When companies outsource digital marketing campaigns to your agency, you’re usually aiming for a long-term relationship. Ideally, you’ll gradually understand each other better, which helps achieve goals faster and more efficiently over time. Client reporting is indispensable if you want to create such collaborations.
Why is that the case? What does a client report look like? What information should you include?
In this blog post, we will discuss the nuts and bolts of client reporting and share 5 best practices. These can serve as a guide for online marketing agencies that are serious about client reporting!
What’s a client report and why do marketing agencies need it?
Marketing agencies are external service providers. As a marketing agency, you need to maintain the agency/client relationship. That’s particularly important because you collaborate on an ongoing basis, working toward long-term goals.
Keeping clients informed isn’t a choice, but a must!
Your client trusts you with part of their marketing process – the implementation of their digital marketing strategy. We won’t go as far to say it’s their baby, but it is the foundation that business growth is built on. And that is the reason why most clients have knocked on your door in the first place. They want to expand, venture into unexplored territory, and realize their dreams.
Such goals might up the pressure or seem like an exciting challenge (we hope it’s the latter). Either way, you want to foster your client relationships and strengthen them over time. As a result, you take client communication seriously: you know these types of business relationships require a high level of collaboration, as well as accountability.
That’s why you want to provide regular insight into how you’re spending the client’s budget. It allows you to build trust and stay on course.
One element that’s key to this approach? Discussing results at certain intervals. To ensure you’re constantly on the same page, you should communicate clearly and regularly. Only then you’ll continue to have mutual goals.
How to stay on the same page with clients?
Enter client reporting. In our experience (we used to run a marketing agency ourselves), client reports are indispensable to online marketing agencies. Weekly or monthly reports provide clients with the insights they need and identify points for improvement. On top of that, you can use client reports to show clients you understand their business and spend their budget wisely.
If your marketing efforts haven’t led to the desired results, client reports will also point that out. Don’t fret — that’s a good thing. It’ll help you focus on the right things: if you discover you haven’t achieved a certain goal, you will research the reason behind it.
Perhaps it’s a simple case of seasonality. But you might also discover competition is more intense than you thought, which could spur you to double down on your PPC strategy and social media campaign. That, in turn, might make for a very successful client report next month.
The results of a good client reporting process
Since marketing agencies often enter into long-term business relationships, this recurring client reporting process allows them to adjust their campaign(s) in a timely manner. They’ll stay sharp, strengthen relationships, and achieve their clients’ goals.
Prerequisites for the client reporting process: how to create effective client reports?
As client reporting is a vital part of your collaboration with clients, you will want to create reports that solely contain valuable information. The data you include should spur fruitful conversations and result in improvements where necessary.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at the requirements of good client reporting.
We don’t want to throw around platitudes, but here’s one that’s so applicable we have to mention it: a good start is half the battle.
A thorough intake helps you map out the client’s business goals, USPs, and mission right away. By doing so, you can implement a solid client reporting process once your collaboration takes off: you’ll translate these elements into your marketing process and tailor regular reports to the client.
Each data point you share will mean something to them. You haven’t simply copied information from Google Analytics or Google Search Console and pasted it into a generic report. You’ve discussed their needs and created a client report around them.
It doesn’t stop there. It’s crucial to keep communicating once you’ve started creating client reports. Are the metrics you’ve shared still vital to the client? Do they like the format you’ve picked? You can use their answers to adapt where necessary.
No two client reports are the same. But there are some general guidelines for creating meaningful reports. In our experience, it’s always useful to include the following:
- 6-9 key metrics in one overview (make sure to incorporate targets and results, such as conversions or clicks)
- An explanation of all the actions you’ve taken and will take (don’t assume clients know what you mean!)
- In-depth charts (visualize data where relevant)
- A glossary (again, it’s not self-evident that clients are familiar with marketing jargon)
Yes, you need to tailor client reports to a client’s individual needs. But if you create each report manually, you’ll succumb to the labor-intensiveness of the process at some point. And you’ll likely hinder the growth of your own business.
The solution to this predicament? Templates. Some client reporting tools come with prebuilt templates that will get you started. When time comes to create your first report for a new client, you can pick a template and customize it to a particular client’s needs. Once you’ve adjusted the template, simply save it so you can use it again next week or month.
If your client reporting tool also offers the opportunity to provide context (for example, through a text widget) — well, that’s great! It allows you to explain your decisions to clients.
A client report is not the end goal. Ideally, you’ll use a client report template to create periodic reports (such as a weekly or monthly summary) on your efforts and results. For good client management, though, it’s crucial that online or digital marketing agencies discuss these reports with their clients.
When dealing with a bigger or new client, make sure to schedule a follow-up meeting, either via phone or (video) chat. That way, they can ask you questions, you can elaborate choices you’ve made, and you can discuss whether you should adjust the strategy moving forward.
Smaller clients should at least get the chance to get clarification via email. You can also organize live chats (either through your reporting tool or another application) to answer their report-related questions in real time.
Make your marketing efforts succeed: 5 client reporting best practices
1. Create actionable insights
Client reporting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Different types of clients need different reports.
Small businesses, for example, often consider an online marketing agency as an external expert they can trust. They tend to outsource their entire digital marketing strategy to them. Unlike enterprise-level companies, they usually don’t have their own marketing department.
When working with corporations, however, you will be dealing with an in-house marketing team most of the time. This highly knowledgeable team will likely outsource a small part of their process to you, such as SEO, social media advertising, or Google Ads campaigns.
The amount of work you do and the marketing channels you’re responsible for obviously influence your client reports. Ultimately, you want to create actionable insights for each individual client — and since all clients have their own set of needs and demands, this requires some customization.
- Client reporting for smaller businesses
Whenever you work with small businesses, you may want to provide an overview and avoid incorporating too many details. These clients tend to be most interested in results, as well as the budget you’ve spent to achieve these results. You may have to explain a bit more, as you’re not communicating with fellow marketing experts. A glossary is usually indispensable to these types of client reports.
- Client reporting for enterprise-level organizations
An in-house marketing department has thorough knowledge of your field, so this type of client usually wants you to explain your approach in detail. Since you speak the same language, make sure to explain your decisions to them, and prepare yourself for in-depth strategy-related questions.
- Client reporting for a specific line of business
Regardless of a company’s size, make sure to tailor each client report to the niche your client operates in. An e-commerce company, for example, will likely be interested in sales figures, return on ad spend, and the number of items people put into their carts. B2B businesses, on the other hand, might ask about leads and webinar signups. Ask about a client’s specific business needs and keep these in mind throughout the client reporting process!
Want to receive more tips on creating actionable insights your clients really need? Read our blog post on how to use automated reporting tools.
2. Visualize and track your main metrics
To reflect the performance of your overall marketing strategy, you should create a marketing analytics dashboard. Whether you include information on Google Analytics or broad marketing campaigns, a dashboard provides the overview your client needs.
In this context, it’s important to know the difference between KPI dashboards and KPI reports (to create effective ones, see best practice #4 below).
- KPI dashboards
Certain KPIs reflect the goals you have or haven’t achieved. There are usually 6-9 of these you can best share on a KPI dashboard. Keep in mind this dashboard aims to provide an at-a-glance overview of the main numbers: if clients want to know the story behind them, they should revert to the accompanying KPI report. So, avoid explaining things on the KPI dashboard.
Read how to set up an effective marketing analytics dashboard in 3 steps.
- KPI reports
Clients who want to know the nuts and bolts of each KPI can be referred to the KPI report, which provides insight into what has happened in the past week or month (depending on the frequency of your reports). Here, clients gain insights into how a campaign or strategy has come about and what you’ve done to achieve the results included in the KPI dashboard. Any in-depth information should be incorporated into a KPI report.
3. Share relevant key performance indicators
As a marketing agency, you want to achieve your client’s strategic goals. It’s paramount that you make these goals measurable. Otherwise, how will you be able to check performance against them?
This is where KPIs come in: you can use them to track if you’re—well, still on track (pun intended).
Incidentally, there’s a difference between metrics and KPIs. While metrics are simply figures, KPIs are actionable metrics which you’ve aligned with your business goals. This means KPIs need owners. For when you’re underperforming in a certain area, someone needs to take action.
It’s also important that you always consider results within a certain context. A metric in itself might look impressive, but you can only determine its value based on the objectives you want to achieve.
As a digital marketing agency, it’s your job to regularly share the right KPIs. To create an effective client report, you should carefully pick the KPIs you include. Of course, this varies on a case-by-case basis. But there are a few general elements that make for a strong KPI.
So, let’s discuss the requirements for a useful KPI:
- It’s relevant to your customer (no vanity metrics!)
- You report on it at regular intervals
- It has a clear target
Creating a useful KPI is, of course, easier said than done. So, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Assign an owner to each KPI
- Check if your KPI drives a specific action for improvement
- Make sure your KPI is clear and easy to understand
Want to learn more about sharing relevant KPIs with your customers? Read what should be included in a KPI report
4. Create effective KPI dashboards and reports
We’ve discussed the importance of context. Without it, KPIs don’t mean anything. It’s also crucial to set goals and benchmark against them. This allows you to understand and improve performance. Ultimately, that’s the road to achieving business success.
For example, you may discover that some goals you’ve set aren’t attainable. Perhaps you need to adjust your strategy to achieve them. Or, you should decide to change tack and switch to a different campaign. No matter your decision, you can only make it based on clear, timely insights. So, benchmarking will help you be more effective.
How do you go about it? Usually, an ongoing cycle is most useful. That means you define your goals and set up a dashboard. Once data rolls in, you analyze it. Based on the conclusions you draw, you determine actions for improvement and review everything. You can repeat this entire process endlessly — it’ll help you stay on track and achieve your customers’ objectives.
Are you curious to learn how to set effective goals? And do you want to create effective KPI dashboards and reports? Read our blog post about reporting KPIs
5. Clearly communicate and contextualize data
There’s an information gap between a marketing agency and their client. You need to bridge this gap by clearly communicating and contextualizing data. That way, you create trust and foster the agency/client relationship.
Sharing concrete information with clients is key. For example, you will want to share an increase in traffic, leads, or sales. And it’s paramount that you provide context, explaining what metrics mean in the broader business and marketing landscape. Only then, the client will understand their significance.
The way to do this is by creating an effective marketing report for your client. It’s tangible proof of your efforts and value. You can use a report to show exactly what you’ve done and explain why campaigns did or didn’t perform well. Based on the information you include, you can also make recommendations for next steps.
The question is, how to contextualize your client’s data within the broader business and marketing landscape? Here are a few quick tips:
- Report on appropriate KPIs
Whether a certain KPI is relevant to your client partly depends on their line of business. For example, if they have an e-commerce site, you should be able to show the funnel a customer went through. And your client will probably want to know how many repeat orders were placed.
- Use a flexible reporting tool
Since the metrics you share vary by industry, you need a flexible reporting tool that allows you to include the KPIs relevant to a specific client. You don’t have to use hundreds of data sources to tell your story. So, a tool should offer the opportunity to make deliberate choices on what to include (and what to leave out).
- Keep it simple
You don’t want to confuse your clients! Suppose your client runs an e-commerce store and you want to report on conversions. How will you do that? It depends on your sources, which may include Google Ads, Google Analytics, and the client’s own e-commerce platform. In that case, you’ll probably only want to incorporate your main source. Otherwise, it might get too complex for your client, and they won’t see the forest for the trees.
Want to create effective client reports? Read our quick guide on what to include in a marketing report
Creating client reports that work: avoid these common pitfalls!
Turning client reports into ‘books’
As an online marketing agency, you deem client reporting important. And you’re absolutely right. But when sharing KPIs and explaining results, avoid writing a book.
Remember your clients are dealing with time constraints — there’s a reason why they’ve outsourced their digital marketing campaigns to you. Whether created on a weekly or monthly basis, your regular client reports should be summaries of your strategy. Make sure clients understand lead generation or social media campaigns at the broad level, but don’t educate them as if they’re taking an in-depth marketing course with you. Keep it brief: create 2 to 3 pages rather than 20.
Choosing the wrong client reporting frequency
As described above, an overload of information is not what the average client wants. In addition to ensuring concise client reporting, you should also schedule reports wisely.
For example, you might set up your reporting tool to automatically generate marketing reports every Monday. Of course, this type of planning comes with advantages. But it mostly works for small reports, as clients will have time to read those at said frequency. You might want to consider a mix of short, snapshot reports each week, with a more comprehensive monthly report to provide more in-depth explanations.
Failing to help clients understand important metrics
If you assume clients can digest a condensed overview of 6 to 9 KPIs, think again. We said it before and we’ll say it again: clients need context to understand important metrics. You should provide them with guidance, explaining things that might seem obvious to you.
That way, they’re less likely to misinterpret the numbers and charts you share. Make sure to provide written context — and if necessary, schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the report with your client and answer any questions they have. This is a very effective way of fostering that all-important client/agency relationship.
Want to create client reports that work?
Use these 5 best practices to draft reports that foster long-term agency/client relationships. Curious to see what Swydo can do for you? Request a demo now or sign up for a free trial and create your free marketing report in minutes.