When you’re utterly obsessed with something, it can be difficult to appreciate that not everyone feels the same way. This is equally true for your marketing dashboard. You might be ecstatic that your last post scored hundreds of likes, but that might not mean much to your executive board.

What they really want to know is, what do those likes mean in terms of money in the bank? In other words, what is the true value of your marketing efforts? But when there’s so much information on your dashboard, and all of it seems important, how do you choose what to report?

To help ensure you report on the metrics that count, here are 5 marketing reporting best practices.

1. Know your audience

A report that is just for you and your team will be more nuanced than a report that you’re presenting to your executive team. Therefore, the first marketing reporting question to ask yourself is, “Who is this report for?”

If it’s for your own purposes, you’ll want to delve deeply into every channel you use at least monthly, if not weekly, to assess their effectiveness and inform your future decisions. You might want to know, for example, how many times your blog post was shared on Twitter or what your email open rates were like (though the metrics that are considered important will differ from business to business).

However, this type of information will be too granular for executives who just want to see the big picture.

2. Work backwards

When assembling your report, it can be helpful to start with your company’s objectives and work backwards from there to ensure you cover all the key metrics that show the value you’re contributing to the organisation.

How many new customers are required to meet the monthly revenue target? How many marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) need to be generated to reach that number of conversions? And so on...

In this way, you can work through all the stages of the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration and decision (conversion) – and focus on those metrics that really help you to show how customers are moving through the journey. For example, a key metric that demonstrates awareness would be your monthly website traffic, which can be further broken down by source to show you which marketing channels are the most effective.

It’s a good idea to narrow it down to your really crucial key performance indicators (KPIs) – five to ten is ideal – and focus on these so that you can really tell a story and show how well you’re progressing from month to month.

3. Set SMART goals

So you’ve decided which KPIs you will use to measure your success, and that’s fantastic – but the work doesn’t end there. Once you’ve got your data, the next step is to create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals based on that data. What’s working, and how can you build on that success? What isn’t working, and how can you tweak your strategy to improve your results?

For example, suppose your paid search strategy isn’t quite generating the web traffic you’re looking for. In that case, a goal might be to direct your budget from low-performing keywords to high-performing keywords to get more visibility.

These SMART goals should then be addressed in the following report – were they achieved or not? This helps you track your progress and maintain focus on your strategy.

4. Keep a relentless focus on ROI

According to HubSpot’s State of Marketing report, just over 75% of marketers report on how their campaigns directly influence revenue. Still, only 35% said that understanding their campaigns' return-on-investment (ROI) was very or extremely important.

Nothing proves the value of your activities quite so much as a dollar amount, particularly when it comes to those who are not so familiar with the ins and outs of marketing. A good rule of thumb is: for every $1 spent on marketing activity, there should be a return of at least $4 in the first year following your activity - however, don’t just set this in isolation. Check your operating margins with your C-Suite to find out their requirements, and make sure you also model out the lifetime value of a customer to see that number increase in subsequent years.

Not only does ROI prove marketing’s value to the organisation, but it also serves as another metric to help you refine your strategy. For example, are you spending an excessive amount of time on social media only to find those efforts are not generating high-quality leads? In that case, you may want to redirect your efforts to those channels where you get the most bang for your buck.

5. Rinse and repeat!

When you’re caught up with campaigns, content creation and the myriad of other things that take up a marketer’s time, it can be easy to let reporting fall by the wayside. It’s crucial, however, that you continue to generate reports regularly so that you can keep kicking your marketing goals.

This means ensuring a formal reporting process is part and parcel of your everyday workflow. We recommend generating reports monthly for your higher-ups and at least weekly for yourself and your team (though there are certain metrics you probably want to monitor daily).

These marketing reporting best practices help keep marketing accountable and prove that you’re creating value for the company and you deserve your seat at the table – and once you can prove that, who knows, you may even find your marketing budget gets a bump!

Finally, regular reporting makes annual marketing reporting a snap. And you know what makes it even easier? Our awesome marketing report template and guide, which shows you exactly what you need to include and gives detailed examples that save you time and stress when the reporting period comes.

What are you waiting for? Download the template and guide now!

Originally published on 15 February 2018. Last updated on 13 July 2023.

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