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Don’t be fooled by stacks of meaningless reports & data. Focus on what matters.

Hate to shout this out loud folks, but it needs to be said: “Your reports suck.”

But surely, you’re the exception. Your agency sends you all the data on a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly basis. And your ad performance is great. (Or at least you think it is.)

Your agency tells you that all sorts of metrics are going up and down in positive ways, so that must be good. Right?

After all, you have stacks of reports with pages and pages of data all outlining how your account is doing. Pages. And pages.

Confused? Lost in the details? I would be. Who has time to read through all those pages? To evaluate and see how these numbers fit in with your overarching goals?

But don’t panic. This can be fixed. I’ll share with you exactly why so many reports suck, whom to blame (because PC-ness aside, pointing fingers is fun), and how you can get back on track.

1. Your reports suck because you can’t quickly see how your account is doing.

For most companies, the goal of a performance report is to have an at-a-glance view to compare and contrast how various channels are performing. That allows you to make quick decisions or CHOOSE not to take an action, based on relevant performance. For example, say you are trying to solve retention issues. Wouldn’t it be great to know which channel is driving the most engagement with your site? Or the channel that’s driving the most efficient cost per lead?

Too often, you can’t see this without spending long hours aggregating data across multiple reports. And even after you’ve done that, how can you be sure that your data is actionable? Is a weekly dip in digital leads and an increase in DRTV sessions really representative of the channels’ performance? NO, it’s not. You need at least a monthly overview, and even then, you’ll need to account for seasonality, environmental changes, etc. All of this is nearly impossible for you to divine unless you are the day-to-day account manager. And I don’t think that’s what you want to do.

“When reviewing your account performance reports, know what metrics to look at AND view them over an impactful time-frame. Making decisions off the wrong or too little data can be detrimental to your business.”

2. It’s your fault for asking for data you don’t need … and your agency’s fault for obliging you.

How did you get in this situation? We as marketers have been conditioned to ask for a lot of data. After all, more data points should yield better decisions. Right? Not when they’re useless metrics. Too often marketers are unsure of the key elements to focus on. Or they dive into data that doesn’t really matter.

Suppose that leads are down and spend is up; logically, that’s bad. And the latest article from [insert your favorite hot marketing trend blog here] says that you can judge a campaign’s performance by only looking at impressions over a certain period. Makes sense, right? The answer: It depends. And if you are basing decisions off the current weekly report you received from your agency, it’s likely that you won’t come to the right conclusion on your own.

So that rotten agency has been lying to you this whole time! It’s their fault, right?! Well, yes…and no.

  • They’ve been giving you accurate data, it’s just not actionable.
  • They’re probably not using weekly trends or impression counts to manage your campaigns.
  • The metrics they’re using to manage your campaigns are probably not going to be useful to you.

They’re giving you what you asked for. But they’re also doing you a disservice by not asking probing questions to determine what you actually need.

If your goals are like most clients, you want to know where to invest your money (aka, what’s working), what tactics are working across channels, and what insights can be shared with other team members.

“You want to invest dollars for the best result & have key insights to share with your team. Is that too much to ask?”

To get what you need, you first need to share your core business goals with your agency. They should be able to identify and give you the data you need to make actionable decisions, as well as recommendations on how it can be used to achieve those goals. This partnership works best when there is transparency on both sides of the relationship. You’re not trying to hold back, it’s just that somehow you both fell out of alignment. Have a dialogue to get back on track.

3. You need less distracting data (and more robust analyses).

It can be overwhelming to imagine what your ideal report should look like going forward. How will it all come together? Does your agency even have the resources to provide this valuable data?

At DMW, our analytics team helps our clients identify and blend the most valuable insights across all channels — on and offline — to give them actionable insights on where to invest their funds, campaign timing, and more.

Your individual agency teams should be working on providing analyses you can leverage to improve performance across your internal teams. For example, a keyword and search term analysis from your agency’s digital team can be used to not only improve your online campaign performance, but influence tactics in other media as well as give insight into how consumers think about your product or service. Wouldn’t that be more useful than seeing arrows on which metrics went up and down week over week?

“Understanding the performance of creative, keywords & other assets in your accounts can often help you make decisions BETTER than random metrics in weekly reports.”

4 Steps to More Meaningful Reports

Sounds great, right? Well, it appears to be working for our clients. Here are four steps you should take to ensure you’re getting the most out of your campaign reports:

  • Ask your agency about upgrading your reports.
  • Share your business objectives and ask if they need more information to give you actionable insights.
  • Listen when they ask probing questions.
  • Challenge whether they are focusing on high-level metrics or ones that will impact your business.

If progress feels too slow, then I humbly suggest you get in touch with us; we’d be happy to talk about your challenges any time.

Getting your reports to not suck isn’t always easy, but it is always worth the effort. The faster you start seeing truly informative and actionable data, the sooner you can start making decisions that improve your company’s bottom line.