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An Intro to Effective Marketing Performance Reporting

May 18, 2021
October 28, 2023

At the heart of every successful marketing campaign is the ability to uncover timely insights through reliable and repeatable marketing performance reporting. 

What is marketing performance reporting? 

There are countless ways to market a product or service; from advertising to email, online or offline, hyper-targeted or mass media. But there is only one way to know if your marketing is effective–and that is through marketing performance reporting. 

Marketing performance reporting is the process of assembling and analyzing data to guide marketing strategies, decisions, and actions. 

Why Marketing Performance Reporting is Important 

In the past, people working in advertising may have thought their main product is the magical, creative ideas for campaigns they generate for clients. But the truth is, without measurement and management, none of the “magic” of marketing really matters.

Today, a marketer’s ability to engineer a campaign strategy that’s data-driven, aligned with metrics the stakeholders can understand, and measure, is more important than their ability to dream up creative solutions.

What gets measured...

Most marketers are familiar with famed management consultant Peter Drucker’s quote on data and business: “What gets measured gets managed.” However, the quote rarely gets recited in full. 

Drucker’s original quote is, “What gets measured gets managed–even when it's pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organization to do so.”

Performance reports frame and define your campaign’s success to stakeholders. Reporting offers the opportunity to align the entire organization on the metrics in marketing that matter. 

Without reliable reporting, marketers risk having clients create their own narrative about the effectiveness of their strategy. If a client rushes to judge an ad campaign a flop, and there’s no client report or data to tell them otherwise, are they wrong?

How To Build a Marketing Performance Report 

Before building a marketing performance report, marketers and advertisers should ask these questions:

  • What are the business objectives of the campaign? 
  • What type of data story do you want to tell?
  • What type of data do you have access to? 
  • What do you want your target audience to take away?

What are the business objectives of the campaign?

Before you start creating the report or presentation, fully understanding which success metrics will indicate success will dictate what you need to report on. This should be the foundation of your report plan and data story.

What type of data story do you want to tell?

High level reports will look different and contain different performance metrics than a more granular, channel-specific report. How do you plan to illustrate success? How do you plan on visualizing opportunities for optimization? 

Some common digital marketing metrics you might include in your performance report: clicks, click-through rate, impressions, leads, social engagement, cost per click, CPM. It's important to make sure all metrics are measurable, manageable, and reportable.  

What data do you have access to?

Chances are, for every advertising platform a marketer runs their campaign on, there is an associated database of analytics that requires ETL tools and extra data wrangling to add to a report or presentation.

Whether it’s advertising metrics in Google Ads, social media metrics in Facebook, or conversion data in web analytics, digital marketers today have to be able to transform and ship data from disparate sources into a centralized platform. A simple digital marketing audit can help you identify the metrics and platforms that contain the required data.

Good marketing performance reporting is about not just about data availability, but quality and integrity. Can you trust the source of your data, and is it up to date? More times than not, campaign performance data needs to be ‘worked’ and calculations applied before being ready for a report. 

What will be the ‘takeaway?’ 

While marketers spend a lot of time obsessing on what to put in a report, they also have to consider what clients and stakeholders will take out.

The best reports will provide guidance toward the next campaign optimization or iteration. Reporting templates should be chosen strategically to reflect the activity of campaigns, not to fill a deck with numbers.

Once you know the data story you’d like to tell, and you have the data you need to build it, choosing the right data visualization can be a make or break moment when it comes to marketing performance reporting. 

Simple design, at-a-glance metrics, strong takeaways and light touch points of annotation; these are the hallmarks of an effective marketing performance report. 

Common Marketing Performance Templates 

Advertising metrics from social media, search, PPC, and SEO all have channel-specific reporting formats. 

Standard metrics to include in a digital advertising report are: 

  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Click thru rate (CTR) 
  • Conversions 
  • Cost per lead (CPL)
  • Cost per mille (CPM) 
  • Impressions 

Strategic marketing performance metrics are inclusive of the full lifecycle of a lead; tracking qualified leads, awareness, and engagement metrics, as well as conversion rates for segmented and aggregated channels.  

A few metrics to include in a strategic marketing performance report are: 

  • total site traffic 
  • Return on advertising spend (ROAS)
  • lifetime value or (LTV) 

For multi-location businesses, or marketers looking for a way to centralize performance data from multiple channels, a roll up report template is perfect. 

Common roll up report metrics include; 

  • channel effectiveness and conversion rate 
  • multi-channel attribution 
  • total marketing lift 

Dashboards, Presentations, and Process 

Whether it’s in a deck, in a doc, or on a desk, delivering effective marketing reporting is about process and presentation. Certain presentation styles are better equipped to illustrate marketing insights than others.  

Dashboards with endless widgets may be fine for analyzing metrics in detail, but it can be difficult to track campaign progress at such granular levels. An ocean of data and not a drop of insight. 

In the same regard, marketing reports and presentations that only deliver high-level metrics, without the ability to drill down for insights, can present as generic and not particularly useful.  

It’s important to understand your stakeholder’s desire for insight, their preferred communication methods, and the reporting methodology that suits their learning style, when building your presentation. 

Client Report Automation and Annotation 

It doesn’t matter if it’s one or 1000 reports, marketers at the end of the month are looking for any way to save time and leverage their tech stack to deliver reports faster and allow for more QA.

Automating an effective marketing performance reporting process isn’t about “setting it and forgetting it.” 

Marketing report automation is built off reliable processes and solid data, with the ability to annotate and personalize insights at scale. 

Leveraging Marketing Performance Reports in Sales

An ancillary benefit to effective marketing performance reporting is that visually compelling reports and presentations can be leveraged in pitches to new clients.   

If you have the ability to white label, add images to, and automate your marketing reports, customizing presentations and pitch decks can multiply your business development efforts, and help you win more clients. 

A marketing agency is really only as good as it’s reporting, and oddly enough, marketing reports are marketing vehicles themselves. In a harried world where we hoover up data and hunger for insights, it’s only natural that clients trust agencies by the look of their reports, not just their contents, but their presentation. 

The way marketers choose to visualize effectiveness in marketing performance reports has everything to do with the value marketers transmit on behalf of their agency, and the faith the client’s might place in the overall strategy.

If Peter Drucker’s quote is to remain impactful, it has to be in recognizing that choosing what we measure and manage is the key to marketing effectiveness, but only if the metrics have meaning. 

Modern marketers have all the data in the world. The important part in translating our value to clients is getting the data story right. An effective marketing performance reporting process is the key to telling that story.  

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