We’ve all been there. A coworker you haven’t seen in a while says, “So what have you been working on lately?” and you respond with, “Oh, you know…same old, same old.” If you’re an inbound marketing manager, that’s not a great response—especially if it’s your boss asking. Of course, that’s a bit of a silly example, but it illustrates a key point about marketing reports: it can be incredibly hard to distill an almost unlimited number of potential metrics into those that matter on a monthly basis.
To help you avoid going down the rabbit hole of endless (and unfortunately, often useless) metrics calculations, I’ve summarized 5 key components below you can stick to for valuable monthly reports.
1) Website Sources & Contact Data
In inbound marketing, your website is your chief lead-generation tool. Your social media, SEO, blogging, and other components of your inbound marketing plan are all aimed at driving people to your site and landing pages, where they will hopefully download your content and identify themselves. That's why it's important to continuously monitor where your traffic is coming from and what sources are driving people who eventually become contacts to your site. On a monthly basis, track the total visits to your site from each source, such as organic, direct, social media, email marketing, PPC, and referrals. Also report on the number of contacts from each source.
A word of caution, there is a lot of terminology in reporting, so be sure to first nail down your definitions and be clear on what you're reporting.
2) Conversions / KPIs
Beyond just reporting who's visiting your site and becoming a contact, most marketing managers need to show what it means in terms of ROI. While it's imporant to do this regularly, we suggest keeping these at a high level for the month to see where you’re at. Don’t spend a ton of time analyzing a dip in total visits or contacts because often a month’s worth of data isn’t enough to base conclusions or drastic adjustments upon. Save that kind of analysis and trend identification for your quarterly deep-dive reports to guide your inbound marketing strategy.
3) Tactical Activity
This is the part of your report that says what marketing activities were completed during the month— i.e. blogs or content published, emails sent out, and social media reach. Of course this is a little selfish for marketing managers' job safety, to show what you did for the month, but let's face it... that's not really what your boss cares about. Rather, this section of the report is primarily to show you're on target from a tactical basis and tie activities to results. It's also to make sure you’re hitting your publishing deadlines, and to do a little bit of performance monitoring in terms of how your new content launched.
For example, in the sample report below, we focus on blogs published & views, advanced content published & whether it's generating form conversions, email open & click rates, and social media trends worth noting for the month.
4) Lead Conversion Reporting
This is especially important if you’re sharing reports with Sales Managers. Generate a list of all leads who converted on forms during the month. Highlight active leads who became sales qualified during the month and make sure the protocols defined in the service level agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing are being followed (this goes both ways!). It is crucial to ensure marketing and sales are working together to nurture leads to sales readiness and then close those sales-ready leads.
5) Visual Indicators for Context
I don't know about you, but often times, reports full of numbers leave me thinking, "So what? Is that good, bad, or ugly?" In an age when data visualization is all the rage, I don't think you need to go so far as to create dozens of fancy graphs or infographics. But you can certainly use some simple visual cues such as red/green/yellow icons to tell your report's story. This is especially important for reporting to C-suite or high-level VPs of marketing who just want to know that the marketing is on track in terms of business goals, and that their marketing dollars are actually doing something.
Reporting can be onerous, but it doesn't have to be. Stick to the 5 key components above in your inbound marketing reports and not only will it free up more time for actual marketing activities, your audience will appreciate that you're not wasting their time, too. And on top of it, you'll be focusing your efforts where they're most needed heading into the next month.