Marketers have to be both the meteorologist and the weather reporter. You’re not only studying the satellite picture and gathering data behind the scenes, you also have to stand up and tell folks at home whether to expect sunshine or showers. . While the jobs are vastly different, the best marketers know their numbers and effectively report the successes and shortcomings of their marketing campaigns.
Successfully reporting your campaign results to your boss can help justify decisions to adjust spend, shape your tactics and strategies, and measure the return on investment of every advertising dollar spent.
So are you ready to become a better weather reporter? Let’s get started.
Goals win games
The foundational skill of an effective marketer is the ability to ask the right questions — and set up a measurement system that answers them. It all starts with a clear understanding of what you want to achieve.
First, set crystal-clear objectives
You can’t measure performance if you don’t know what you’re aiming for.
Your marketing objectives need to be crystal clear, and flow from the overarching company objectives. These strategic goals normally come from the top and cascade down to each person’s role. In other words, bosses will want to see that what you’re doing in marketing supports the overall direction of the company.
For example, a business goal can be 30% revenue growth for the quarter. A marketing goal would be generating 500 net new leads that results in 10% revenue growth for the quarter.
Set corresponding KPIs
Based on the objectives, set corresponding KPIs that are within your scope.
Start by creating goals that are SMART:
- Specific — be detailed about what is being measured
- Measurable — quantify and utilize numbers
- Achievable — check that it’s actually possible to meet your KPIs, or you’ll be setting yourself up to fail
- Realistic — identify what you can deliver within your budget, timescale and resources
- Time-bound — clarify the start and ending dates
Here are some example KPIs as thought starters:
- Increase organic conversion rate by 1% in Q1
- Improve return on ad spend (ROAS) by 5% month-over-month
- Reduce churn by 5% in Q3 by improving X feature
- Increase daily active users by 10% quarter-over-quarter
Decide on reporting frequency
Now that you have KPIs set in place, let’s talk about timing. How often should you be reporting? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Annually?
Well, it depends, because there’s always a tradeoff.
Reporting is critical when delivering information to your stakeholders, but it takes important resources away from doing the actual work. And some marketing campaigns also require longer time ranges to gather enough data to be significant.
Let’s be honest, daily reporting probably isn’t sustainable — or even particularly useful — unless you’re running a very short campaign. It takes too much time out of your day, for minimal results.
A weekly report to your team can help provide an overview of what they’ve done and accomplished for the week. It can also reveal if there are any barriers or blockages that need to be addressed.
More often than not, monthly reporting provides the best balance. It gives you enough data and time to show month-over-month performance, while also not taking away time out of every week to put together a report.
Quarterly reports can be made to a broader audience —— like your company all-hands, or the executive team who are looking for a high-level overview of performance rather than every little detail of what you’re working on.
Once you’ve decided on a cadence that works for you, move on to gathering the actual data.
Source the numbers
With an endless ocean of numbers to work with, your set KPIs can finally narrow down what you’re looking for. Whether it’s your mobile measurement partner (MMP) dashboard, your customer relationship management (CRM) platform, Google Analytics, or your app measurement software, identify which channels, tools, and platforms you need to pull from.
As the old adage goes, measure twice and cut once. This may be a matter of simple data hygiene, but make sure you’re using the most recent data, correct time frames, and deduplicate as necessary.
Don’t forget to include relevant benchmarks or past data for comparison and context ‒ more on this below.
Connect the dots and tell a story
There’s a reason why you don’t just screenshot your spreadsheet and dump it on a series of slides. Anybody can read numbers ‒ as presenter, your job is to help people make sense of them. So be sure to think about how you can tie in your numbers to tell a story.
Start by thinking about your overarching narrative
Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. To help you shape your narrative, think about who, what, where, when and why.
Who is the hero of the story? What is the timeframe that’s important to this report? What story is actionable, objective, and helpful for the future of the company? What is the before and after?
Answer these questions to come up with one clear narrative that you want to string along throughout your report.
Context is king
Numbers without context are meaningless. Your boss will want to know, “is that good or bad?”
Providing context helps give a quick overview of where you’re at and where you want to go. You don’t have to be like JRR Tolkien, who writes ten pages to describe an inconsequential bush in the distance, but you can pull in internal company news, macroeconomic changes, external benchmarks, industry challenges, and influencers to paint the bigger picture and strengthen your narrative.
Look forward and learn
A strong narrative doesn’t mean an untruthful one. All campaigns have their ups and downs, but don’t be tempted to sugarcoat the facts. Instead of avoiding the negative or falling into your own biases, be sure to keep your report as objective as possible.
A successful report ultimately takes your learnings from your failures and your successes, and looks forward with solutions to reach your ultimate goal. Being transparent builds trust, and also gives you the opportunity to present yourself as a resilient, solution-oriented thinker.
Align outcomes to business goals
Executives rarely care about what you did, only what you achieved. Focus on reporting the results rather than the activities, because that’s what ties marketing to the bottom line.
Where a lot of marketers fall short is not differentiating operational performance data from strategic data. Operational data is flat, and one-dimensional. For example, your app store conversion rate may be 5% for the month of November. With no context, this means nothing.
Strategic data is actionable and tied to outcomes. So instead of pointing to a 5% conversion rate, you can map out a line chart of your conversion rates over time and say, “our app store conversion rate has increased 5% month-over-month for the past six months as a result of our ongoing app store optimization efforts.”
Avoid vanity metrics
An integral part of a focused report is only reporting on the metrics that actually matter. While some vanity metrics may help fluff up your report, they can also dilute it. So avoid vanity metrics like Facebook followers or app users — which don’t actually bring in money — and focus on metrics tied to revenue, like lifetime value (LTV), retention rates, and daily active users (DAU).
It’s always about the audience
Thinking back to our weather reporter for a minute, they typically have just a few minutes at the end of the news to grab your attention and get their message across.
How do they do it? Well, they might start with the national picture, but they’ll quickly zoom in on your part of the map and let you know whether you should plan that barbecue, or pack your umbrella.
The same applies when you present your marketing data. Your audience will expect you to cut to the chase and tell them what they need to know.
Here are a few tips to help you to do just that:
- Start with an overview of what you’re going to present, so you can set expectations.
- Provide less detail as you move higher up the ranks. Executives want to hear about results, while managers may want more information on your processes.
- Keep text to a minimum and let your visuals take the lead.
- Only add visuals, charts, and graphs if they’ve moved the needle on the core business KPIs. And keep the colors consistent — if you have a brand palette, use it!
- Use your personality! You droning on about numbers is not very exciting, and your audience may well be ‘multitasking’ while you’re talking. So keep them engaged and be sure to open up the room for any questions throughout.
Go out and be the weather reporter
With all the new information you’ve just absorbed, you’re ready to go out there and be both the meteorologist and the weather reporter. Here are the most important things you need to walk away with:
- The best reports begin with crystal-clear goals that cascade from the objectives of the company. Think about outcomes, not outputs.
- Tie your KPIs to the organization’s goals. Choose KPIs that are SMART and move the needle of the business forward.
- The best reporting cadence is a consistent one, that enables you to gather significant data without taking away resources from running the business.
- Sourcing the data with effective data hygiene practices is absolutely critical. Gather contextual data (industry reports, benchmarks, etc) to help further your narrative.
- Be transparent and avoid biases. A marketer’s job is not always rosy, but the most important part of a downturn is to be solutions-oriented and present how you will adjust in the future.
- Always put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Tell a compelling story and stick to the things they care about most.