Most of our friends living in the marketing world these days know just how complicated the digital age has become, not only for them, but for the all the people they’re trying to reach. You have to get your brand in front of potential customers more times than ever, and in a memorable way, through precisely the right channel, at exactly the right time… probably multiple times… to even have a fighting chance. And by the way, don’t interrupt or try to sell them while you’re doing it.
Back to the Stone Age reference when life was so much simpler… right?
On second thought, maybe not.
Hunting, foraging, gathering and fighting for food and shelter just to survive doesn’t exactly sound like ‘easy street’ either, does it?
At first glance (a.k.a. ‘Google search’), you can easily find marketing report templates everywhere. In seconds you can grab one of a million free formats, read endless blogs advising you on how to set up the ‘ideal report’ – and just about go blind trying to sift through all the options. You can run reports from SEO tools, paid advertising tools (Google Adwords, Facebook, etc.), website analytics (Google analytics, WebTrends, etc.), marketing automation tools, CRM systems, eCommerce platforms and more.
Data is everywhere, and that’s a great thing. But data is everywhere, and that’s also the biggest challenge. Without data, we’re simply lost trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not, and how to remove the subjectivity from our reporting and planning process. Never mind the uncomfortable meetings trying to decipher what’s what for management.
The truth is, your marketing report template should give you just enough data to tell the story (to yourself, clients and/or management), see macro and micro trends clearly, and understand (with confidence) what’s working, and what’s not. It shouldn’t – and doesn’t – need to be every data point and every metric at your disposal. It needs to be focused on a few key metrics that are most critical to your role and/or business.
That said, you should understand the deeper dive data behind the top key metrics and be able answer how other parts of the plan are ultimately impacting the short list of what you need in your template report.
Once you have an initial report template built, save it and replicate it for future use to save time and, as importantly, to compare similar data sets over various time periods.
Sounds so simple, I know. Then you grab the data from just one system, say it’s Google Analytics, and your output report is 13 pages long. That’s just one reporting system. It’s like an encyclopedia of pie charts, tables, trend-lines, Venn diagrams and icons – literally volumes of data that can quickly suck you down into quicksand.
So maybe we should really be looking for ways to simplify the marketing data like they did in the iconic TV series, Mad Men (hence the cave man art image overlay). Here’s what marketers in their day did: they knew (or got to know) their ideal customer better than they knew themselves. They learned, by however means necessary, what made them tick at an emotional, visceral level.
That’s psychology, not data.
Understanding the psychology of why people buy anything is the key. Today’s buyers want to be educated, not sold – but ultimately, they still buy based on emotion. So, why take your marketing report template back to the Stone Age, or Mad Men days, when clearly, marketing was simpler than it is today? Here are 3 compelling reasons to scale it back sooner versus later.
1. Management is busy. Help them focus on the metrics that truly matter.
Most marketers will tell you that brand awareness is key to driving enough visibility to build traffic over time and therefore conversions. Most managers will tell you all that matters are sales.
So, find the marketing metrics that reveal which channels drive the most impressions, clicks and conversions, at the least cost, and work closely with sales when doing so. Remember to test different calls to action to learn which prospects respond to most.
2. Visualization of your data helps simplify the results and see the whole story without getting caught in the weeds.
Yes, it’s still true, a picture is worth a thousand words. Take the short list of key metrics most important to your business and chart them over time periods using a dashboard reporting tool. Select a month, quarter, 6-month or 12-month period, and compare to the same length of time in the previous period. That view will reveal precisely what channels are having the most impact, and those that are under-performing or simply costing too much.
A dashboard (also known as a business intelligence tool or BI software) means you can pull data in from all the systems storing it once, then create an initial report that will ‘refresh’ and automatically update as you go. Big time-saver.
3. Use the Google Multi-Channel Funnel (MCF) report to set expectations that there’s no silver bullet.
It’s easy to forget while swimming in the sea of data that today’s buyers – especially in business to business industries – rarely take a direct, linear path from a single brand exposure (one keyword text ad or a single Facebook post) and go straight to a purchase (unless you’re in the eCommerce and/or consumer industry). They need to see you many times across several channels as they research and consider your product or service.
The MCF report shows the various channel paths visitors to your website took before finally converting into a lead – from organic and paid search, to social media and direct traffic. That information helps you understand the non-linear paths as much as possible, so you can set expectations with your team that there’s no single silver bullet activity that will do all the heavy lifting on your marketing goals.
If you’re still not sure where to start, start simpler and with just a few metrics, such as:
- Impressions – totals by channel, then total over all
- Response / click rate – totals by channel, then total over all
- Cost per conversion – average by channel, compare CPC per channel
Investigate user reviews on dashboard tools and leverage their free trials and offers to find which one is easiest to connect to your data sources, and easiest to build, save and reuse visual reports.