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Client Reporting: How to Demonstrate the Value of Your Services

After you’ve signed a new client to your marketing agency and have all the necessary information to start working on their campaigns, it’s common that the majority of your communication will come through periodic client reporting.

The frequency and format of your reports may vary from client to client, but there’s no question that client reporting is one of the best ways to demonstrate the value of your services. A good client report allows you to clearly highlight all the work you’ve been doing behind the scenes, the results you’ve achieved, and what your plans are going forward.

This means that client reports are not only crucial in retaining clients over the long run, but they also give you an opportunity to present new opportunities to existing clients, and potentially upsell them on additional services.

While client reporting is an essential part of running a successful agency, there are also several common pitfalls that you want to avoid.

In this guide we’re going to break down exactly what to prepare, what to avoid, and what to include in each client report.

The guide is organized as follows:

Let’s get started.

Why Client Reporting is So Important

We mentioned that reporting is important in order to demonstrate the value of your services to clients, although let’s look at the underlying reasons for this in a bit more detail.

A Framework for Regular Interaction

The first reason client reporting is so important is that it provides a framework for regular interaction and client communication. If you’ve ever purchased a service before and then had radio-silence from the service provider, you know that even if they are working hard for you, it doesn’t always feel that way. By clearly establishing a periodic reporting timeframe, for example sending reports every month, you can avoid these awkward client-agency misunderstandings altogether.

Reporting is Your Chance to Educate the Client

As we’ll discuss below, many clients that you’ll encounter are not tech-savvy marketers, which is why they came to you in the first place. While the client is likely not looking for a marketing lesson from you on a day-to-day basis, a client report is the perfect place to educate them on the details and value of the work you’re doing.

Client Reporting Keeps Both Parties Accountable

Another key reason that client reporting is so important is that it keeps both you and your client accountable. As you probably know, oftentimes it is not just the agency who will work on the marketing campaigns, and instead you’ll often need some input from the client. With a client report you can clearly lay out exactly what you need from the client for the next reporting period.

Client Reports Present an Upselling Opportunity

Of course this isn’t always the case, but when it does make sense, client reports are a great place to present new opportunities to your existing clients. This could mean showing them where their competitors are ranking in organic search, resulting in an upsell for SEO services, or any other number of marketing services. In the same vein as educating your client, a client report is the perfect place to highlight the costs and potential benefits of pursuing alternative marketing strategies.

How to Prepare for Client Reporting

As you probably know, before you even start building out the client report, it’s best to have a preparatory process in place. While the details of each client will change, it’s generally recommended to make this a standard operating procedure so that it's repeatable and scalable.

The preparatory client reporting steps that we’ll cover include:

  • Client onboarding questionnaire
  • Identify the KPIs and metrics that matter
  • Choose between dashboard or periodic reporting
  • Determine your reporting frequency
  • Client Onboarding Questionnaire

As discussed in our 6-Step Onboarding Checklist guide, a client onboarding questionnaire is not only a great way to gain a better understanding of your client and their goals, but it’s also a useful way to know exactly what to include in your reports.

If you want to see a full list of questions to ask to improve your client relationships, check out this list of 90 questions from HubSpot, but here are a few that most agencies will benefit from:

  • What are your monthly marketing goals? This is an obvious first question, but it helps you understand what the client’s previous marketing performance and goals were.
  • What values and beliefs define your brand? This is an example of a question that helps you understand your client’s business strategy.
  • Who is your target audience? Do you have a buyer persona for each target customer group? This type of question allows you to better understand the brand’s audience and industry.
  • What made you want to hire our agency? This question allows you to understand their motivation and goals for making a change in their business.

Of course, these are just a few questions to ask your clients and you’ll probably want to ask more, but spending the time to do this can make your client reporting and marketing efforts much more efficient and effective.

Identify KPIs & Metrics

Next, before you start any type of marketing campaign it’s important to know exactly how you’re going to define the success of your performance. Before we continue, here’s an excerpt from our article on the difference between a KPI and a metric:

A business metric is a category of quantifiable data that is relevant to the organization’s standard business processes. One key difference between a KPI and a metric is that metrics don’t need to be tied directly to a strategic objective. A KPI, on the other hand, is a performance metric that is directly related to business objectives. This could be revenue growth, user acquisition, and so on, but the key point is that the KPI is tied to a specific goal.

Of course, the KPIs and metrics you use to measure your marketing efforts will change based on the type of campaign you’re running (i.e. SEO, PPC, email, etc.), but regardless it’s crucial to have these in place before you create a client report. Often, you’ll be able to identify the KPIs and metrics that matter to your clients in the previous step of interviewing the client.

Dashboards vs. Periodic Reporting

The next step in preparing for client reporting is to figure out if you want to use a dashboard reporting solution or send periodic reports. If you choose to go with a dashboard this means the client will have 24/7 access to the marketing data you choose to show them. If you decide you send periodic reports, the client will instead be sent a PDF report that covers the reporting period.

If you want to get a better idea of what each type of report would look like to your client, take a look at our dashboard templates and our report templates.

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It also may be the case that you can simply ask the client which one they prefer in the client onboarding questions, as it’s extremely easy to switch between the two with a reporting software like AgencyAnalytics.

Determine Your Reporting Frequency

Finally, it's key that both you and the client know exactly how often you’re going to be sending them so that you can allocate the appropriate human labor to the client reporting tool. The reason you want to allocate some time each reporting period is that, even if you go with software to automate the report generation process, it’s best practice to provide personalized insights and commentary with each report.

If you choose to go with sending a static report to clients, you can easily provide additional commentary in the Report Summary section at the beginning of the report. If you choose to use dashboard reporting, you can simply add a text widget to add your comments as shown below:

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What to Avoid in Your Client Reports

Now that we’ve discussed why reporting is so important and how to prepare for it, let’s talk about a few things to avoid in your client reports.

Creating Overly Technical Reports

As mentioned, the fact is that many of the clients you’ll encounter don’t necessarily care about the technical details of the campaign. For example, if you’re running an SEO campaign for a client, it may not be wise to use overly technical jargon such as redirects or canonical tags, even if these things are second nature to you.

Instead, the majority of clients want a simple and intuitive report that covers the basics. After that, you can add more information to the report on a case-by-case basis, depending on each individual client’s goals and level of technical expertise.

Aside from a report summary, another useful technique to simplify marketing performance into easy-to-understand format is with data visualization. As you can see below, with a few widgets you can easy communicate a lot of information in a way that anyone can understand:

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Making Reports Too Long

Along the same lines as creating reports that are too technical, making your reports too long is another common mistake to avoid.

You may think that since you’re using automated reporting software, you should include every metric and KPI possible since it doesn’t require any additional effort from you. Instead, the report should be clear and concise and highlight the overall achievements.

This is again where a Report Summary comes in handy. The purpose of your client report isn’t necessarily to show your client everything that happened, instead you want to summarize what you’ve been working on, the results you’ve achieved, and how you’re progressing towards helping the client reach their goals.

Not Automating the Report Generation Process

As we discussed in our guide on Automated Reporting, the labor costs associated with manually tracking data and generating reports each month adds up quickly.

Since you’re likely dealing with multiple data sources and marketing platforms, regardless of the type of campaign you’re running, this is where using reporting software to automatically track data on a daily basis means you can focus on higher value, revenue-generating activities.

The report generation process should instead be a front-end loaded activity where you set everything up for each client initially, and then use a reporting software to replicate the process. That said, as mentioned earlier you don’t want to 100% automate each report, and instead should always take the time to personalize each one. This process of providing your own insights and commentary doesn’t take too much time on your end and goes a long way in terms of adding value and simplifying your clients lives.

What to Include in Each Client Report: Reviewing a Real-World Example

Now that we know what to avoid in client reporting, let’s review a few of the key pieces to include in each client report. While the details of each report will change based on the type of marketing activity you’re doing, the overall concepts will largely remain the same.

To get a better idea of what to include in each client report, let’s look at what’s included in our digital marketing report template. This type of report is a good template to review as it covers a variety of marketing activities including web traffic, conversions, SEO ranking, and paid advertising performance. In particular, the 7 sections that we’ve included in our digital marketing report include:

1. Monthly Summary

We’ve mentioned this several times so far, but it is likely the most important part of the entire report. Since the client may not be very technical when it comes to marketing, this is your chance to write out your analysis of the past month’s performance in plain English. Also, since the report includes data from several different sources, it’s important to provide an overview of the overall changes associated with each platform. As you can see below, the main sections of the report summary include a brief overview, the work done this month, a recap of the targets.

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2. Google Analytics - All Channels

The next section in the digital marketing report template is to track and present how many people are visiting your clients website as a result of your marketing efforts. This is a great place to highlight exactly what efforts are currently working well, and which ones may need some additional effort next month.

In this section you want to include the total number of visitors to the website, and then break down the traffic of each channel including social media, organic search, email, and so on. This is also a useful section to highlight more detailed metrics such as bounce rate, average session duration, etc., which may be an indicator that your marketing efforts are improving user experience of the website.

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3. Google Analytics - Goals

The next section in this template is the number of conversions completed on the website as this is one of the most important KPIs for clients. As you probably know, a “conversion” will often be different for each client, although at this point you’ve likely already identified what that means to each client and have them set up as “Goals” in Google Analytics.

In addition to the total conversions, this section gives you a few more detailed metrics such as conversion rate, goal value (if applicable), as well as conversion metrics for each individual conversion type.

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4. SEO Rankings

If you’re running a more broad digital marketing campaign for your client, it’s likely that you’ve included SEO in the service offering. Tracking changes in a website's SEO rankings is a crucial part of demonstrating the progress of the campaign. In this section, the report displays metrics such as the overall rank changes for each day of the month, as well as the actual rank of the client’s website. Aside from demonstrating the progress of your SEO efforts to clients, this section is a great way to internally identify which areas of the campaign need more focus to achieve the target performance.

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5. Social Media Overview

The Social Media Overview section allows you to aggregate data from multiple platforms into a single section. This gives your client an overall perspective of the engagement on each platform and how it’s changing over time. Engagement is broken down into total followers and total post engagement. In this section you can also track the feeds of each social media platform so that you can show your clients what you’ve been posting for them each month.

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6. PPC Overview

If you’re running paid ads for your clients there’s no question they’re going to want to know exactly how the budget was spent and the results it achieved. The metrics you can include here are completely customizable, although a few common metrics include total ad costs, cost-per-click, conversions, impressions, and more. This section also allows you to track your paid ads across multiple platforms, so it is a great way to demonstrate the overall Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) on your PPC budget.

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7. Email Overview

Finally, although it can often get overlooked for newer forms of digital marketing, email remains an essential part of many businesses' marketing stack. If you’re sending emails for your clients, you want to know exactly how many people are opening them and how effective they are at driving conversions. This includes tracking key email metrics like open rate, click-through-rate, and the change in email subscribers throughout the month.

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While we just covered the sections that we’ve included in our digital marketing report template, keep in mind that if you want to customize any of this you can easily add new widgets to your report with our drag and drop editor.

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Summary: Client Reporting

As we’ve discussed, client reporting is one of the most important parts of running a successful agency.

After you’ve signed a new client and put them through your onboarding process, client reporting is the best framework to regularly communicate the value of your services. Aside from highlighting your achievements each reporting period, reporting is also a useful tool to educate, and potentially upsell your clients on additional services.

Before you start creating a client report, it’s key to have a standard operating procedure that you can follow with each new client so that reporting becomes a repeatable and scalable process.

Also, before you start each report remember that your clients hired you to simplify their lives, so creating overly technical reports that are 50 pages long should generally be avoided.

When you’re finally ready to start creating your client reports, using an all-in-one reporting platform offers several advantages including the ability to track data across multiple platforms, and present that data in the most professional and efficient way possible.

Have any questions about client reporting?

Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Peter Foy

Peter Foy is a content marketer with a focus on SaaS companies. Based in Montreal, QC, when he’s not writing he’s usually studying data science and machine learning, you can learn more about him at mlq.ai.