“Collecting every piece of data that we might possibly need is not actually a system.”

Everyone has been in a meeting with a stack of 48 pages that no one actually wants to read. Or cares about. Everyone is bored, even though the report took days to put together. Even if your marketing team wants to be data-driven.

At Content Jam, a marketing conference in downtown Chicago, Dana DiTomaso of Kick Point asked why?

Why do we do this? Why do we come together once a month (which, as she pointed out, is a completely arbitrary time period) to look at Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations?

As she argued, there are three common reasons:

  • Marketing insecurity. We feel the need to prove that people are getting their money’s worth from the work that we do.
  • Messy data. We can’t always trust our reports. Tools don’t always talk to each other, or measure in different ways. Multi-touch attribution is hard to begin with – it’s even harder to explain to a non-marketer.
  • Piecemeal reporting. We only report on small pieces of a project at a time. SEO talks about rankings, paid talks about paid, content talks about content. No one talks about everything (or what it all means).

When marketers do piecemeal marketing, they say things like “I need a new website” or “I need more blog posts.”

But to do real reporting – and understand the real impact of what you do – marketers have to step away from being “tactics-first.”

Instead, we need to build a system for reporting.

Example: How can a caregiving organization set more measurable goals?

When Dana worked with a caregiving organization to improve their digital marketing, they handed her a “goal” that looked like this.

“Encourage caregivers to identify their needs early on, bring light to their own wellbeing, and provide practical strategies and resources to staying well.”

It’s a worthwhile mission – but how does that mission translate to digital marketing? Based on this goal, what should this caregiving organization focus their digital resources on?

The first step to better reporting is setting more specific, more measurable goals. In this case, Dana advised breaking the above mission into three more measurable objectives.

  • Consuming the content on your website
  • Having a positive experience from website content
  • Engaging with content on social media

With more specific definitions, it’s easier to understand what success looks like. It’s also easier to create a measurement for each objective.

  • Content consumption – a custom metric that measures (approximately) if someone is fully reading/watching the content on your site. Records time on page and scroll to see if people read the whole page.
  • Popup surveys – thumbs up, number ratings, and text boxes can ask people if they’re finding what they need
  • Various metrics specific to social media

Dana followed with a key insight: strong goals help reduce scope creep, because we can ask the question “how does this [new tactic] help us reach [clearly defined goal]?”

Great reports start with the customer journey (not your reporting tool)

“Think about your customer journey from start to finish. How are your tools going to talk to each other to capture each step of that journey?”

Ask yourself: Who do you need to reach?

Dana kicked off this message with a reminder: “You are not your target market. Your competitors are also not the target market.”

If you want to understand what tools you should use and what metrics you should report on, you need to understand what your customers are experiencing!

Where do they start their journey? When do they first hear about you? What happens after that? What do they need to see before they’re willing to become your customer.

Starting from a persona “I am a _____ who wants to ____ so I can ____,” ask what steps that person goes through in their journey – and see where you have measurable moments. (And remember that “not every touchpoint is a ‘branded experience.’”)

Once you have a list of all the important customer touch points, you do what Dana calls “run water through the pipes.”

Go through the journey yourself. Starting from the starting point, try to become your own customer.

When you do this, you can spot moments that lose you business. Ask questions like:

  • Where do you get hung up?
  • What steps increase friction?
  • Where can you make improvements?

Why is all of this important for reporting?

When you know the steps your customers go through while on their customer journey, you can figure out which tools measure each of those steps.

Do people start on social media? Search? Other websites? Are there multiple visits involved? Each starting point is capturable (just not necessarily by the same tool).

“Now you know what tools need to talk to each other.”

There are a lot of specific tools you could use to do something like this. Dana walked through some tips on how to use Google Analytics and Google Data Studio – but was clear that the thinking behind the approach was what makes the use of any one tool successful.

If you’re looking to pull all your reporting information into one place, Google Analytics is the most notable free option. Using Google Analytics Client IDs, you can (anonymously) track what people do across multiple visits to your website.

Once you have that activated, you can pipe the data into a reporting tool like Google Data Studio.

Here are a few of the resources Dana recommended:

Once you know what you’re looking for (by studying the customer journey) it’s much easier to find it.

Conclusion: Some quick tips for reporting

Dana concluded by sharing a few tips on how to make your reports more consumable.

You know you have a good report when “you can tell at a glance that you’re on the right path. You don’t have to be there to explain the report.”

What does that mean?

  • Visuals should speak for themselves – fewer tables, more pretty pictures!
  • Good reports can be used over a long period of time, so you can study things that happened 5+ years ago
  • Good reports answer a specific easily defined question (like the questions from the caregiving organization)
  • It often makes sense to leave data out of your reports – a high-traffic page that you know reaches the wrong personas is just skewing the results of your report. Leave it out.

When you start with the customer journey, you can create reports that prove the effects of marketing – and help you make better marketing decisions.