If you think reporting is just presenting a bunch of numbers and graphs, you’re mistaken. The art of reporting involves telling the story in the numbers, and we’ve developed a few simple steps to help you present the metrics that truly matter to your client.
Reporting: a word that sends shudders (of excitement 😁) down the spines of marketers all around the world.
With endless resources available on how to pull data into reports (along with the different marketing metrics definitions), it’s hard to know where to begin. Coupled with the sheer volume of data inbound marketers collect, it can be extremely challenging to condense it all into a concise, meaningful presentation.
If you’re a data addict like us, it’s also tempting to report on each and every little piece of data - because they all seem exciting. How do you even know what’s safe to leave out (and what isn’t)?
If you’re struggling to prove your ROI or sitting with 300 slides in your reporting presentations, read on - this one’s for you!
Having trouble proving the ROI of your marketing and sales strategies? We’ll teach you everything we know! Visit our inbound training page to find out more about our inbound training programmes.
The art of reporting: how to build an impactful report
Alison Leishman (Strategic Director) and Jennifer Vieira (Senior Inbound Marketing Strategist and Analyst) share two very important things in common. Both of them love a good old gin and tonic and both of them are passionate about using data to tell incredible stories.
Between the two of them, they’ve come up with a step-by-step guide to help other inbound marketers master the art of reporting.
Without further ado, here’s Alison and Jennifer’s Goals and Triangulation (G&T) reporting model. The G&T reporting model will help you put together a report that clearly communicates your recommendations and addresses your client’s specific needs.
The G&T model: six steps to building a great report
Just like the perfect gin and tonic, a report should follow a basic “recipe”.
You can tweak the recipe and add your own personal touch, creating a unique flavour, but substituting a core ingredient (like replacing your gin with Stroh Rum or your tonic with milk) will compromise your results.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritties of reporting (which will be covered in part two of our reporting series), here’s a basic overview of the six steps to building a great report.
1.Understand the goal of the presentation
Unless you have a clear understanding of the goal of your report, you’re not going to be able to communicate a meaningful story to your client.
Every report has a different set of goals. An annual report, for example, may give a high level overview of your progress toward the goals you set out for the year. Whereas a monthly report may focus on trends that appeared during a particular month, and a weekly report could give a snapshot into the progress toward your monthly goals.
2. Establish what metrics your audience needs
Ask yourself: who am I reporting to and what matters to them? How you present to your CMO will be very different to how you present to your CEO or Sales Director.
Work with your “client” (in this sense even internal personnel are your clients) to establish what metrics matter to them. Every client will have a unique set of requirements when it comes to reporting. The art of reporting, is tailoring your story to suit these unique requirements. This will keep your client engaged, and ensure that they walk away from the report feeling confident making decisions based on your findings and recommendations. If your client needs to send the report to someone else, put a summary of the numbers into a document that they can forward to the necessary parties.
Always use consistent comparisons throughout when tracking data points - don’t jump between, for example, year on year vs. month on month. Also, don’t ever separate marketing and sales - they need to align and talk to each other. However, you’ll need to tailor your message according to your audience.
3. Keep it as short as you can but as long as you need it to be
Only show what’s relevant in your report. If it takes you ten slides to communicate the full story, it takes ten slides - but if you need one or two extra to paint a clearer picture for your client, then don’t limit yourself to ten slides. Strike a balance between keeping your report short and sweet, and covering the important details.
4.Don’t forget your G&T: goals and triangulation theory
Data triangulation is a method of cross verifying information to validate your data and research. This strengthens your report because your data has increased credibility and validity. Data triangulation requires you to analyse multiple data points before making an observation or recommendation.
So, for example, you could compare HubSpot’s data with the data from your Google Analytics account and a HotJar heatmap, to see if the same phenomenon is present in all three tools. If the phenomenon is indeed present in all three tools, you can make your recommendation with confidence.
While you’re gathering your data, keep asking yourself the question: “Does my data illuminate my performance against the goals I set out for myself?” Make sure you keep checking your report against the necessary goals, to ensure that you’re not missing (or adding unnecessarily) any data.
NB: Make sure you report with integrity. Don’t create a story and then try to make the data fit in with that story. The numbers must always direct your story (even if the numbers are bad), and the art lies in how you communicate this to your client.
5. Present in a format that your audience is comfortable with
Not everyone finds a presentation filled with statistics and graphs easy to consume. Find out from your client how they prefer to consume data, and then tailor your presentation to their preferences. This will ensure that they can keep up during the presentation, and don’t drift off into a daydream because they were bored to death or swamped in data.
6.Take into account time available to present
If you’ve only got 15 minutes to present, don’t prepare yourself 75 slides to talk through. This will only make you feel rushed. When you try to rush through a report, there’s a tendency to skip or gloss over important details - and this can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings further down the line.
Tip: Let your audience know that you respect their time by making sure you begin with the most impactful information and recommendations. Once you’ve walked them through the key recommendations, you can begin talking them through the data that led you to these recommendations.
Remember. . . you can always share the hard data afterwards!
If you’re running short of time to get through your report, cover your recommendations first and send your client a follow up email with the data to validate your recommendations - they can go through this if and when they have time.
Journalists have a saying, “don’t bury your lead”, which basically translates to “give the readers the important facts first”. This means that even if the reader drops off after two paragraphs, they’ve got the gist of your story.
The same strategy applies to reporting.
Download the seven steps to successfully building and presenting a report to your clients as a printable checklist, to help you tell great stories with your data.
In part two of our reporting series, we’ll dig into the real art of reporting: how to tell the story in the numbers. With the G&T model in mind, we’ll cover how to set your reporting goals, the basics of triangulation theory, how to integrate the insights from your data into your buyer personas and the buyer’s journey, and finally how to align your marketing and sales goals. Stay tuned!
Check out our handy reporting template, How to consolidate your inbound marketing reporting into 12 slides, to help you put the G&T reporting model into action.