We all know the keys to a strong marketing operation. You need to understand your audience. Create compelling content. Run targeted campaigns. Measure your success. And, of course, you need to report on the results of your efforts. Yet when it comes to reporting, we see plenty of brands struggle to turn their data into useful reporting that can actually help improve a marketing strategy. If you happen to be one of those brands, don’t worry. We’re not here to call you out. Instead, we’re here to show you how to create a strong marketing report that gives you the information and insights you need to get the results you want.
So let’s dive into everything you need to know to create the right reports for your team.
What is a marketing report?
It’s simply a report that shows the current state of your marketing operation, how your marketing is performing across different channels, your progress (as related to your goals), as well as other relevant insights from your data. The goal of every marketing report is to see how your efforts are translating to real-life results—and to identify where you can improve.
Why do you need a marketing report?
A marketing report isn’t an administrative task. It’s one of the best tools you can use to inform your content strategy. For anyone vested in your marketing team’s success, it’s a magic mirror that helps you make smarter decisions grounded in real data.
With a good marketing report, you can…
- Prove ROI. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 63% of marketers struggle to demonstrate content marketing ROI. A good marketing report helps you clearly demonstrate ROI, connect the dots, and identify areas to invest in. Additionally, ROI doesn’t only influence your team’s decisions; it also influences the decisions made about your team. So if you want to solicit more budget, your marketing reports will be the evidence you need.
- Learn what works (and what doesn’t). There is nothing more frustrating than doing work that doesn’t actually generate any results. Conversely, there’s nothing better than seeing your strategy pay off. A marketing report lets you see the direct output of your efforts, helping you clearly and definitively see where you should put your efforts.
- Spot missed opportunities. In marketing, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. You may be so focused on one part of your strategy that you’re missing other opportunities to make a big impact. A marketing report helps you see things you may have otherwise overlooked. For example, you may notice that one group of keywords is hovering just below page one. Instead of trying to rank page one for a brand new keyword, reoptimizing those posts could boost them up and earn you a whole batch of high-ranking keywords. That simple tactic may have a much bigger impact in the long run—but if you don’t take a regular look at your data, you won’t be able to spot those opportunities.
- Provide transparency (for everyone). Communication is one of the hallmarks of a mature marketing operation. Within the marketing department, regular reporting keeps everyone on the same page (literally) and preserves accountability. For people outside of your immediate team, it provides insight and education about the marketing department’s efforts and results at a regular cadence.
BTW, Per CMI, 60% of marketers don’t have a documented content strategy. If you need to get yours on paper, download our content strategy toolkit.
How often should you create a marketing report?
You want to establish a regular cadence to keep your team informed and keep track of your progress over time. Monthly reports are standard practice, but you may want to produce more frequent reports to communicate the results of a particular campaign.
Note: We track our OKRs quarterly, so we also produce quarterly reports to see our progress over time and spot longer-term trends.
What should you include in a marketing report?
A marketing report should include a general overview of the key areas of your marketing operation. While the level of granularity may vary from brand to brand, depending on how sophisticated your marketing operation is, it should include the following key information:
- Strategy overview: A high-level snapshot to catch the reader up to speed and provide relevant context for the information included later in the report. This includes:
- Goals: We prefer the OKR method to set measurable marketing goals.
- Marketing personas: See our guide to create personas if you haven’t created yours.
- Channels: What you are using to reach your personas.
- Additional info: If there is anything especially relevant to note, include it here.
- Highlights page: This is a one-page overview of your successes. To make life easier, we like to include a highlights callout in each subsequent section of the report, and compile all of these callouts on this page.
- Campaigns/Areas of Focus: An overview of your recent efforts, including campaigns you’ve run, projects/tasks completed, etc.
- Analytics: This section is the deep dive into the numbers across your organization. It’s easy to get lost in pages and pages of analytics, and while this is all helpful information, you really want to focus on the content that is most relevant to you and your team. You can edit or add according to your needs. But in general, these are the main areas to focus on:
- Page views (general traffic)
- Unique page views (unique visitors)
- Top landing pages (most popular posts)
- Traffic Channels (traffic source)
- New vs. returning users
- Paid vs. organic
- Conversion rate (your unique goal)
- Page views
- Top posts
- Top categories (or tags)
- Traffic by source
- Referral source (deep dive into referrals)
- Top ranking keywords/pages
- Keyword movement (increases/decreases)
- Goal (per paid campaign)
- Ad spend
- Conversion, such as:
- CTR (click-through rate)
- Cost per Conversion
- Most popular email (as a highlight/callout)
- New Subscribers
- Emails sent
- Sales (for B2C)
- Email open rate
- Email deliverability
- Top converting channels
- Marketing Qualified leads
- Sales Qualified Leads
- Average Customer Acquisition Cost
- Average Opportunity Value
- Lead Conversion Rate
- Close Rate
- Leads by Channel/Source
Again, each brand’s needs are different, so you’ll want to tailor it to your department.
How to Create a Good Marketing Report
Remember: Putting together a marketing report shouldn’t be an annoying task; what you’re creating is a useful tool to help your team (and others) monitor your success. So, as you follow these steps, keep utility front of mind.
1) Create a template.
To make your life easier, create a convenient template that you can replicate. This saves you time and ensures your content is consistent. You can create a template with Google slides, PowerPoint, reporting software, or a design program like Canva. As you layout your template, choose a consistent style for:
Find out more about how good design can improve your marketing report.
2) Gather your data.
We find it helpful to keep a single spreadsheet that includes all of our KPIs (including our report deep dives and other relevant information we want to keep tabs on but may not necessarily include in our report). We do a monthly data dump in this document, then use it to build our reports.
3) Build your story.
The worst marketing report is a pure data dump, full of endless numbers and charts with no context. This approach does a disservice to your team and reader. Instead, you want to walk people through the story that your report is telling, giving them the information and context they need at every stage. (The suggested structure for your marketing report is meant to walk you through the macro and micro view of your efforts.) Some ways to make your report easier to synthesize:
- Use callouts. Callouts are helpful to provide additional context, highlights/summaries, and any relevant information (e.g., trends, exciting wins, etc.).
- Keep it succinct. Be mindful of the amount of information you’re including in your report (again, it’s easy to give people data overload). You don’t want too many numbers (or words), and you want it to be a digestible length.
- Add personality. We hate corporate speak, and we like to remind people that we’re human—not marketing robots. We’ve been known to add a GIF or inside joke here and there to keep things entertaining and interesting.
Pro tip: Instead of boring people with a load of data, we also link to our data sources. If they want to do a deeper dive on their own, they’re welcome to do it. Otherwise, we curate what they really need to know. (Get more tips to turn your report into a compelling story.)
4) Visualize your data.
Data-heavy reports can be tiresome, especially when you’re just listing rows of numbers with no context. So don’t just tell people the story your data is telling—show them. Since our brains are hardwired to process visual content, turning those numbers into clean and clear charts helps people “see” the story more clearly. (For example, a month-over-month traffic increase is much more impressive in a steadily rising bar chart than a column of numbers.)
Visualizing that data makes your report easier to synthesize and, most importantly, retain the information within. (For more tips, find out how to design the most common charts and graphs, and find out more about how data visualizaiton can improve your reporting.)
How to Put Your Marketing Reports to Use
If you’re going to take the time to put together a great marketing report, don’t press send and forget about it. Use that information to improve every part of your marketing machine.
- Look for trends. What content drives the most traffic? What subjects are most popular? What channels are giving you the best ROI? What keywords are doing well? The answers to these questions should guide your decision-making and influence your content strategy going forward.
- Examine your weak points. Knowing your weak points can be just as valuable—if not more valuable—than your strengths. What keywords could use some nurturing? What campaigns flopped? Can you identify commonalities? Do you need to refine messaging? Create more engaging ads on social? Experiment with new formats?
- Turn your reports into content. If you look closely, you can sometimes find unique and interesting insights that make great fodder for content marketing. For example, when we changed our content strategy, we increased leads 78% in 6 months—a story-worthy headline that helped us demonstrate our content marketing expertise. Follow our tips to find the stories in your data, and see how other brands are turning reports into interesting content.
And if you’re struggling with lackluster results month after month, consider bringing in expert help to improve your strategy at every level. If you’re ready to start the hunt, follow our tips to find the right content agency for you or find out what it’s like to work with us. We’d love to help you get real-life results you’re proud to report.