How marketers can make reporting more useful

Everyone wants “actionable insights,” but most reports don’t go beyond vanity metrics that lead to a “so what?” moment.

Everyone wants “actionable insights,” but most reports don’t go beyond vanity metrics that lead to a “so what?” moment.

Reporting is almost always an afterthought. It’s often delivered simply to tick a box. Everyone wants “actionable insights,” but most reports don’t go beyond vanity metrics, leading to a “so what?” moment.

As a result, reporting has gained something of a negative reputation. The opportunities it can reveal to businesses are being missed.

The root of this problem is because reporting is limited to seeing what has just transpired. There’s pressure to supply a wrap-up report to the client’s boss, and it can get “churned out” with very little thought on how it can be used.

Developing Insights

The term “insights” has become a buzzword and its value has deteriorated as a result. That’s a shame because digital campaigns thrive on the application of insights. Performance improves after analysis provides action points. It’s not the results that provide the insights, but the interpretation of them that leads to actions that are useful.

We know that digital marketing has a huge advantage because of its trackable nature. Just about everything you could wish to discover about a campaign can be measured. But the real advantage comes from being able to interpret the data and articulate it into some form of action. That combination of interpretation and articulation makes the insight.

I encourage anybody who has to carry out reporting to adjust their mind set. The value that good reporting carries far outweighs the negatives related to compiling the report. Done properly, you can positively impact a campaign with the report’s results. However, you need to be careful about what you’re reporting on.

Vanity Metrics

Vanity metrics are called that because they don’t say much. Part of the reason for this is because they’re often taken in isolation. Don’t do that: Metrics work better when they’re combined.

Many metrics are calculated from other metrics anyway, so there’s a good reason to examine them in pairs or more. It boils down to being able to understand the relationship between multiple metrics. If you’re able to look at data in the form of combined metrics, you’ll get much more value out of it, allowing you to pivot your campaign for further success.

For example, a client’s website may receive the majority of its traffic from social media channels, with a smaller percentage coming from organic search engine results. Taken at face value, we might declare that social media is the client’s strongest channel. But if we investigate further, and look at each channel’s bounce rate, we may see a different picture. If the social media traffic has a bounce rate of 90 percent, but organic search has 50 percent, what would you conclude? Conflicting observations are common and to an extent expected; you need to investigate further to really determine which channel is best for the client. In this example, I’d look at how they convert and the budgets invested into both areas before declaring a winner.

Don’t be afraid of analyzing beyond options such as bounce rate and dwell time. Try investigating exit rates, frequency, and return rates to help measure your website engagement.

Next Steps

As soon as you begin to understand the relationships between different metrics and how they can be combined, you can logically put together arguments and actions for next steps. The purpose of reporting includes suggesting ways to alter things to improve the performance of the next campaign, instead of just looking back at the one that’s wrapped up.

Another step is to force yourself to align your observations with actions. Much of the commentary on campaign activity simply translates tables and graphs into words. Being able to interpret data is a necessity, but without an actionable insight the report is incomplete, leading to the aforementioned “so what?” moment.

To avoid this, we at Text100 provide a reporting framework that highlights the observations, recommends an action, and then explains the expected outcome. By doing so, we concentrate on actions that matter.

To summarize, I suggest three steps to making your reporting more useful:

  • Change your mentality towards reporting by placing greater importance on the outcomes instead of the process.
  • Look at your metrics in a more holistic view and understand the relationships that they have with each other.
  • Provide actions for each of your observations, and back your recommendations up by explaining the outcome you expect to see.



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