjust later if you underbid, and it’s unlikely anyone will be upset when you’re beating goals.
5. They add insights to results dashboards. The top % of agency professionals go beyond exporting a report from their analytics tool and sending it to clients. The data is just the start. Agency teams (having none of the client-side bureaucracy) have the unique opportunity to not just share metrics, but also add analysis and context to the data. This is where account managers can own their results, get clients excited, and look strategic. Also, consider going beyond sending the report in an email to clients. At minimum, they need to spend 30 minutes or an hour reviewing the data and results in real time with their clients, and how they’re planning to iterate your program based on that.
6. They encourage clients to stick to metrics goals. Goals for brands change. Perhaps new management takes over, or your start-up client pivots in a new direction. These things happen. Having a formal reporting process in place can help you prove your value and retain “at risk” clients. But also be prepared to adapt, like refreshing and renewing your agreement, as your tactical mix may change. If the client decides they want to add new metrics to your reporting mix, use this as an opportunity to have a discussion with the client to ensure you’re all aligned on the strategy.
Reporting can be a best friend to both agencies and clients
Many who are new to digital marketing think that reporting metrics is a lot of work. But it’s actually not so difficult, and in fact it is more work to not report metrics and have to scramble together reports last minute. Formalized reporting solves this and so much more, so if you’re new to this, educate yourself your teams and start fleshing out a process today.