Effective marketing isn’t based on hunches. That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, since we hear all the time about the importance of making data-informed decisions, regardless of what industry you work in.
To make strategic decisions based on data, you need to set a schedule for assessing your data, identifying trends, and making adjustments. A structured marketing report can help with this. What a marketing report looks like will vary based on your projects and what you need to measure, but these basic elements should help you start thinking about what to look for in your data and what to do with that information.
“To make strategic decisions based on data, you need to set a schedule for assessing your data, identifying trends, and making adjustments.”
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Highlight key insights for your audience
Every piece of marketing content has an audience, and that includes marketing reports. Is a report just for an internal team? Will upper management or executives see it? What will they do with this information?
It’s important to highlight key takeaways from your data in a report, especially if it will be shared with a variety of people. Providing a summary page of quick highlights about results and trends sets up the rest of your report. Consider observations like:
- Significant changes in key metrics (e.g. increases/decreases in cost-per-click, click-through-rate, downloads, conversions, etc.).
- How much content you produced or distributed.
- How this period of data relates to your short or long-term goals.
- Any changes in strategy that occurred during this period and how they’re reflected in the data.
- The impact of larger industry trends (e.g. an algorithm change that affected your metrics).
At Bonfire, we always tailor our key insights to the needs of the people who will use the report, whether that’s someone we work with on a regular basis or higher-level management. If you’re building your own reports, we recommend doing the same and thinking about the information your audience needs.
Outline your KPIs for the month/quarter
Key performance indicators are the foundation of any data tracking initiative. They let you measure progress toward your goals (which you should also list in your reports) and quickly get a sense of how things went during a particular period of time.
Which KPIs you track obviously depends on the type of projects you’re doing.
- If you’re advertising in search, you’ll be looking at metrics like cost-per-click (CPC) or click-through-rate (CTR).
- If you’re sharing content on social media during an event, you might track share of voice.
- If you’re gauging the success of a key marketing asset like a white paper or e-book, you may have to dig into website traffic, downloads, and potentially whether this asset can be tied to sales.
Settle on KPIs that make sense for your marketing initiatives. By tracking these KPIs over time, you can see whether anything has changed, which should prompt you to consider what’s impacting your numbers.
What’s the story? Why did this happen?
Tracking KPIs is good, but those numbers alone don’t get to the bottom of what’s actually going on. They tell you what happened, but they don’t tell you why. One of the most important parts of a marketing report is telling the story behind the numbers. At Bonfire, we want our clients to understand what’s driving success or what could be improved, so this is where things get interesting.
It may not be possible to definitively figure out what caused a certain outcome. Many variables are often at play. But you can usually identify correlations that will at the very least give you some ideas about what’s going on. Then you can pay attention to these trends going forward.
These insights can guide future A/B tests—which you should always be conducting—and inform future campaigns. You can also use them to set future goals.
Don’t hide what went wrong
If you’re sharing reports with decision-makers at your company, you might be tempted to tell a positive story. But if the data doesn’t back that up, don’t do it. When a piece of content, a set of ads, or a larger campaign doesn’t perform well, hiding it will never play out to your advantage.
You can learn important lessons when things don’t go according to plan—about your content, your audience, your messaging, the channels you’re using, the time of day you’re sharing content … the list goes on. It’s by digging into this data, gathering insights, trying new things, and pivoting when needed that you’ll improve your marketing performance.
If you’re not sure where to start with marketing reports, what you should be tracking, or what changes to make to your marketing initiatives based on your data, let us know. We can help you start measuring your KPIs and gathering the insights you need for more effective marketing.
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