Making sure your agency creates reports with compelling stories that engage your client, and build the relationships that’ll help you upsell the next project is a vital skill. The following ideas are designed to help you do this.
1) Map the reporting onto the clients organisation.
Event a moderately large global corporate has a complex structure. There are multiple regions, and product or service groups. Some of these will have come from past mergers and acquisitions.
So the individuals within the corporate have very different responsibilities and perspectives.
The report that doesn’t help an individual deal with their specific responsibilities is almost bound to be ignored. So the challenge confronting agencies is how to provide the reports that properly address the responsibilities of the roles. Restricting the reporting to a small number of individuals is the wrong answer here. It deprives your agency of one of the most powerful marketing and sales aids it has (see below).
So each report needs to be designed to answer the particular questions a particular role within the corporate has. This is far from simple. It will take considerable effort to discover the people and the roles who should consume information from reports. These roles should not just lie in marketing. They should extend into sales, support, finance and elsewhere – as the corporate seeks to look after the customer throughout the customer journey. Some of the data will come from “front end systems” like Google Analytics. Other data will come from “back end, internal systems” like the payment gateway or CRM system.
This role identification then permits the design of meaningful reports that answer the key questions that confront each roles. You will guess the total programme here isn’t trivial or short. It is likely to stretch over months and provide incremental gains as the scope and the number of stakeholders served by the reporting system increases. However this creates the foundation for transforming the relationship between agency and client. Delivering reports that support a different quality of decision making to a much larger group of people.
But beyond this lies huge opportunity to customise a powerful package to reflect the concerns and opportunities that face your client’s business. The modern global corporate has a complex structure. And the individuals within it have very different responsibilities. The report that doesn’t help an individual deal with their specific responsibilities is almost bound to be ignored. So the challenge confronting agencies is how to provide the properly differentiated reports. Each report designed to suit a particular role within the client organisation. Please don’t assume I think this is simple. I don’t. I think it’s pretty hard. And the average agency would have to expend considerable effort to even discover what all the roles were who could consume information from reports derived from marketing data. The step beyond that into “designing” meaningful reports that answer the key questions that confront those roles isn’t trivial or short. BUT I’ll argue it lays the foundation for transforming the relationship between agency and client. Delivering reports that support a different quality of decision making.
So my suggestion is that agencies explore the opportunities to customise the package, and to create custom reports.
2) Simulate to improve the quality and mitigate the risks of reporting failure.
Agencies commonly find that a new website or radical changes to the existing site are needed. Or that the data gathering just isn’t working properly and radical changes need to be made
Ensuring that the data gathering is tested before go live can dramatically reduce the risks of reporting failure. For instance if go live ends up (perhaps after development delays) being synchronised with a marketing campaigns to hit a seasonal opportunity and the reporting on a shopping cart fails then the business could be flying blind for a period. Unable to judge what’s working or what’s failing because of simple errors in the data gathering and measurement infrastructure.
There isn’t an intrinsic reason why the measurement infrastructure can’t be tested just like the actual usability and facilities of the website would be prior to go live. But because it isn’t economic to do this with human (live) visitors, it needs to be simulated.
But beyond the risk of technical failure lie even more important considerations.
The agency or individual proposing radical changes to correct the data collection and analytics for a big corporate shoulders a considerable political risk. And the customer inside the corporate who decides whether to allow this radical change may decide the personal risk to their career, reputation or prospects is just too high. After all – many people within the corporate may have quietly accepted the existing situation where the “reporting just doesn’t help”. In this circumstance – going out on a limb to win over the currently quiet potential audience; whilst running the risk of upsetting those for whom the current analytics does work is risky.
One could suggest the roles adopted (agency vs client) might appear like that of the prophet and an unwilling prospective follower. “If only the follower would accept the prophets’ message – then the world would naturally become a happier place”. But the prospect is torn between the sales message and fear. What if it all goes wrong. And fear of adverse consequence in a corporate scenario is a powerful motivator.
The answer to both scenarios is a well developed simulation. We use a “robot army” of visitors to prove in the safe “sandbox” that the proposed reporting system works. This enables the sceptical client to satisfy themselves that those advocating change can deliver it. Changes can be made to deal with particular challenges. All of this can be done with no risk. The live infrastructure or reporting regime are left alone until the sceptical client is convinced that the agency is capable of delivering the change successfully and the reporting improvements are worth any disruption. In addition the disruption can be explored and steps put in place to mitigate this.
3) Create reporting that uses the full richness of the web, not just a virtual billboard
Whilst the technology available has advanced dramatically the common online “dashboard” is in a curious timewarp. It often shows
- graphics only
- a single set of pictures to all consumers.
- provides no mechanisms for those consumers to comment or otherwise engage with the “broadcaster”.
This is a bit weird really. There isn’t any audio, or video, and even text seems to be deprecated. So the potential for rich communication amongst the population of agency experts and client stakeholders is strangled almost at birth.
The workaround applied is the regular client meeting. Now this certainly allows the client to provide all sorts of feedback. But this mechanism has downsides.
- time will have to be devoted to just explaining what is being shown.
- those who can’t make the meeting can’t hear the explanation or contribute.
- the follow up doesn’t happen “in context”. It typically relies on email – so the follow up can get submerged amongst a mass of other messages and the link between the follow up and the original information on the reports is weak. And those who aren’t included on the email don’t see it.
Now there are some conspiratorial reasons for restricting the reporting to this limited set of features – but that’s covered in my book (see below for details)….
4) Build an reporting distribution system to build and enhance relationships
The typical relationship between an agency and client relies on a small number contacts from marketing of the corporate. If your agency wants to seriously engage with the client – then it’s worth creating a situation where many more client personnel have a reason to engage with your agency. And that reason has to be real and important.
Many in the corporate have little or no information that can help them predict forward workload. The data gathering systems that the marketing agency uses have some information that could make a serious difference here. The perceptions both that others have of marketing, and that it has of itself will matter here.
If marketing simply views its reponsibility gaining leads to throw over the wall to sales then the scope is much reduced.
If however marketing takes the view that improving the entire customer journey contributes to revenue and profit and have value; then the scope is huge.
The website(s), customer communication and support systems are often facilitated by marketing. Data gathered on usage could be processed into information of value to those within the corporate dealing with post sale customer issues. These aren’t the kind of reports traditionally produced as part of a marketing pack.
5) Using reporting to differentiate your agency
67% of the larger B2B agencies surveyed in the Business Markeitng Club’s B2B Barometer 2018 report wanted to improve the marketing of their agency.
Reporting is normally a contractual obligation. The agency has to do it. But why should your agency accept a tickbox style, hurdle criterion of “will the agency reporting be adequate”? Should that be the limit of amibition for your agency? What about considering how reporting provides a means to differentiate your agency.
As argued above
- your agency could expand the way in which the reporting is experienced by the client to for mutual benefit.
- your agency could expand the type of reporting to provide more expert insight and build closer relationship.
If it did this you could frustrate the efforts of procurement to paint your agency as similar to everyone else.