“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs
But, can a single spreadsheet mistake in one cell add up to millions of dollars, a fired CEO, and other calamities?
And while we are in merry olde England, remember the 2012 London Olympics and how hard tickets were to obtain for several events? While certainly part of the issue was the high demand that usually accompanies any Olympics, some of this was a spreadsheet error too. The Olympic Committee oversold a couple of swimming events. They said the error occurred when a member of staff made a single keystroke mistake and entered ‘20,000’ into a spreadsheet rather than the correct figure of 10,000 remaining tickets. The error was discovered when they reconciled the number of tickets sold against the final layouts and seating configurations for venues and realized that they were going to have thousands of unhappy attendees, most of who had bought their tickets months in advance. They had to contact ticket holders and try to placate them with seats to other venues. Of course why they had this critical variable under such loose controls is another matter of inquiry.
Surprisingly often, seemingly simple tasks are still done in the most tedious ways possible. A popular, yet frustrating tool regularly used for Marketing client reporting is still the classic Excel spreadsheet.
You may be an equipment manager responsible for tracking your company’s assets who upgraded from using pen and paper to keeping track of equipment with Excel. You might even be using a ready-made asset management template, which may work well at first until you start noticing its limitations. Filled with good intentions, you could decide to start again from scratch, only to inevitably start encountering the same issues again.
Using Excel in this day and age may be justified because it’s easily available and seemingly cheap and easy to use, but do these reasons hold up against the many disadvantages?
I. 6 Reasons to trade in Excel spreadsheets for a more effective, modern reporting tool
1. Above all, Excel is unreliable
- Accuracy is difficult, and the increased likelihood of data errors is almost inevitable with larger quantities of information, or when out of the box actions take place (such as moving an asset’s location for example).
- Excel’s lack of validation and potential copy-paste errors make it extra easy to slip in mistakes.
- Precious time is wasted validating and tracking data.
- It can be extremely challenging to spot and correct errors, especially with larger volumes of data.
- A computer crash, hardware failure or virus can potentially mess up all your hard work and set you back like it’s nobody’s business.
2. No Real-Time Asset Data
- Keeping your spreadsheet up to date is often a hassle.
- There’s no audit trail, which makes it tough to keep your actual asset count and data in sync, especially when more than one person has access to the file.
- Unnecessary time is wasted updating spreadsheets to avoid this problem.
3. Limited User Access
- Works fine until more than 1 person starts using or editing it.
- Only 1 person can edit the spreadsheets at a time, and doing this from the comfort of their own phone usually isn’t a given.
- After the spreadsheet is copied, horrific chaos and confusion often ensue.
- There is no system to tell us who changed what and when. So anyone can be blamed for your mistake (no, that is not supposed to be an advantage).
4. Excel can easily get too complex and limits quick data analysis or a clear overview
- Which makes it difficult to predict equipment need and customer demand.
- With too much data it can get complex to be able to see what’s relevant.
- It can get overly complicated if you want to start planning for the future.
5. It’s ugly and boring
- Wouldn’t it be grand to say farewell to Excel’s stiff, old-fashioned and boring formatting and to trade it in for an intuitive and slick reporting tool? Yes, it will. It is easily accessible and it’s well-arranged timeline instantly shows your priorities to make your work easy.
- The fact that you only work with text and can’t liven things up with images doesn’t help either.
6. Lack of security
- If you have an Excel spreadsheet in your possession, you have full access to the data within it. This can become a major issue when sensitive information is being shared both internally and externally as there is no way to secure this data.
Manual systems put pressure on people to be correct in all details of their work at all times. The problem is that people aren’t perfect, however much each of us wishes we were. With manual systems, the level of service is dependent on individuals and this puts a requirement on management to run training continuously for staff to keep them motivated and to ensure they are following the correct procedures. It can be all too easy to accidentally switch details and end up with inconsistency in data entry or in handwritten orders. This has the effect of not only causing problems with customer service but also making information unable to be used for reporting or finding trends with data discovery. Reporting and checking that data is robust can be timely and expensive.
This is often an area where significant money can be saved by automation.
It takes more effort and physical space to keep track of paper documents, to find information and to keep details secure. When mistakes are made or changes or corrections are needed, often a manual transaction must be completely redone rather than just updated. With manual or partially automated systems information often has to be written down and copied or entered more than once.
Systematization can reduce the amount of duplication of data entry.
Another impact of manual systems is on Customer service. Customer queries can be difficult to respond to as information is stored in different places and may even require that you find the right person before being able to respond. This is no good if they are out to lunch or only work part time.
In a Nutshell
- Outdated information renders your Excel useless.
- Errors = wasted time + wasted money + unnecessary ulcers.
- Time to upgrade, release all your Excel stress and get efficient!
II. Stop Wasting Time. Automate
What is it?
Report automation is the process of scheduling an existing report (that somebody currently produces at some level of frequency) to automatically refresh and be delivered to specific places at a specific regular interval.
Why should we automate reports?
As a marketer you have a lot of better things to do than spending hours in front of the computer going through multiple data sources, dredging up relevant data, combining it, updating a file (usually an Excel spreadsheet), and then distributing that file to various users around the company. That’s the primary reason that companies choose to automate reports: to save time.
Here are five benefits that report automation can bring to your agency:
A. Reduce time-consuming, manual tasks
No matter how skilled your employees, it takes a great deal of time and patience to enter data and run reports. This time can be used more effectively while the chart automation software enables you to complete such tasks as updating your reports by wave, region or brand in a matter of seconds.
B. Improve Accuracy
Report automation eliminates repetitive and error-prone tasks such as manual data entry ensuring pinpoint data accuracy, saving time both in running and checking reports.
C. Add creativity and analysis
Agencies often have no spare time or staff available for flexibility, creativity or to add insight to projects. Users of report automation software have utilized the time they saved with chart automation to add extra details, analysis, and insights to their projects.
D. Manage heavy workloads and bring more business
Unpredictable workloads make it difficult to manage busy reporting periods efficiently. Additionally, report turnaround is not always as fast as your clients would like. With automated charting, the money and time you save can allow you to not just keep your existing clients satisfied, but to also take on more business without adding more resources.
E. Increase profit margins.
The right market research tools simplify your workload and allow you to expand your services. Companies that use report automation software have proven time and again that technology can be leveraged to increase profit margins and improve efficiencies. By automating your reporting, you are choosing to provide your clients with fast, accurate, visually arresting reports in a fraction of the time. And we all know that there is no downside to satisfied customers.
III. Is Reporting A Priority For Your Digital Marketing Agency? It Should Be!
What’s more powerful?
- Sending an email that says “Thanks for chatting with me today. Let me know when you’re ready to talk more about that marketing campaign!”
- Sending a personalized report that details specific areas where a prospect can start making more money.
The answer is obvious.
You know you are creating value for your client on social. Don’t just tell them – show them the numbers. If you work at an agency, you know that client loyalty can be fleeting – you need to constantly continue proving yourself to prospects and existing customers alike.
There’s one thing digital agencies know – it’s not just what you did that matters, it’s the results you can prove.
Reporting makes up a crucial portion of a digital marketing agency’s relationship with its clients. Agencies must continuously demonstrate value, prove their work (and worth) over and over again to demonstrate how their actions have helped businesses succeed. To do so, the members of your agency must not only know how to do their job well but also how to show clients the results of their work. Preparing reports on a regular basis will help to build relationships, educate clients, give proper credit to your efforts and show transparency.
In this post we’ll cover the importance of regular reporting and the benefits it offers, not only to clients but to the agency, as well.
Here are 8 reasons why reporting is crucial for both your clients and your team.
A. Well-Organized Reporting fosters Client Relationships
Churning out the best digital marketing work in the world is for nothing if your agency is unable to clearly communicate to clients the tasks you are performing and the results you are achieving. As a general rule, especially in the beginning of a relationship, you want to over-communicate with clients, to ensure they are aware of everything you are working on. Reports offer an opportunity for regularly scheduled communication, involving not only data to review but also a chance to touch base with a client on a more in-depth level.
At the very outset, you should establish expectations for delivering regular reports. Often monthly timeframes work well to ensure you’re looking at significant enough data and establishing a regular time for touching base. However, weekly reports may work well for larger clients who see high volumes of traffic and need to tweak campaigns more frequently. Quarterly reports may work well for smaller clients with low volume campaigns. Over time, reports should adapt to each particular client’s concerns. For example, if you find that your client focuses heavily on getting conversions, make sure to include conversions data in your reports.
Clients will appreciate seeing reports that are more than just canned templates and that have been customized to their marketing and business objectives. To streamline this customization, you can use ReportGarden to develop custom templated reports for each client. This will help to ensure consistency for each report. Templates will likely change over time as you add or remove marketing components and address new concerns for your clients.
B. Reporting Enlightens Clients
Many clients enter into an agency relationship with little or no understanding of web analytics – that’s why they’ve hired you. Leaving them to interpret the data on their own will result in confusion. Part of your job as a digital marketing agency is to educate clients on how to understand online metrics. Don’t assume they understand all the data you plan to present in a report; teach them how to interpret the information. For example, explain how Clicks and Impressions differ, how conversion rate relates to their business goals.
This education process can happen through written explanations you provide in their reports, as well as through verbal communication with clients. If you tell them that conversions from email marketing have increased, explain why that piece of information matters. Explain that a particular email marketing piece drove a high volume of traffic and leads contacting them via the website. Show them the traffic spike and the result.
For example, the ReportGarden widget below shows conversions by time, broken down by conversions in the months of July and August. The month of August shows a slightly better conversion rate when compared to the month of July. This demonstrates that the content in August worked best in driving people to convert on the site.
Reports should continually enlighten, grow more detailed as your client becomes more sophisticated. For example, once you know your client understands the difference between Clicks and Impressions, you don’t need to include explanations of those metrics in your next report.
Clients will appreciate the feeling that they are a part of your process as you explain what metrics mean and how you are adapting campaigns based on those metrics. For example, you may explain how you are optimizing AdWords campaigns to meet a target cost per lead acquisition as opposed to focusing strictly on cost per click, so your client knows the right metric to focus on.
C. Reporting invites Client involvement
The same way that brands build loyalty by inviting Fans to participate in content creation, agencies can build customer loyalty by involving brands in the analytic process. Of course, some brand representatives will want you to handle all the work, and others will want to micromanage. It’s all about finding the right way of getting your clients involved in getting the most from their social media presence.
D. Agencies 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.
E. Reporting shows transparency
By fully disclosing online performance, both the good and the bad, you help to establish transparency and good faith between your agency and the client. For example, say that a site has not seen an increase in organic traffic, despite two months of engaging in a search engine optimization program. A transparent agency will report this lack of growth to the client, while also outlining the work that has been done and explaining that the process of boosting organic search rankings takes time.
On the flip side, don’t be afraid to showcase positive results, as well. Talk about the work you’ve done that has led to great results! If a social media push helped to increase registrations for an event, show your client that specific information. If a PR placement on a major news site drove leads and resulted in people contacting your client, show that data. Include an explanation of your strategy, numbers for results and a write-up of what the results mean to your client’s business goals.
F. Reporting encourages 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.
G. Meticulous Reporting fetches you genuine credit
When a client signs on for a digital marketing retainer, the promised work may encompass several channels: paid search, display advertising, search engine optimization, social media management and email marketing. Your client may see sales increase after starting work with your agency but may not necessarily know whether or not those sales can be attributed to your agency’s efforts – or even which agency effort.
A digital marketing report should break down the performance of each channel, outlining traffic, engagement, and conversion results. For example, the report may show that more than 80% of the conversions came specifically from signed conversion, and so the client knows to attribute value to that signed search program. Make sure to account for every source associated with your marketing efforts to help your client see the effect of the full campaign. In addition, take the time to interpret the data so your client understands it. This sort of reporting approach is very beneficial to the client and it will fetch you genuine appreciation from the client.
The example below, created by ReportGarden, shows Conversion signups by time. Here, we can show the client that the most conversions are signed up, with Paid conversions being second.
H. Reporting can be a best friend to both agencies and Clients
Include “everything that you’d say to a client in person” in your reports. Sure, they might not read them the second they hit their inbox, but this ensures that your commentary is there whenever the client does read them. 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 has to scramble together reports last minute. Formalized reporting solves this and so much more, so if you’re new to this, educate yourself and start fleshing out a process today. Ultimately, a super comprehensive approach to reporting can turn out to be a best friend to both clients and agencies.
IV. How to make your Marketing Client Reporting a Breeze!
Where Excel shines at data preparation and data visualization, it takes quite a long time to prepare it and also it needs to be sent manually. And of course, if you’re either not comfortable mucking around in Excel with large volumes of Marketing data or simply don’t have the time, ReportGarden can be of great help. ReportGarden is a PPC & Adwords Reporting Tool which lets you automate the work of mining Marketing data to bubble up important insights about your campaign. You can try the tool for free!
This infographic clearly depicts the steps required to be followed while creating Marketing Client Reports in ReportGarden.
In order to access the various Marketing Client Report Templates available in ReportGarden, you need to Sign-up with ReportGarden and create your account. And also link your account with this account.
V. Top 5 Reasons how ReportGarden can make your Client Reporting a lot easier
A. Showcase ROI in real-time
You’re used to demonstrating ROI with periodic client reports that are retrospective, and take a lot of time and effort to compile. With ReportGarden, you can provide your clients with transparent access to the metrics that matter most to them, when and where they want them. This will increase real and perceived value and enhance trust.
B. Save days of effort by replacing manual reporting processes with automated ones
Your team spends countless hours each month manually pulling together data from a variety of sources and compiling client reports.
Partnering with ReportGarden lets you automate that entire process. Deliver interactive performance dashboards in real-time or submit PDF dashboard reports at the push of a button. You’ll save time and deliver a better client experience.
In fact, our partners love ReportGarden dashboards so much that they use them for their internal reporting too.
C. Impress your clients and improve your performance with dashboards that integrate all your campaign data
With ReportGarden, agency partners are empowered with the freedom and flexibility to connect their dashboards to a wide variety of data sources in real-time, so you don’t have to go to ten places to get one answer (and neither do your clients).
You’ll also have the ability to aggregate or ‘mash-up’ data streams to see insights on your dashboards instantly, which will help you continually optimize integrated campaigns.
ReportGarden supports dashboard integrations with Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, Mail Chimp, Bing Ads, Twilio and more. Connecting your dashboards to your own databases and servers is also possible.
D. Change the look and feel of your client dashboards to reflect and promote your brand
Agency partner dashboards and the reports generated by ReportGarden are completely customizable. Add your logo and taglines to your dashboard, and automated dashboard reports, or refine the look and feel of your dashboards at a more granular level with custom CSS.
E. Manage all your clients in a single dashboard account
As a ReportGarden agency partner, you get access to our dashboard management hub. This lets you manage multiple client accounts in a single place. More importantly, it allows each of your clients to have their own dashboard.
- Set up client accounts in just a few clicks
- Manage access rights to dashboards
- Set up demo accounts for prospective clients
Digital marketing agencies need to place quality marketing client reporting front and center among all of their efforts. Without proper reporting, your work means little to your clients. Regularly creating and reviewing reports will help to build trust with clients, leading to long and mutually beneficial relationships.