Once upon a time, while we were having dinner together, my granny asked me, “so, what is it exactly that you do?”. I smiled, wiped my mouth with the napkin, and… and nothing. I just couldn’t find the right way to explain to her what a marketeer does.
Please understand me here: it is not that I don’t know what markeeters do—after all, I spend a decent amount of time every day doing it. But how could I say it in a way my granny would understand?
“You can give her an example of something you do all the time,” someone might have advised. “Thank you, great idea!” I might have responded.
And then to address her inquiry: “Dearest granny, I do reports.”
Because let’s face it, we marketeers spend a lot of time writing reports. Whether for clients, for top management, for reference, for investors, for colleagues, or just for ourselves—reports make up a big part of what we do. So much so that we might as well be known as “reporteers” rather than “marketeers.”
Performance reports are probably one of the juiciest topics you can throw in during a marketeer after-work chat. And, of course, you’ll get as many answers as marketeers present. We all have learned a little bit by doing, and our unique experiences bring us to different solutions we have come to love and trust.
At GANDT, we often talk about these things (we also love a passionate, beer-accompanied, after-work chat), yet we never reach complete agreement.
Performance Reports: 7 things you should keep in mind
That being said, we are usually able to find some consensus regarding absolute musts in performance reports. Please find our humble little list below:
1. Focus on what’s important
Start by asking yourself: why are you sending this performance report? Yes, I know, we have all sent many reports just because our managers asked us to. Let’s just ignore that for now. The reason why we send performance reports is to communicate what is important. But not everything is important.
Performance reports have a massive power to attract and divert attention from one topic to another. You have to see your report as some sort of spotlight or laser pointer: from all the information overload out there, this is where I want you to focus. So, the first thing you need to know, before anything else, is what you want to focus on and what you don’t. When writing reports, the rule of less is more applies: dumping more and more unrelated information won’t help clarify what matters. Most often, what doesn’t add simply distracts.
2. Tell a meaningful story
The numbers tell a story, and it is the story that matters. Let’s face it: you may be excited by your CPCs dropping following your titanic optimization efforts, but most likely, your stakeholders won’t— they might not even know what CPC is. They care about understanding what’s happening in their business, starting with the big big picture and then maybe (just maybe) digging into the reasons behind it. Your job is to help them complete that story with the information from the marketing side and share the facts and numbers supporting it.
3. Be transparent
At the same time, what matters most to you might not be precisely in line with what your recipients find essential. You don’t want them to wonder why they don’t have visibility on certain metrics. Our advice is to include a little summary of the other most important metrics, enough for your recipients to be able to appreciate the overall context and see beyond your primary areas of focus.
4. Make them understand
Once again: your goal is to communicate. If your reader doesn’t understand you, can you say you have communicated successfully? Ask yourself: who is going to be reading this? You’ll need a very different approach if you’re writing for a fellow marketeer, for a manager who has deep knowledge of marketing, or for someone who knows nothing about what you do. Adapt your vocabulary and make sure you speak their language instead of expecting them to understand yours.
5. Be actionable
“Okay, I gotcha. Now, what?” — if you hear this from your report’s recipients, it is a good sign. It means they understand what you’re trying to communicate and are ready to take the next step. This is opening the stage for you to be a thought leader and plant the seed towards the course of action that you believe would be best. Don’t forget that your stakeholders have their own responsibilities, and they want to know what they can do to help. Be sure to tell them.
6. Be accurate
So obvious that maybe we should not even include it, but likewise SO crucial that it needs to be included: be accurate. Double-check your numbers, and don’t be afraid to let a colleague challenge your conclusions. It’s true that we all make mistakes, and although it’s not the end of the world — it does cost you preciously earned trust. A good final check of your performance reports is always time well invested.
7. Follow up
Marketeers know silence; because silence is what we usually hear right after sending a performance report. That’s not necessarily bad since it’s likely a consequence of a high level of trust in you from your stakeholders. But it is also a missed opportunity to engage them in a conversation on the topics you believe they should be talking and thinking about. So if you hear nothing after sharing your report, it may be a good idea to reach out and suggest a little follow-up call.
The final word on performance reports
Keep your audience in mind, stay relevant and focused, and offer time-bound actions to be taken. They might be our bread and butter, but reports are also one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal. Effective reporting and monitoring are the critical keys for business success, so never underestimate the power of good performance reports!