Why most digital marketing reporting stinks

Middle Age Businessman in Suit Smelling Something BadRaise your hand if you are a business leader or business owner who actually reads and understands the marketing reports you receive from your digital marketing team.
If you put your hand up, you are a rare breed. That is because most digital marketing reporting stinks!
Many companies take the time to implement marketing automation products for their business. At the very least, we tell clients that they should be mining data from Google Analytics and the back-end of a customized website combined with stats from their email marketing platform and social media data which you can use to build customized reporting.
But most marketing reporting we review is not good. Much like business reporting in general. Even after implementing an expensive reporting product or tool that usually comes with some kind of dashboard, CEOs, executives and business owners are still not reading reports or relying on the data they are being provided to make decisions about marketing tactics, budget or outcomes to the sales process.


Very simply: data without the intervention of an educated human being to analyze and provide recommendations, is just data.

instead of analytics data to make decisions, we rely onHere is the sad reality:
According to the 2012 MarketingSherpa Marketing Analytics Benchmark Survey, which surveyed 1,131 marketers on the topics of data collection, insights gained, tools used and challenges faced:

  • 42% say they rely on gut instinct to make marketing decisions, not data
  • 46% occasionally gain insights from analytics data
  • Only 35% are adding conversion values past the default settings in an analytics tool
  • Less than 20% are using analytics data to adjust calls to action, copy, offers or value proposition. Basically anything that could used to improve conversion of a website.


No much wonder executives are frustrated. But all is not lost. Here are three simple categories marketing managers must have to start improving digital marketing reporting for business leaders:

1. Insights

are you able to leverage your orgs analyticsFiguring out which data to pull is the first step but merely repeating what the data says holds no value. Once you agree as a company what you are trying to achieve, meaningful pieces of data can be mined every 30 days with valuable insight attached as to why something is improving or declining.
If the primary goal of your website is lead generation, you need to agree as a business which actions on a website are going to be considered part of the lead process. Once you agree that anyone who downloads a brochure and provides a phone number is serious about your product or service, you can analyze data to determine what steps people are taking to get there. If your email campaigns aren’t driving people to download your brochure, then you need to determine what value your email marketing is providing in the education process and start measuring that, not just sends, bounces or open rates.

2. Recommendations for action

how much analytis data does your organization collectThere is nothing that irks me more than when someone states something that is wrong with my website but offers no concrete next step to fix it. We often get people calling or emailing us to tell us we are not ranking on page one for the search term website design. I now find this comical and laugh when I get these calls and emails because even if someone has mined data to determine that my website is not doing well in search engine results, there are three questions I ask as a CEO:

  1. How do you know? (What data are you accessing to determine this to be the case and how is that performing against optimized keywords?)
  2. How is being on page one for the search term “website design” going to improve my business results? (Even if that is the right search term for my business, which is a big, when I get to page one for this term, how will my website perform to convert that traffic into leads and are these leads ones I actually want?)
  3. How will you get me on page one if in fact I should be there? (You better have a good process or I stop listening.)

3. Business Impact

After you provided insight from the data and recommendations for next steps, I need to understand the impact on my business.  Very simply put: if you think improving email open rates is an important objective for the marketing program, then you need to be prepared to explain how that metric will improve business results.  This is where many marketing professionals fall down. They focus on “vanity metrics”. Metrics like website traffic, email open rates or follows on Twitter. But if these metrics are not tied back to business results that can be measured, then they are metrics that end of up wasting your time and money.
Open rates of an email campaign only matter if the open triggers a click through to the website. Once on the website, what call to action did someone take in order for you to gage where they are in the buying process? If I have a list of 1,000 email addresses I mail to twice a month, and my click through rate is 17%, then I have 170 going to my website that are interested in my content. What they do when they hit the website, like download something or increase time on page reading something is what matters to me to get more people into the buying process. If 2% (a decent conversion rate) of the 170 download content and express interest in a topic, share or like a post, I want to know who these people are and I want to track to see if they have the ability to buy from me. Just having a bunch of people download something means nothing if they are not entering the buying process at some point. This is why long term customized analysis is so important.

Rules for better digital marketing reporting

  1. Dashboards created from marketing automation products without meaningful 30 data analysis are useless. Don’t data puke. Provide recommendations for action and include business impact.
  2. When it comes to business impact and your recommendations, make sure you go deeper than vanity metrics and cover the spectrum of the buyer process including acquisition, behaviour and outcomes.
  3. Context is everything. Reporting that resonates with business leaders are specific about targets, benchmarks and testing to deliver context.
  4. The primary purpose of reporting is not to educate, convince or inform: it is to drive action! If your reporting is not driving action it is failing and the primary reason it is not being used.
  5. List the next steps, assign responsibility and prioritize in any report you provide. Data without clarity around next steps is also a big waste of time.

The days of launch it and leave it are over. If you are a business that sells to other businesses and you have a sales cycle longer than 3 months, then you should be mining data from your digital strategy every 30 days and making adjustments to your web presence.
Marketing reporting doesn’t have to stink but it takes time to build meaningful reports that provide insight, recommendations for action and impact on the business. Don’t under estimate the importance of meaningful marketing reporting on your business.
Check out this great presentation Big data Small budget Unlocking the power of Google Analytics for your business presented by Marie Wiese, President and Founder of Marketing CoPilot at A Social Media Marketing Conference on November 27th, 2014.

Lucky for you, we have put together a helpful guide that will help you improve your Digital Marketing Reporting to better report on real business results.

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Marketing CoPilot