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How to Write Effective Summaries for Your Marketing Reports

Most clients look favorably upon agencies that share regular reports as a means of tracking progress, communicating key metrics, and maintaining a clear relationship.

However, there’s a big difference between sharing just any report and sharing one that provides real value.

While every aspect of a report is important, it all starts with the summary. Not only is it the first thing your client will see, but it also provides them with details of what to expect on the following pages.

With all this in mind, let’s examine what it takes to write an effective report summary.

But First... Do You Really Need a Report Summary?

The answer is a bit complex: it depends. It can depend on factors such as:

  • What the client wants (they may request nothing more than cold hard data)
  • The size of the client
  • The data you need to share

For example, if you have a few small clients, you can fully automate and deliver reports to remove yourself from the process. This saves you from having to write a unique summary with each report.

Conversely, you may find that larger clients require more of your attention. So, not only do you need a report summary, but it’s best to include more information. This can make for a good lead-in, while also showing the client that you’re paying close attention to their account.

If you’re unsure if you need a summary, create a report without one. Does it make sense? Will your client be able to follow along without it?

Length of a Report Summary

You’ve decided that you need a report summary. That’s a good start. Now, it’s time to actually create it.

As you begin to brainstorm, the first question you typically have centers on length. How long should a report summary be?

It’ll vary based on factors such as the services the client has engaged you for, the amount of work completed during the specified period, and how much data you have to share.

Here’s an example from our link building report template:

report summary example

  • Introduction: three sentences
  • Work Done This Month: three bullet points
  • Goals: two bullet points

Don’t hold yourself to this length, but instead include as much information as necessary to summarize the report as a whole.

Keep in mind that this isn’t the place to include all the data that you have to share. For example, the work done this month section will provide a high level overview, with the finer details shared in a following section.

(If you want more report summary examples, be sure to check out our report templates!)

What to Include in the Introduction

This is your opportunity to speak directly with the recipient. Introduce the report, engage them with one or two of your biggest wins, and lead them into what they can expect as they continue reading.

Here’s an example introduction:

Hi Jane,

The past month has been one of our most successful ever in regards to link building. Not only did we continue with the outreach we discussed, but it resulted in authority links from Forbes, Inc, and Business Insider.

In addition to a similar approach for the coming month, we’re also going to turn some of our resources toward creating the how-to guide discussed during our onboarding call. We’ll keep you updated in regards to any assistance we may require while writing it.

In the meantime, please let us know your thoughts on the report and if you have any questions or concerns.

What to Include in Work Completed

Any work completed during the specified time period should show up here. Again, it’s a place to summarize what you’ve done, not to share the exact process or all of your data.

If you have too many bullet points, look for ways to group multiple tasks under the same one.

For example, link building could include:

  • Outreach
  • Number of responses
  • Number of new links

Here’s an example:

Reached out to 50 business publications and blogs, received 10 responses, landed six links.

This will obviously vary depending on what services you're providing to the client. The idea here is to keep it top-level and explain what you've done with vocabulary your client will understand.

What to Include in Goals

This section can include both goals for the specified time period, as well as others you have discussed with your client.

But rather than stop there, share important KPIs that you’re tracking against goals you've set with your client.

Here’s an example:

Reach page one of Google for primary keyword: Current ranking #6, a jump of five spots since the last report.

Goals are one thing, but KPIs are what the client wants to see. Provide the basics in the summary, and then break down the progress later in the report.

Questions Your Summary Should Answer

Your report summary should be concise, informative, and engaging. Get to the point, share key information, and engage the reader to the point of wanting to consume the rest of the report.

Upon completion of writing a report summary, it should answer questions such as:

  • Did you give a succinct update on the status of the client's campaign?
  • Did you update the reader on the work completed?
  • Did you share updates on progress toward your targets and/or goals?

If you can definitively answer yes to these three questions, you have a report summary you can be proud of. But if you can’t, it’s best to review it with the idea of making a few key changes.

Final Thoughts

An effective report typically starts with an effective report summary.

With this information, you will find it easier to write report summaries that provide your clients with everything they need. And when you do that, they’ll have a clear idea of where things stand and what to expect as they make their way through the rest of the report.

Written by Chris Bibey

Chris Bibey is a freelance writer and content marketing consultant based in Pittsburgh, PA. For 10+ years, Chris has provided content creation and marketing services to entrepreneurs, companies, and agencies spanning a variety of industries.