Don’t Hide the Negatives
When preparing reports for clients, it’s tempting to only illustrate the positive numbers while burying the less impressive figures. However, you’ll build better long term relationships with clients if you’re willing to call out when numbers are down. When you bring to light negative numbers before your client notices them, it’s a sign of integrity. It also shows that you’re proactively monitoring a campaign. Generally, clients will respect the fact that you’re not ignoring declines, and noticing immediately when a metric is down means that you can begin formulating plans to address ongoing issues.
However, it’s always important to put negative numbers in context. When a client notices that bounce rate has increased by 20%, all they may see is the color red, indicating “bad.” However, when you review the numbers to present in your report, you can call out that the increased bounce rate resulted from the launch of an online advertising campaign pointing to landing pages. Naturally, users are more likely to bounce from single pages when their only choice is to convert or leave; however, a correlating increase in conversion rate may speak to a page’s effectiveness for lead generation.
Help your client look at outside factors that may affect diminished metrics. For instance, a B2B company often sees less activity over the holiday season when people are off from work, and so lower December numbers may be a bummer, but not necessarily be a sign of a problem.
Also, over the duration of a client relationship, you’ll likely make a mistake (or a few mistakes). For example, you may have made an update to their website that caused an analytics code to temporarily drop off the site. Be open about any errors that may affect a client’s data in a report. While your goal would be to not make future mistakes, being up front about what happened and what steps you’ve taken to rectify the issue will help show honesty to your client.
Show Your Work, Not Just Numbers
Remember math class assignments where you were graded not just on getting the right answer but also showing the work that led you to that solution? In the same way, client reports should include more than the final numbers for the month. Proper explanations of metrics helps to set great client reports apart from mediocre ones. While high traffic and conversion numbers may look good, most clients will want to know how your digital marketing work contributed to website results.
If organic search traffic has increased, point to SEO tasks you’ve completed that helped contribute. Talk about how you restructured content, obtained links, or technical errors addressed. If a paid search campaign led to an increase in conversions, talk about how you researched new keywords and launched new ads promoting a first-time customer discount.
Before sending out a report, make a practice of looking through the numbers and seeing which ones directly correlate to your work and which may need further explanation for your client. SEO work in particular may take additional time between implementation and effect. Offering an introduction, while also providing commentary throughout your report to ensure your client fully understands the metrics they’re seeing.
Base Results on Client Goals
At the onset of any digital marketing campaign, you should discuss with your client what they’re trying to achieve. “Getting more traffic” isn’t an end business goal that pays the bills, unless a site thrives purely on traffic-based ad revenue. On the other hand, obtaining 50 qualified leads in three months is a trackable goal that directly ties online efforts to business success.
Once you’ve established the end goal for a campaign, ensure that you correlate your online metrics to your client’s desired final results. Your client will see that you’re not simply running a campaign to show surface numbers but that you’re truly attempting to understand and grow their business. Tracking trends over time is an important part of showing improvements that may not be evident in a month-to-month view and can help in proving long-term value of digital campaigns.
Make sure to explain the metrics in terms that will relate to your client’s potential business goals. You’ll further reinforce trust by ensuring your client that you’re not speaking in vague technical terms but in a way that directly relates to their business. For instance, Sessions or Users correlate to site visitors and potential customers. Conversions correlate to leads. Engagement metrics such as Average Session Duration correlate to brand awareness and retention.
You can take this understanding further by working with your client to evaluate the behaviors of users during sessions, in order to help sort out mediocre leads from truly qualified leads and understand how engagement and prolonged visits may correlate to repeat sessions and brand awareness.
Ultimately, make any effort you can to connect online metrics with data throughout the sales funnel. As you work with your client to measure customer conversion from the point of lead to sale, you’ll become more vested in their business process and in turn increase your value in their eyes.
Provide Access to Analytics and Ad Accounts
While your client’s team may not be experts in digital marketing, you shouldn’t completely gate them out from viewing data. Ensure that they have access to view their website analytics and online ad accounts (note that Google actually frowns on failing to give Analytics and AdWords access to clients). One consistent complaint about poorly-rated digital agencies is a failure to hand over access to accounts created for their clients. In fact, if your agency does not encourage you to view and familiarize yourself with your own analytics, that should be taken as a giant red flag.
The idea that a client’s presence in Analytics, Search Console or AdWords could inadvertently create mistakes is somewhat valid. However, restricting access is not the answer. Instead, keep clients informed on what you’re doing and point out how things they may see as simple changes can actually create discourse between your work and theirs. For example, if a client decides to edit a filter you’ve created without telling you, then the next time you use it the data may be not be what you are expecting.
When clients have full access to analytics and ad accounts, you’re showing that you trust them enough to look directly at website results and ads you’re creating. In turn, they can see the work you’ve put into building campaigns and know that you’re not hiding performance metrics from them.
Of course, you should take the time to educate your client about how to view data and what key reports to view. You’ll also want to alleviate the possibility of your client seeing “false flags” in the data (like our past example of a low bounce rate). Give and take is important in every aspect of the relationship but when it comes to shared analytics constant communication is vital.
Your reports are the key to building trust with your digital marketing clients. As you move into a new year, think about how you can improve your reporting process to improve your client relationships and increase client retention over the next twelve months.
Where can you be more transparent? How can you better show how your work correlates to true results? How can you further relate online stats to offline goals? Make your reports a focus as you review your work for a coming year ahead.