Reporting on your marketing and sales efforts is essential for any business. In order to make informed decisions on which strategies and tactics to run, you need to collect data on what you’re already doing.
Regular reporting not only contributes to planning and strategy, but it also helps keep your entire organization engaged in what your team is doing. Keeping your sales team up-to-date with your current marketing efforts or vice-versa keeps teams aligned and working toward mutual goals.
Still, you can’t just throw data into a presentation and call it a report. It takes thoughtful consideration, planning and follow-up to ensure your reporting efforts are contributing to your growth. I sat down with Guido Bartolacci, Head of Demand Generation at New Breed, to go over some best practices to keep in mind when reporting on your marketing and sales efforts.
Know Your Goals
Before you start reporting, you have to ensure that you have identified the right key performance indicators, leading performance indicators and tactical performance indicators for your business. The North Star metric for any business is likely revenue. Your performance indicators should each align with meeting that North Star metric. If your goal for marketing qualified leads won’t produce the number of customers needed to meet your revenue goal, then your goals are out of alignment.
“The funnel is a good example of this,” says Guido. “At the bottom of the funnel is your revenue goal. The metrics leading up to that goal — the number of customers you need, the number of opportunities you need — those metrics need to enable you to meet your revenue goal.”
To define the right goals for your business and your reporting, they should be measurable, timely and, most importantly, attainable. Referring back to past performance will help you set realistic goals to report on and work toward.
Without these goals or a means to track them in place, your reporting will ultimately fall flat. If you need greater website traffic to generate more leads and you don’t have the means to measure your traffic, you’ll never be able to track your progress or gauge the effectiveness of your tactics.
Finally, understanding your goals and the tactics you’re using to reach those goals will inform the data that you pull and study for your reports. If you’re using new paid advertising methods to generate website traffic, you know to pull data from your new campaigns. Reporting on your tactics will keep your organization informed of your efforts and your team aware of whether or not adjustments need to be made.
One of the most challenging aspects of reporting is that many of your efforts will not generate immediate results. If you’re reporting on a month-to-month basis, it can be difficult to measure how your current tactics are working — or not working — toward your goals.
Knowing your tactics and their time-to-return will help you make more informed decisions and better understand the data you’re pulling. For example, we blog on a daily basis at New Breed, but it can take several months to generate search traffic around those posts.
“The idea behind reporting is to come up with the repeatable processes that are producing results on a regular basis,” says Guido. “Blogging, for example, won’t have an impact on you tomorrow, but it will six months from now."
It’s helpful to understand when results are generated from tactics taking place outside of the reporting period because it enables you to glean which efforts are working on a regular basis and how augmenting or stopping that work can impact your future results.
Identify Patterns and Causation
In the same vein of time-to-return, it’s also important to recognize trends and patterns in your data. Since some tactics don’t always have an immediate, discernible impact, how you take note of data over time can inform how you react.
“Seeing something change, even if it’s a dramatic change, doesn’t mean you should respond to it immediately,” says Guido. “At the very least, you should track that indicator going forward, and if a trend develops, then address it.”
In addition to tracking changes over time, you also want to question why you noticed a particular change, especially if it is significant or developing into a pattern. Reporting is an excellent opportunity to question why things are changing as opposed to coming up with an immediate response.
For example, rather than responding to a sudden dip in website traffic with new tactics, question why that dip is happening in the first place. Any number of factors could influence that figure beyond your efforts. Getting to the root cause will enable you to be more strategic and address problems proactively versus reactively.
Tell a Story
While reporting is a data-driven process, it’s important to tell a story. Why are the numbers the way that they are? What tactics are you implementing that would cause those numbers?
“Just reporting on the numbers alone does very little if there isn’t an output from that afterward,” says Guido. “A great way to look at this is via the maintain, invest and evaluate framework.”
The maintain, invest and evaluate framework is a way of informing your reporting to analyze what you have done, the results it generated and the adjustments you will make. Rather than looking at statistics with reckless abandon, you home in on specific measurables that support and influence your current strategy.
By approaching reporting as an analysis of your tactics, you can frame how you respond to your results in the following ways:
- Maintain: What are the high performing areas of your strategy that are healthy portions of your revenue?
- Invest: Are there areas that represent a small portion of your revenue but present larger opportunities?
- Evaluate: Where are you underperforming in a way that is hurting your overall growth?
Regardless of the framework that you use, a story should always end with a lesson or in this case — a takeaway. Your reporting should have some impact on your strategy. Whether it be identifying the repeatable processes that are generating strong results or adjusting strategies that aren’t working, takeaways are fundamental to making reporting a valuable tool.
Have Proper Context
In order to tell an accurate story and discern clear takeaways from your reporting, you need to have the adequate context associated with the data you’re pulling.
“The only way to figure out takeaways is by doing comparisons either to the goal or to past performances,” says Guido.
Comparing your current results to past performance or your percentage to goal will give you a better idea of whether or not your tactics are having any impact. If you have implemented a new video marketing strategy to increase website traffic, you can’t adequately gauge its effectiveness without showcasing your traffic prior to releasing new video content.
Proper context and framework is particularly important when reporting to other teams or stakeholders. A member of the marketing team that implements tactics on a regular basis may be well informed about past performance and current tactics, but leadership that distributes budget won’t have the same context. Without presenting the right information, they are left to determine why the numbers you’re showing are important on their own.
Make Reporting Repeatable
Reporting shouldn’t be something that changes on a regular basis. In order to implement the best practices we’ve mentioned, you need to be looking at similar data and tracking relevant performance indicators over time.
By making the reporting process repeatable, you enable yourself to effectively track your performance and respond in the appropriate timeframe.
“Reporting consistently and frequently is the best way to ensure that you are tracking toward goals and addressing problems that arise in a timely manner,” says Guido.
That doesn’t mean you have to pull reports on a daily basis, but pulling certain reports with the right frequency can make reporting an effective and repeatable process. For example, doing monthly reports on KPIs and weekly reports on TPIs and LPIs makes things much more manageable.
“If you try to report on everything on a monthly basis, it can be a very time-consuming process,” says Guido. “When you do weekly updates, there’s a lot more context for everyone when they eventually see the monthly report about your high-level goals.”
Weekly updates also enable you to respond to problems that arise in areas that can have immediate impacts — such as overspending on paid search campaigns or insufficient registrants for an upcoming webinar.
It’s important to frame your reporting as a way to evaluate your performance and inform your strategy, rather than just looking at numbers that you think are important.
With that in mind, reporting can add tremendous value to your business if you utilize it as a way to review and adjust your marketing tactics. Without spending time tracking your progress toward your goals and the impact of your tactics, you may find yourself underperforming in areas that are vital to your business’ growth.