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What makes good client-facing reports

How to do client reporting

The tools you should use to make client reporting easier

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    Transcript

    Anna:

    Hi, Chris and welcome to the show.

    Chris:

    Hi, Anna, thanks for having me.

    Anna:

    Awesome. And I’m super, super happy to have you on our podcast today. We have another exciting topic for our listeners, and this time it’s all about agency marketing reporting. Super relevant because I think many, many of our listeners are from the agencies, so let’s jump into the thick of it from the very beginning. My first question to you, Chris, is what actually makes a good client report because I’m pretty sure many people would love to learn about the fundamentals.

    Chris:

    Absolutely yes. So I think there are a few key things that make a good client report. I think the key thing is that it answers the most important questions to that business, and those questions may be different. There are some basics that you’d want to cover for each channel. So if you’re doing something like Google ads or any kind of paid spend, it’s going to be questions like how much am I investing? What am I getting back from that investment? Whether it be a direct return on investment or other kinds of key actions that show value.

    Chris:

    And there’ll be other types of reports. It may be that you don’t have an e-commerce client, and you actually need to understand how people are interacting with an app, whether they’re engaging with your blog or whatever kind of content you’re putting out there. So it will depend, but the key thing is to understand what’s most important to your business.

    Chris:

    So something that we quite often do is a measurement plan. A measurement plan is something that Google talks a lot about. If you Google it, you’ll find lots of information. And we also have lots of information about it, but it’s essentially asking those questions of what are the objectives of your business? What are your strategies and tactics based on those objectives and strategies and tactics, what are your goals, and what are the KPIs that you’ll be aiming for? And then making sure you include those KPIs and including things like how they’ve changed month per month, year on year trends over time, and that sort of thing that all give context. Context is the key thing overall. Am I hitting my objective in the first place, and what’s the context around either how well I did that or why I didn’t?

    Anna:

    I think it sounds great. And I really loved how you emphasize that, first of all, the report has to answer all the important questions because they often think many marketers miss that point as they go. They try to create a report that focuses on anything and everything, and then it doesn’t really show what the key numbers are. But now that you covered so many details, could you please tell us more about what an agency should do to structure their marketing and reporting correctly so that it’s easy for them to operate and what are the first steps in this direction?

    Chris:

    Mm-hmm (affirmative) yeah, absolutely. So starting with a template that answers some of the most common questions, there will be a lot of things that will be the same across a lot of different businesses or things that you can easily swap out. So it’s likely that you’re going to want to look at traffic over time. It’s likely that you’re going to want to look at goals over time, even if those goals were slightly changed. So building yourself a template that you can use to simplify the process so that you’re not building from scratch every single time is very important.

    And as much as possible, automating that process. I’m sure as marketers, we all remember a time or may still be in that time where it’s a very manual process. You’re logging in to lots of different platforms. You’re grabbing the data from lots of different platforms, either by screenshotting it or exporting it into Excel and trying to combine it in lots of different places. And that’s fine, but it means that you’re spending lots of time doing something that a machine can do for you and that means that you have less time to gain the insights and figure out, interpret what that data means. And really that’s where we as humans add the most value in interpreting the data.

    Anna:

    I definitely agree with the point of interpreting the data. And I think this is where most of the automation tools including Supermetrics come in, so we help you focus on what is better. So I think it’s great you brought that up. And now could you please elaborate on the types of these reports more? Because also previously you mentioned that there could be many different ones depending on the clients. And another question here is what kind of reports does your agency create and why did you pick these specific reports to have for your clients?

    Chris:

    Sure, yes. So there are probably a few different reports that we create on a fairly regular basis. There’ll be channel-specific reports that help explain what’s happening in that particular channel. Going back to the paid side of things, how much are we investing? What are we getting back? Breaking that down by campaign or keyword audience. So giving some real detail and context, but also some top-level numbers of, is it performing effectively and why is it performing effectively? So that is pretty standard or standardized should I say so that you can look across different channels and get a good idea of how each of those channels performs. And they look fairly similar between different clients because they are standardized as possible.

    On top of that, you might want to have what we would refer to as an explorer report. So a dashboard that would allow the marketers or people in different teams to be able to drill down into the details. They probably have a lot more metrics in them because they’re not designed to answer very specific questions, but they are there to help better visualize some of the data from the different platforms and bring them into one place. So you can have data from Facebook and Google ads and Bing, and all those different channels in one place and be able to drill down in them. We quite often use Data Studio which has quite a bit of flexibility around it. And by having that extra layer, you can also use things like CASE WHEN RegEx so you can categorize things in a way that perhaps wasn’t already categorized within Google analytics, or if you’ve got the landing page from Facebook, you can strip out the UTMs and you go adjust the landing page and just simplify the way that people can look through that data.

    So the explorer reports have quite a lot in them and allow you to drill down. And then you would have dashboards that are designed to answer very specific questions that may be quite bespoke and really help answer a question very simply. So with less noise, that just means that people actually don’t get overwhelmed. And there are some people that are quite happy to look at huge amounts of data and they can work through that, but most people, a lot of us actually just need things to be nice and clear and succinct.

    And then there are probably also things like board-level dashboards, where again, it’s about keeping things as simple as possible, but with those, you might want to put in a bit more insight from different departments. So here’s a couple of really bold and clear numbers and then here’s the insight that has come from those departments. So there’s a little noise as possible and you can fit it into the two minutes of your board report that you have allowed you to talk about it. And it keeps it simple for people from all sorts of different parts of the business.

    Anna:

    All right, that sounds like an awesome bunch. And you’ve mentioned that you’re using Data Studio to create some reports. Are there any other tools that you’re using and if yes, then if you could maybe elaborate on why you chose this specific tool to create a particular kind of report?

    Chris:

    Mm-hmm (affirmative) yup. So I would say the vast majority of our reports are in Data Studio. It covers most of the needs and is generally very effective. We do a little bit in Power BI just because Power BI has the extra modeling capabilities. It’s a bit more powerful and faster when it comes to calculating things that most of which can be done in Data Studio but there are some limitations such as we are creating some metrics Data Studio won’t do, whereas you can slightly more easily do that in something like Power BI.

    Google Sheets is another one where there’ll be occasions where we’ll keep the visualization of things in Google Sheets. It’s also quite a powerful tool and you have more flexibility with formulas. So if you’re used to working with formulas and you want to be able to manipulate. It sounds like a dodgy word when you’re talking about it, but really it has the meaning of helping you to drill down and understand data in different ways. It’s a little bit easier to use that formula knowledge in order to better visualize and extract bits of information that again you could do in Data Studio in many cases unless you’re re-aggregating the numbers a couple of times. It’s amazing what you can do in Google Sheets and Excel and places like that.

    Anna:

    Awesome. I really love the spreadsheet tools and I do agree with you that sometimes you need a data visualization tool and sometimes it’s much, much easier to use a formula in a spreadsheet. So now if we talk about spreadsheets more, can you please tell us, what are your tools/hacks for creating these reports in Google Sheets? And I think we’re previously briefly discussing Google apps for it, so I would be super interested to hear whether and how you’re using them there and what are the benefits of doing so for the marketing reporting?

    Chris:

    Sure. Yeah. So I think there are quite a few things that we do within those sheets. And just to mention a particular example, we have a KPI alert script set up. So we have Supermetrics to grab the data every hour. And then we have a Google app script that is also set to run every hour, but 15 minutes later. And what it will do is, well, for any KPI to identify whether it’s changed or there are new versions of it.

    So we have one example of somebody who’s really interested to know when they’ve had a sale over a certain volume. And so we have Supermetrics grab every transaction over that particular amount. And then we have a formula that puts in a cell, all of the transaction IDs that have been over that amount. And then we count it and then the script goes, and it reads that cell and it says, “This is so different to what it was the last time I checked.” And if it is different, it sends an email and says, “Here’s the list of transaction IDs over this particular amount that you’ve set.” And you could use that same logic for any KPI really.

    Anna:

    All right. That sounds awesome and it definitely sounds like you’ve created a very, very smooth process for this. So another question I was really interested in asking was, are there any tips you could give to agency marketers who would like to create great reports? You’ve already mentioned a few, but if you could summarize and share a bit more about what they should be looking at in different reports and different tools, that would be great.

    Chris:

    Yeah. So I think the first thing and it always starts with that, understands what it is that matters to the channel that you’re working with or the client that you’re working on. Once you’ve got that, you can then start identifying the KPIs that are relevant to that particular client and then visualize it in the right way. So if it is just a standard goal and you know this is the number that we want to hit, then you can use a scorecard. You know the actual number, this is what we have hit, this is our target, and you can compare those two numbers and keep it nice and simple.

    Having trends is always really important because it very quickly tells you how things have changed over time. And if there was a particular spike, either on a day or a week that has impacted things, because that context is going to help you go back to the team. And if you’re not actually part of the team that has done the activity to say, what happened on this day? Is this something that we can replicate again or is it just something that happened because of some seasonality? And then adding a bit of additional context, whether it be the campaigns that have driven that performance, the landing pages that have driven that performance so that again, you can understand where those things are happening. So compared to a target, comparing trends over time, and then having a little bit more detail about what’s driven that, and also comparing year on year and month per month is also very important. Year on year is going to give you a better idea of whether seasonality has paid a part and month per month is going to tell you whether you were improving over time.

    Anna:

    All right, fantastic. I think these are pretty solid tips for any agency marketers out there, so I hope you took notes. Chris, this was awesome. And if the audience would love to learn more about you, where can they find you?

    Chris:

    Yup. So they can find us on LinkedIn, Twitter. I have profiles on all of those and also the agency has lots of activity going on and so seek me throughout media and it can easily be found across most platforms.

    Anna:

    Perfect. Thank you so much for joining me today.

    Chris:

    No worries. Thanks for having me.

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