Smart reporting is more about asking questions than you’d think. There are very few occasions when your client knows exactly what they need. And some other times when they know exactly what they want the report to show and would want you to just make the data validate their hypothesis. Guess what? Sometimes that’s not the truth.
So before you start doing data pulls and trying to come up with graphs, investing hours on end on cramming any and every metric out there into one report, maybe you should ask yourself what is it that your client wants to do with the report.
I have been reporting on social media and digital marketing performance for over 7 years now and I’ve been through a lot of dashboards and reports. And I learned a lot and, whenever possible, I do try to ask myself or the client some of the questions below to be able to deliver the best report possible as quickly as possible.
This is paramount to any good reporting. It makes a world of difference to know who your report reaches, is it a Marcom person or a top executive?
If you answer this question the rest will unfold. You will know what type of metrics you could include in the report and the verbiage to go with it.
For example, top execs might not be familiar with acronyms such as CPA, ROAS, CPR, VR etc. so you might want to avoid them or rephrase them into something easier.
Now that you know who is looking at the report you need to understand what they can do with it.
If they are execs, they probably need data to support business decisions. So do include info on the ROAS and make sure they understand that data. Include info on channel performance and a recommendation on how to scale up the budget to improve performance.
If they are Marcom people, you need to pull out the big guns. Do an in-depth analysis of all the big picture metrics and then do breakdowns by initiative/products/campaigns/channels/messaging/format/creatives. Go geeky and all in.
How often does your client need this report? If you answered the first 2 questions then you most probably know how to answer this one, too.
From my experience, to answer this question you need to think about what you want this report to do. If you want it to just track performance and have quick and easy next steps/action points, you can look at daily alerts and weekly dashboards. You don’t even need a call with the team, you just need to let them know what the next steps are and who needs to implement what.
If, on the other hand, you want a wrap-up report of all activities regarding a campaign, look at leveraging an automated dashboard and compile a report in a BI tool of your choosing. Try to give context and deliver insights along with data. Provide learnings and recommendations for future campaigns.
Format and sharing
Again, look at who will get this report and who reads this. If your report reaches a high-level executive, sharing a link in a tool he doesn’t use frequently might not be a good idea.
Another scenario to take into consideration: you need to collaborate with other teams on a wider report. Think about how you can do that in a seamless way – shared file saved on the cloud, maybe? Discuss a workflow with them and agree on who does what.
These are the four topics/questions I look at when being tasked with compiling a report. I bet there are dozens others, but I feel that even just these four might instruct better reporting and data analysis.