A key component of any marketing strategy is the tracking of results and reporting back on the performance. Creating effective reports is more important than you may think – the hours you spend analysing data and sifting through the details of the marketing campaign can be a waste if no one reads and understands the report.
A bad report is usually the result of focussing on the wrong goals or measuring the right goals incorrectly. Before you compile the report, understand what the goals are and why you are using the data. The aim is to learn from your performance and make changes where necessary.
Hence an effective report is a vital tool for progress – it will allow you to understand your successes and point out your failures in a clear format. There are a couple of differences between a report and a dashboard, so let’s get those out of the way first:
- Help you make decisions – Once you’ve read a report, it should be clear what the next step should be.
- Answer questions – A report should help you to answer queries such as ‘are our product changes damaging or organic searches?’ or ‘what are the elements that are slowing our site down?’.
- Measure goals over time – A dashboard should tell you if you are on track for reaching your short- and long-term goals.
- Are concise – They should be easy to understand at a quick glance, showing you how your products and website are performing.
Know who the report is for
Before writing a report, you need to know who will be looking at it. Different employees care about different aspects of the business. An SEO manager will be interested in keyword performance whereas a marketing manager is likely to be more concerned with the overall performance of the marketing strategy.
Understand the decision-making level of the reader and focus on their concerns. You can write a couple of different reports for different employees if needs be. This way, the reader will be able to understand the report and act on the findings more appropriately.
The easiest way to make sure your report will be relevant to the reader is to ask them what their core job is. The answer will tell you which data you need to focus on and which data you can ignore for the report.
Making an effective report
Writing an effective report means that the correct decision can be made as a result of the findings. Generally, you should have an idea of what that decision should be, but you need the data to back it up. If you’re creating a report just to investigate something, then you’re wasting your time.
Once you know what the decision should be, you need to know who will make this decision (who the report is intended for). Find the relevant data that relates to this decision and analyse it. You need to ask the following questions once you’ve looked at the data:
- Will this information make me change my mind?
- Can this data be grouped differently to improve the findings?
- How long will it take to add this data to the report?
- Is the data being used to help make a decision, or is it being used to rule something out?
These questions will help you reach a conclusion for each variable factor that you are trying to study. If the report is looking at four variables, apply these questions to each variable and you’ll have four answers that will make decision-making easier.
The best layout for a report
Reports may have slightly different goals, but in general, they should be quite detailed. This often means that reports are quite long and complex, which is fine if they provide some perspective on an issue.
Order findings according to their importance. This way, if someone finds the answer they’re looking for, there will be no need to continue reading irrelevant information.
Break up different metrics into different graphs, and don’t worry about repeating graphs. If a graph is relevant to the topic at hand, use it again to make it easy for the reader to see and understand.
Use a program such as Google Data Studio or Plot.ly to help you with the layout. This tool will break down the report into related topics and will help you keep the same format and color scheme throughout the report.
The purpose of this article is to make you think about the content of your reports and what goals they are trying to achieve, rather than how to make them. Think of the final decision you are aiming to make and pick the relevant metrics to analyse.
Discover the latest trends and tips that shape an ever-evolving digital world.
Mobimeme offers content marketing, SEO, analytics, social media management and expert direction in the digital sphere. Building and growing online audiences for your business is what we do best. Get in touch with us to find out more about our package offerings and how you can improve your website and following.