Digital Marketing
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3 Marketing Reporting Fails and How To Avoid Them

October 27, 2022
November 1, 2022

When it comes to telling a story with data, marketing reporting is a critical part of communication between agencies and clients. However, getting the marketing reporting process to a scalable and repeatable place can be difficult, leaving agencies to either cobble together reports and dashboards by hand, or creating bespoke templates that bog down their teams at the end of every month due to the amount of customization required.

We asked the Twitter marketing community about common marketing reporting fails and how to avoid them, and the answers and suggestions provided are illuminating and may help your agency build a dependable reporting process. 

Fail #1: Untranslated Metrics and Dashboards in Marketing Reporting 

Too often, agencies handle data consolidation in their marketing reporting with a “more is better” mentality, rather than considering “what is best.” When building a marketing report, the first question shouldn’t be, “what do we share,” but rather, “why are we sharing?”

Stakeholders and clients don’t need marketing reporting to look busy, they need the reports to inspire insight and action to drive their business. This is only possible when the agency presents curated performance information along with annotations that explain and outline the potentials and pitfalls of the data. What are the biggest risks and opportunities in the report? What are the next steps? What are the hidden questions the data prompts? When an agency approaches their marketing reporting from a holistic level, asking “why” instead of “what,” they can derive more meaning from the data to inform strategy on the next iteration of the campaign.

Another marketing reporting fail in this same category is including metrics that don’t really connect with action. Whit Norrad, Director of Demand Generation at FlexDealer questions suggests eliminating unrelated metrics in a report, imploring marketers to question the analytics they include and explore the human element behind the data. 

While amplifying returns on marketing attribution is considered a holy grail in marketing reporting, the belief that all marketing activity must be attributable can cause many agencies to fill their dashboards and reports with metrics that seem to say a lot, but fail to tell the effectiveness story completely.

How do the metrics in your marketing reporting connect with the strategy? In reference to Whit’s response above, what does the bounce rate mean to the efficacy of the campaign? Is it possible to establish different methodologies for calculating attribution and conversion of campaigns? 

Fail #2: Marketing Reporting That Only Highlights The Good

Most marketers love to hand over heavily-curated reports that look unquestioningly great, with all the line graphs headed up and to the right. But what kind of insights and strategic pivots can be gleaned from a “too-good-to-be-true” dashboard? 

Derek Walker, copywriting legend and founder of Brown & Browner ad agency, believes that most marketing reporting lacks balance.

While it may feel nice to deliver hockey stick charts in a report, what can anyone truly learn from perfection? Where does the opportunity for reflection show up? If marketers were prepared to honestly and objectively explain the lows in their reports, as eagerly as they are to share the highs, what kind of strategic insights and opportunities might be unlocked?

Fail #3: Marketing Reporting Unlinked To Business Activity

Finally, a marketing reporting fail that seems to crop up often is that most decks and dashboards are unrelated to business activity.

The reasons most reports don’t capture the full breadth of performance analytics are many, but essentially it all boils down to agencies not building the deck with the end user in mind, from the outset. 

Platforms and third-party sites provide metrics that can easily perform as proxies for success, but without knowing the goals that the C-suite wants to see, most marketing reporting falls short of delivering meaningful results and opts to show activity or proof-of-work for the agency, not proof-of-effectiveness for the client. 

A few ways to circumvent this issue is to align the analytics and reporting cadence with actions the client needs to see before the first deck is built, and to provide comparisons in the marketing report, which contextualize the metrics against previous periods. Marketing reporting is the lifeline of agencies, proving value and providing context for campaigns. By ensuring your reports highlight the most important analytics, balance the good and the bad, provide comparative analysis, and connect with success metrics your clients can understand, you’ll avoid confusion and build trust with every dashboard you share.

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