First things first: a key performance indicator — or, KPI — is a metric you can use to review your progress toward achieving specific goals. KPIs allow you to monitor performance, assess the impact of your strategy, and make data-driven decisions. (If you want to know more about KPIs, read our 5-minute guide to understanding KPIs and our blog post on 8 essential KPIs you should track.) Well-chosen KPIs are the ‘basic ingredients’ for a good client reporting process — which requires effective KPI dashboards and reports. While KPI dashboards usually consist of 6 to 9 KPIs, KPI reports convey more detailed information: they explain how you’ve achieved results. Before you get started with either (using our mini-guide on reporting KPIs), let’s lay a solid foundation by answering a fundamental question: What should be included in a KPI report?
How KPI reports benefit the agency/client relationship
Imagine this: you’re on board of a ship, surrounded by water. You’re not scared, until you discover the captain doesn’t have a compass or map. No one on the ship has a clue as to where they’re headed. You’re aimlessly floating around, relying on luck. That’s a reason to panic, right?
When entering into long-term collaborations with clients, you embark on a journey. So, you need tools to reach your destination — or, achieve the client’s business and marketing goals. One crucial tool is a KPI report: a document that explains the metrics on your KPI dashboard and contains a detailed analysis of how you’ve achieved specific results.
If you include well-chosen key performance indicators, you can perform effective analyses and identify areas for improvement. By discussing your findings with your client, you can collaborate closely on optimizing your campaigns to achieve the client’s strategic goals.
We recommend that you adopt an iterative approach: create KPI reports at regular intervals and discuss the outcomes with your client, so you can continuously adjust your campaigns where necessary. If you’re the “captain” who stays on course and doesn’t keep their passengers in the dark, they won’t be thrown into a frenzy.
KPI reporting: 4 essentials for building a strong foundation
Before you frantically google terms such as ‘KPI reporting examples’ or ‘financial KPI reporting template,’ let’s discuss the basics. It might be tempting to model your KPI report after the strongest, fanciest looking ones you find on the World Wide Web. But if you copy and paste a template you’ve found on the internet, you’ll skip a crucial step: building a solid foundation based on your client’s goals and needs. Without that foundation, you’ll miss the mark.
So, don’t use a KPI report template that’s worked for someone else in a context different than yours. Just keep it simple for now: start with these four essentials, and you’ll be well on your way toward creating relevant KPI reports.
1. Include data points that align with your client’s business objectives
Here’s a three-word rule when it comes to creating a KPI report: “No vanity metrics!”
All KPI reporting metrics should be useful to your clients. So, sit down with them, discuss their needs, and make sure the KPI data you share align with their goals.
Although each KPI report should be tailored to an individual client’s situation, here are some examples of KPIs that are relevant in the context of digital marketing: revenue, number of leads, conversion rates, CTR stats, and web traffic.
2. Set clear targets to provide context
It might be tempting to include the most impressive (historical) data and data visualization. But only predefined targets make KPI reports important. Without targets, results are irrelevant, as you won’t know if they mean anything in this context.
Suppose you’ve generated 1,000 new leads last month. If your client needed 500 new leads to achieve their goal, that result deserves an applause. But what if the bare minimum was 1,500?
You should be able to interpret the information you include. So before you create a client’s first KPI report, make sure to set clear targets.
3. Opt for the right reporting frequency
A successful KPI reporting strategy consists of more than creating great KPI reports. As mentioned above, you should also set up a KPI dashboard to monitor your campaigns on a daily or weekly basis.
You can use this dashboard as a stepping stone for creating comprehensive weekly, monthly, or quarterly KPI reports — depending on your client’s needs and goals. Always talk to your client to determine the best reporting frequency!
4. Choose the most effective data visualization
A good marketing report contains lots of data. At the same time, the human brain isn’t great at processing rows of numbers and ratios. What to do? Well, two things tend to stick: visuals and stories. So if you use data visualization to tell a comprehensible, engaging story to your client, it’s easier to keep them on board. How to go about it?
Choose the visualization method that best helps convey the types of data you want to share. You should take various aspects into account. Here are a few to consider:
- Make sure your presentation of data isn’t visually misleading
- Use colors strategically and create a legend to explain what each color represents
- Create clear pie charts (pies with 5-9 sections can be easily understood)
- Organize data in a coherent way
Want to explore more options? Read our blog post ‘How to choose the most effective data visualization.’
Checklist for creating relevant key performance indicators
We’ve discussed the importance of picking relevant KPIs. To set you in the right direction, here’s a short checklist. When analyzing your KPI report, make sure you can tick these boxes!
- Does each KPI have an owner — or, someone who’s responsible for taking action if goals aren’t met?
- Does each KPI drive a specific action for improvement?
- Are the KPIs you’ve included in your KPI report clear and easy to understand?
- Have you picked 6 to 9 relevant KPIs (rather than 20 or 30, which will overwhelm your client)?
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