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How To Use Automated Reporting Tools: 8 Tips To Create Actionable Insights 

By Team Swydo
4 August 2023

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to client reporting. Forget the silver bullet that will magically make your reporting efforts disappear. However, you can simplify them and save tons of time. How? By using automated reporting tools.

But these are only useful if you embrace two basic principles:

  • Different types of clients need different reports.
  • Automated reporting tools are a means to an end: you should use them to create actionable insights that are relevant to your clients.

Let’s first dive into these principles. What do they mean and how can you apply them?

Use a Reporting Tool to Share Relevant Data With Each Client

No two clients are the same. The amount of work you do and the marketing channels you manage influence your use of automated reporting tools, as well as your client reports. Your ultimate goal is, of course, to create actionable insights for every client. And since all clients have their own needs and demands, you’ll have to embrace customization — even if you use report automation. The metrics you share should always fit a particular client’s broader ‘business intelligence picture.’

Small businesses: focus on results

When it comes to hiring online marketing agencies, small businesses tend to have one thing in common: they usually want to outsource their entire digital marketing strategy to an agency. To these types of companies, you’re the marketing expert, and they trust that you do what’s best to help them achieve their goals.

When working with small businesses, keep in mind they’re most interested in two things: results and the budget you’ve spent to achieve these results. Make sure to leave out details and provide the overarching picture. You should also be prepared to substantiate and explain results, as your client may not have a strong marketing background. A glossary (see tip #1 below) often works wonders: it helps clients understand any jargon you use in your client reports.

Enterprise-level organizations: speak the lingo

Enterprise-level companies are a whole different beast. They usually have their own marketing department, so you’ll be dealing with a highly knowledgeable in-house team. In most cases, they’ll ask you to tackle a small part of their process. They might want you to implement an SEO or social media advertising strategy or a PPC campaign.

In such cases, remember the people you work with often have thorough knowledge of your field. They will likely want you to explain the nuts and bolts of your approach. If you speak the same language, don’t fear using lingo. Also, expect to be faced with in-depth strategy-related questions.

Specific line of business: analyze data that matter

If you generate reports using automated reporting tools, your goal is to create valuable insights. You should include business data that matter to the market your client operates in (regardless of the company’s size).

An e-commerce company, for instance, is usually interested in sales figures and return on ad spend. You could also report on the number of items website visitors put into their carts. But when working with a B2B business, you should probably focus on leads or webinar signups.

To take the guesswork out of selecting reporting criteria, ask about a client’s specific needs. And once you get to work with your automated reporting tool, keep their business in mind. You will want to create reports that prove you’re worth the investment!

Create Highly Relevant Insights: 8 Tips

1. Structure your (automated) reports

Although each client report is unique, you can use some general guidelines for creating valuable reports and dashboards.

First, create an overview of 6 to 9 key metrics. Clients are interested in targets and results, so it’s wise to incorporate metrics such as conversion rates. what they mean. Unless you’re dealing with highly skilled marketing experts, never use jargon without telling your client what it means.

Make sure to explain all metrics! Many online marketing agencies assume clients know

Also, visualize data where relevant. As long as you provide an explanation, it’s okay — and in some cases even advisable — to use in-depth charts.

Finally, create a glossary. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But again, most clients are not familiar with marketing lingo. A glossary will make it easy for them to understand your efforts and therefore creates more trust.

2. Discuss your client’s expectations

Report automation can only happen after you’ve sat down with your client to discuss their needs and expectations.

Some clients require a concise KPI overview, while others prefer a comprehensive report including sources and interactive dashboards. Even if you use the best reporting tools in the world, you can only get the most out of them if you know your client’s needs and preferences.

Here’s another reason why it’s important to map out the data your client requires: you can’t draw conclusions regarding their needs solely based on their company size and industry. The reporting process should be tailored to their individual situation.

3. Understand your client’s business

You can only take targeted action based on knowledge. Do your research. Collect marketing data from multiple data sources and analyze it thoroughly. It will help you leverage the advantages of your reporting tool.

As part of managing your client’s account, you should regularly research their market. Read about it, study their competition, and make sure you understand all metrics. This will allow you to get the most out of report automation in general and your data reporting tools in particular.

4. Be aware of seasonality in certain industries

An awareness of seasonality greatly helps you interpret metrics. In the B2B market, for example, business tends to slow down around Christmas. The opposite is true for retail, where December is often the busiest month of the year.

If your B2B client’s metrics are lower than usual in the final two weeks of the year, that’s no problem. But for your retail client, it’s a major red flag. So, make sure you know everything about seasonality!

5. Proactively discuss any anomalies

Suppose you’ve used your reporting tool to provide information on the number of conversions in the past month. Through data visualization, it becomes clear numbers have suddenly dropped from 200 to 120 conversions.

Perhaps a competitor doubled their budget, or Google changed its algorithm. Whatever the reason for this major drop, don’t share the report without providing context, and discuss it with your client. Be proactive and initiate a meeting ASAP.

It’s smart to be on top of KPIs, so you can detect anomalies like these right away. Some reporting tools allow you to monitor your targets and show real-time data, so you can act immediately should deviations occur.

6. Don’t revert to jargon

Remember we said you should create a glossary? Although we stand by that advice, it’s even better to avoid jargon altogether!

Sure, you know everything about business intelligence tools, Google Analytics (tracking code), and Google Data Studio. And terms such as ‘PPC,’ ‘CPC,’ and ‘conversions’ are in your vocabulary. But don’t expect your client to understand them.

Wherever possible, simplify things. Speak their language. And if you have to use a marketing term, explain it. When it comes to communication, I always prefer ‘keep it simple and to the point.’

7. Consider the format

Reports come in different formats. Often, you can opt for the good old PDF. It’s easy to print out, which might come in handy if you schedule in-person meetings with clients to discuss their reports.

If you’ve embraced online collaborations, though, a snapshot might be a better alternative. You can easily share it during virtual meetings, and it helps avoid discussions about changing numbers (since snapshots don’t change).

On the other end of the digital spectrum, there’s the dynamic dashboard. It provides real-time data, so clients get to see the status quo. A major downside is that you might not be able to retrieve data after a while, as it’s only available for a specific period of time. Plus, data can change the second you refresh the screen. If your client doesn’t know much about dashboards, this might lead to discussions.

8. Follow up

Don’t use reporting software as an excuse to fire information at your client. Creating and sharing the report is only half the job. You should stay in touch with your client and follow up on reports you’ve shared. There are several ways to do this: in-person or via phone, email, or (video)chat.

Need a Useful Reporting Tool to Create Effective Client Reports?

If you want to put these 8 tips into practice, Swydo might be just the right reporting tool for you. It’s easy to use, scalable, and flexible.

Curious to see what Swydo can do for you? Request a demo or sign up for a free trial and create your free marketing report in minutes.