Marketing and sales execs are used to putting together quarterly and annual reports for their board and other stakeholders. The behind-the-scenes data is often a dense tome — most often ignored and the source of many a headache. The summary rollup is quiet a different story. Simple, articulate insights are expunged and are excellent for broad reflections on what worked — or didn’t — over the past quarter or year.
But in today’s fast-paced digital world, marketing teams especially must track, measure, and turn around real-time insights that can inform all the micro-decisions being made on activities in progress. It is the difference between more longer term trends analysis (monthly, quarterly, annually) and metrics-based insights which inform real-time performance forecasts and optimization (daily, weekly).
The need for speed in marketing reporting is greater than ever, because success is heavily dependent on the productivity and efficiency of marketing teams. The digital tools are available and used to distribute highly targeted content to potential customers throughout the buyer’s journey — but if marketers don’t know how content performs, they can’t respond quickly with smart changes. To borrow from Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” In digital marketing, you have to measure content performance and adjust the channel, landing page, social promotion, etc. as needed to ensure maximum impact.
Get Set for Success
Before marketers tell their teams to pick up the pace, they need a solid plan. Start with your team’s goals and work backwards. Determine how many opportunities, leads and visitors must come from each marketing function. Then figure out what KPIs you need to track to understand performance against your goals for each marketing investment. Use monthly and weekly reports, and daily dashboards, to start reporting at speed. See the example of a simple reporting template that helps track key KPI’s weekly against monthly goals below.
The work you do up front will help ensure you don’t waste time later on tasks and reporting that isn’t critical to reaching your goals. “The most valuable results from analytics exercises are often based on complex planning,” writes Alex Edwards, co-founder of the Digital Analytics Association, on ClickZ. “If you plan well, you’ll find yourself much closer to understanding what’s going on and perhaps even be able to improve it. Only good planning can yield results that deliver on the ‘predictive’ and ‘optimization’ promises made in analytics.”
A Report Is Only as Good as Its Data
Another critical component of efficient and effective reporting is ensuring that your metrics are consistently pulled from the same cohort of time or a similar metric across digital campaigns and channels. For example, is it the total leads, total marketing-qualified leads (MQL), total opportunities and won deals during October? Each not respective of the other. Or, rather, is it of the leads created in October, how many converted to MQLs, and then to opportunities, and won deals? The two will calculate differently and — depending on your velocity — one may take longer to show a real picture of what happened. In addition, if you define click differently depending on the campaign or channel, it is harder to compare conversion rates. You want reports to be consistent so that they’re easy to communicate to diverse peers and teammates.
Consistent reporting also makes it easier for you to benchmark your performance versus past results and versus your competition. After a few months of this speedy and accurate reporting, you’ll be much more comfortable making real-time changes and adjustments that enable you to beat plan #’s consistently. Much to the delight of sales.