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PPC, PPC reporting, Running an online Agency, SEM, Tips & tricks

The Marketing KPIs Your Client Really Cares About

23 April 2020

As agencies and consultants, we do our best to make sure that our clients see the value in our efforts. Sometimes it may feel like you’re reporting on every metric under the sun but – is that really the best way? Probably not. 

Here’s why: coming from my past experience as an in-house Director of Digital Marketing, I can safely say that (most) clients have a few marketing KPIs that they really care about and the rest are just noise – and the last thing you want to do is distract from your key takeaways. There are some exceptions to the rule and we’ll cover those shortly.  

Without further ado, here are my suggestions for ensuring that your reporting hits the mark!

Understanding Your Clients Goals

The most important part of reporting – and really your client relationship as a whole – is understanding your client’s goals and your role in achieving those goals. Their goals should directly trickle down into the metrics that you optimize toward and those metrics are the very most important ones. Those are the metrics that your reporting should emphasize and focus on because driving those metrics is what ultimately will help your client succeed, and agencies and consultants only succeed when the client is succeeding. 

If the client is an e-comm, that simplifies things a bit because you can track exactly how many sales that you’ve driven, the return and the ROAS. If the client is leadgen, then lead volume and CPL are a good start, but it’s even better if you can report on lead quality, lead-to-sale conversion rates, sale volume, cost per sale and ROAS. These are the KPIs that your client will be asked for internally. I can promise that 99% of marketing directors are never asked about quality score by the C-suite (with the 1% exception possibly being ad tech companies or companies otherwise fully immersed in the digital space) because quality score doesn’t give any insight into whether or not campaigns have had success in supporting organizational goals.

Staying On Point & Keeping Clients Focused

Clients are busy. You are busy. Everybody is busy. If you make your reports too big and cumbersome, you risk that your clients may not spend the time to really review them. If you lead a call to walk through the report but try to cover too much ground, you risk glossing over the things that really matter in effort to try to get through all of it. 

Instead of trying to cram too much in, focus on what really matters and have meaningful conversations around those data points. Your time is valuable, too, and the only thing worse than spending your time reporting on things that don’t matter is running the risk that those unimportant KPIs distract from your key points. As you map out your reports, ask yourself “What’s the Point?” and make sure the answer to that question resonates loud and clear in the delivery of the KPIs.

If you have a rare client that wants to see 100 metrics, it’s best to try to reel that in because it’s important to keep focus. Start by understanding what they hope the outcome of reporting on all of those metrics will be, which will likely help you find a better path to achieving that goal without losing focus on primary marketing KPIs.  

With too many metrics, it can be easy to “miss the forest for the trees”. There are true KPIs and then there are account health metrics. The latter should be used to support your journey toward improving your ultimate KPIs and should never be prioritized above them. Even with good intentions, too much focus on secondary KPIs can lead to mis-prioritization of action items.

Project Or Initiative Based KPIs

And now that I’ve hammered on why you should carefully avoid watering down your reports with too many KPIs that aren’t meaningful, I’ll hit you with the exception.  The exception is when you have a specific initiative or project that you’re working on that might be partially measured by a broader set of KPIs than you normally use. These KPIs could be early indicators or they could be building blocks toward a primary KPI. The project or initiative should still relate to the company’s primary goals, but it might be a one-off experiment or a project outside of your typical routine activities. In which case, it absolutely makes sense to provide an update on that project with those metrics. The best practice is still to find a way to use those numbers to project the impact on primary KPI performance. They should still answer the question “What’s the Point?”

Reporting On Trends

Beyond reporting on your primary KPIs, most clients like to see trends. Trends give context toward a bigger picture that static numbers can’t provide. Hat tip to Swydo for making this so accessible – each marketing KPI and each trending graph makes it really easy to show comparison metrics. Reporting on trends can give insight both into short term gains and losses but also a benchmark for comparisons such as month-over-month and year-over-year, as well as longer-term seasonality trends and the impact of different tactics. Whatever your primary KPIs are, including trending data around those metrics is a good idea.

Sharing Action Items

Last but not least – arguably the most important thing that your client cares about is what you’re going to do with this data. Numbers are only numbers unless they’re shared with some context and directional takeaways. It’s our job as marketers to translate the data into action items to continue to propel the performance onward and upward.

Hopefully these tips will help you to create more impactful reports, increase client satisfaction, and strengthen your client relationships. Want more? Check out these additional tips on improving client retention through your PPC reports.


Amy Bishop has built and implemented multichannel digital strategies for a variety of companies of all sizes from start-ups and small businesses to Fortune 500 and global organizations spanning several industry verticals. Her expertise includes e-commerce, lead generation, and localized site-to-store strategies. Amy recently launched PPC agency Cultivative Marketing. When not working, you can find her speaking at industry events across the US and Europe; writing for Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal; and talking shop on Twitter.