Bridging data and action: How to create killer reports
Are your reports not having the impact you would have hoped? Check out columnist Amy Bishop's tips and tools below to create powerful, useful reports that drive results.
Ask any digital marketer about the prerequisites for a successful campaign, and undoubtedly many of the answers will revolve around obtaining or making use of data points. Simply put, marketers — especially digital marketers — love data.
But despite the love for pulling data, reviewing stats and identifying trends and outliers, it is no secret that formalized recurring reporting can sometimes be a bit of a drag to compile and put together. (What, you thought you were the only one dreading that Monday morning number pull?)
It isn’t so much the time that it takes — although depending on the complexity, it can add up and become quite tedious. But no, the main reason that reporting becomes a dreaded task is usually that the report isn’t impactful enough and begins to feel like busywork.
So how can you create reports that are worthwhile, sustainable, and most importantly, impactful?
Keep it focused
Some of the most common reporting issues result from good intentions. For example, in an effort to be inclusive, reports can quickly become an attempt to boil the ocean. Massive, ocean-boiling reports are the reports that become dreaded because you have to sift through so much information to get to what is important.
If you create a powerful report, recipients will read through it. If the report is watered down, people will skim it or ignore sections (and maybe eventually the entirety). This is a slippery slope — even if they continue to consume part of the report, they could miss out on things that you really wanted them to see.
Here are a few tips:
- Instead of starting the report by creating a list of metrics that you (or your client) want to see, start by identifying the questions that you want to answer with the report, and then build the report to answer those questions.
- If a client or stakeholder provides a laundry list of metrics that they want to see, dig into their reasoning and make sure that those are the right metrics to address the goals of the report and ultimately the campaign success metrics.
- Remember that sometimes less is more. If a stat isn’t useful, don’t include it — no matter how pretty the graph looks.
- Don’t try to create a one-size-fits-all report. Different time frames tend to call for different reports. Likewise, if there are multiple stakeholders with different interests, it can be beneficial to create separate reports, as opposed to a watered down report. For example, if one report is for the marketing manager and the other is for the CMO, it may be pertinent to keep the CMO’s report distilled so that he or she isn’t overwhelmed with information that he or she isn’t interested in.
Now you have your report, but so what?
If your reports aren’t getting the attention that they deserve, and you’ve already tackled the steps listed above to keep them laser-focused on only the most important analyses and data points, then you should ask yourself this question: “So what?”
No, really — so what?
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.