Editor's Note: despite today being April Fool's Day, the content of this post is no joke. We hope local marketing managers take our suggestions seriously for the benefit of their own marketing efforts.
For many marketers, quarterly reporting starts today as we embark on another year of metric mayhem. Before jumping into the abyss of spreadsheets, dashboards and decks, we wanted to provide a couple of basic tips that will make your reporting more fruitful in 2015.
Measure what you want to manage
Marketers have access to infinite metrics these days, but that doesn't mean we need to measure everything. Measure the activities that will impact your objectives (you have objectives, right?). In social media, this might be Reach instead of Likes/Fans. On your website, decide what your conversion point is (downloads, page views, time on site) and measure that. For traditional media, measure output (flyers distributed or estimated billboard views), but tie these campaigns to an outcome you can measure (store visits, coupons used, sales). (For those inclined, check out these tips on digital metrics to retire.)
Include insights beyond the numbers
Showcasing spreadsheets and circle charts may impress some clients or execs, but numbers on their own do little to advance your marketing efforts. Once you’re done calculating numbers, take the time to answer “what does this all mean?” Trends in the data are often more important than the data itself, so identify similarities/differences from last month and last year, then draw strategic conclusions from what you've found. Spend as much time analyzing the data as you have calculating it, and prepare bullet point insights so someone who‘s never seen the charts can understand the conclusions you’re drawing.
Make actionable recommendations
Reporting for reporting's sake is a fool's errand. Without recommendations on how to improve, repeat or reverse trends in the data, regular reporting is little more than quantified business history. Instead, focus on where marketing can take the business in the future by including a clear set of next steps in your marketing reports. “The February/March campaign exceeded its KPIs,” is a nice way to summarize a data trend, but should be followed by a proposed action: “extend these efforts to Q2/Q3” or “replicate this campaign next year.” Without recommendations, marketing leaders will appreciate the data, but you’ll leave them wondering: “what now?”
Don’t be a tease; tell them how to move forward.
Tie your reporting to larger efforts
If your report is measuring the right metrics, drawing smart conclusions from the data and providing clear, logical next steps, you're well on your way to wowing your marketing leaders. Now help them wow their bosses by tying your reports to major organizational initiatives. Many mid-level marketers miss the opportunity to show how their campaigns helped advance overall marketing efforts or contributed to sales increases. Accessing data across company silos is a real hurdle but shouldn't prevent you from reaching out to other departments and seeing how reports can be improved.
The main takeaway here is to continuously improve your marketing analytics reports. Even if you have an “ah-ha” moment as you’re putting the final touches on your measurement report before the deadline, follow up on that instinct so you can include it in next month's report. Remember: just because the report is your baby, doesn't mean you can’t make that baby better.
What suggestions for reporting excellence do you have? Do you adhere to this advice?