Dec 17, 2020

How to convince your agency clients that they desperately need marketing reporting

8-MINUTE READ | By Pinja Virtanen

Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Dec 17, 2020 ]

If you work in a marketing agency, you’ve probably ran into this pesky question from a client: “But why would I pay you for marketing reporting?”

The question is: should you simply refuse to work with clients who don’t understand the value of data and analytics? 

Want my honest opinion? My answer is: “maybe”. But only after you’ve tried to talk them into seeing the light.

So before you refuse to sign or keep working with data-averse clients, try convincing them with these tried and true arguments from our experienced agency friends.

Here they are: the 4+1 reasons why your clients should invest in better reporting.

  1. The wasted dollars argument
  2. The missed insights argument
  3. The communication argument 
  4. The benchmark argument 
  5. BONUS: The insurance argument 

But before we unpack each of these arguments, let’s quickly talk about the possible reasons behind your clients’ hesitance to invest in reporting.

Step 1: Figure out the root cause to your clients’ unwillingness to invest in reporting

To many of us, marketing reporting seems like a no-brainer. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to track your results, bask in the glory of your proven wins, and let historical data inform your next move whenever possible?

Heidi Valtonen, who works as a Content Marketing Strategist at growth marketing agency Advance B2B, argues that the most common reason for reporting aversion is fear of failure.

Heidi says, “I’ve met marketers who are afraid of — not necessarily reporting — but what the reports will show. They’re worried that data will highlight their failures. These people will do whatever it takes to look good: choose vanity metrics, ignore data that shows them in a less-than-flattering light, or argue that it’s impossible to measure marketing because it’s all about emotions.”

The problem with companies, cultures, and people like this is that they’ve missed out on a core tenet of digital marketing: at the end of the day, it’s all about trial and error. It’s all about experimentation.

Without data, you’ll never learn whether a new campaign, tactic, or channel was a hit or a miss. Without data, you’ll basically end up repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

So the next time a prospective or current client asks you why they should invest in reporting, make sure to figure out why they’re asking that question in the first place.

And then, based on their answer, you can serve them a custom cocktail made of the following ingredients:

Step 2: Choose the arguments that match your client’s objections

Instead of running back to your client with a long list of arguments, you’ll want to choose the one or two arguments that attack their objections.

But what are the possible arguments? Let’s find out.

A) The wasted dollars argument

Elise Connors, Director of Marketing Client Services at digital agency Happy Cog says it best: “Would you believe me if I said that not investing in marketing analytics will cost your clients more money over the life of their business?”

She explains, “To illustrate that point, I’m reminded of Arthur Nielsen’s famous quote, ‘The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.’ Suppose your client doesn’t prioritize marketing measurement and remains in the dark about the performance of their marketing efforts. They are putting their company at risk and likely wasting either labor or hard dollars on initiatives that may not be driving growth.”

Similarly, Laura Iliescu from SureOak argues that “Without solid reporting and proper source attribution, a lot of marketing dollars are wasted.”

She adds, “Tracking key metrics that directly impact your bottom line, understanding how they work together, and the results your marketing efforts are generating are crucial to making informed decisions about your company’s initiatives.”

To recap, you’ll end up throwing money down the drain unless you understand which channels and tactics are contributing to revenue. And the only way to develop that uderstanding is through marketing analytics and frequent reporting.

B) The missed insights argument

The flip side of the wasted dollars coin is that without data and analytics, you may very well miss out on insights that would be crucial for the growth of the business.

Thomas Bosilevac, the Founder and Chief Insight Officer of MashMetrics, says, “Struggling with the challenges of data collection, keeping data accurate, and sending out reports can certainly seem like an investment, and they are. While important and time-consuming, those activities are the unfortunate cost of marketing analytics. The investment in marketing analytics starts to pay off only when the data is used to find areas of improvement and growth.” 

Thomas emphasizes that without acting upon insights, analytics will always remain a cost center rather than a profit center. He says, “Make sure your organization is answering tough questions with the data. And then put together an action plan to execute.”

After all, there’s nothing worse than collecting data for data’s sake. And to avoid that trap, you need to not only collect data but also act on it.

C) The internal communication argument

A recurring reporting cadence between an agency and its clients also functions as a much-needed communication device.

But it’s also not uncommon for inhouse marketers to use the reports their agency has built to communicate to their boss or the rest of the team.

Sofie Segercrantz, Supermetrics’ Performance Marketing Lead, says, “Before joining Supermetrics, I worked at a performance marketing agency for seven years. Over time, I noticed that if my team managed to put together really informative reports, our clients would often use them internally to communicate their value to the rest of the company.”

This way, you can also pitch the marketing reports you’ll build as the reports your client doesn’t have to worry about building.

D) The benchmarking argument

The unique benefit specialized agencies have compared to their clients is that they’re typically providing similar services to more than one client. From a data and analytics perspective this means that agencies have more comparable data at their disposal than inhouse teams do.

This is why a lot of agencies have started building benchmark libraries that collect data from all the campaigns they manage into a single repository. This data can then be used as a benchmark to ascertain how well a particular campaign or ad group is working.

For example, UK-based marketing agency Search Station has built a CRO library into Google Sheets that compiles data from their clients’ websites into a central report. 

Sam Manton from Search Station writes in a recent guest post, “With one of our clients, we were able to spot that they had a massive flaw when it came to their basket to checkout rate. With this data we were able to approach the client with a solution,  implement our idea, and bam: an improved basket to checkout rate of 10%.”

Bam, indeed.

Similarly, GCommerce, a US-based marketing agency that specializes in serving clients in the hospitality sector, has put together a centralized benchmarking repository in their Google BigQuery data warehouse.

Will Ferris, GCommerce CTO, explains in a recent case study, “Now with Supermetrics, a business analyst can sit down with a client, discuss strategic topics such as key markets and customer segments, and surface data to reinforce a strategy or equally debunk it. We want to be more data-forward in how we act, pin our decisions on data, and eliminate waste.”

So if you can’t convince your clients to get interested in reporting and analytics otherwise, try the “but other companies in your industry…” argument on them and see what happens.

BONUS: If not for your clients, do it for yourself

Let’s say you tried every trick in the book but your client still isn’t convinced that they should pay you for reporting and/or analysis.

Should you just:

  1. Dump the (prospective) client as teased in the beginning of this article
  2. Succumb to their will and start/keep working with them without creating any reports
  3. Start/keep working with them but create some reports anyway

After chatting with our Performance Marketing Lead Sofie about this, I’m going to go with option number 3. 

Because if you’re any good at what you do, you’ll want to use data to optimize your campaigns regardless of whether your client is interested in the numbers. And besides, with tools like Supermetrics, you can automate the tedious data collection phase and focus on analyzing the data and making recommendations based on it.

But that’s not the half of it.

Sofie explains, “In a lot of ways, a dashboard or report is the best insurance policy out there. Let’s say your main contact from the client team changes jobs. They’re suddenly replaced with a person who understands numbers and craves reports. How are you going to explain to them that you’ve never shared any reports?”

So even if your current client is analytics-averse, don’t let them trick you into ignoring data.

Over to you ?

Long story short, sometimes your job as an agency marketer involves having difficult conversations with your clients.

And when those conversations are about whether or not you should spend your billable hours on marketing reporting, you can try following these steps:

  1. Figure out why your client seems hesitant to invest in marketing analytics and reporting
  2. Serve them an argument (or two) that debunk their objections
  3. If they still resist, work out if you can afford working with that customer anyway (but remember, your agency is probably not a charity)

Simple, right?

And if you’re interested in automating your agency reporting, check out Supermetrics’ products and choose the one that’s right for your team — and clients.

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