May 15, 2009

Reporting Is Not An Extreme Sport

You might think the process of sorting through campaign performance data and preparing client reports is a relatively dry job to perform, lacking any sort of big adrenaline rush. Well let me tell you something, you're right. Data crunching isn't one of the most glamorous parts of interactive marketing. Without analytics and reporting, however, there's no way to separate the winning campaigns from the flops.

To make sure the reporting I create satisfies our clients by providing them the insight they need, I keep a few key points in mind to steer my efforts in the right direction. All data points are not created equal. All data is useful but sometimes the data that are gathered are biased, making the gatherers look good, maybe even better that they actually are. We might receive data from a vendor who may spin the data to their own benefit. We always pull data using our own analytics tools. We'll match our results up with a vendor's to make sure any unusual data are identified. When this occurs, some extra investigation is needed to explain the differences.

The clients can always get what they want. Identifying what we report on requires a deep understanding of the client's wants and needs. We know what metrics are important to the client and create reports that offer up the results the client wants to see to help them determine if their campaign is working well or if it is performing below expectations. The report also gives the client the data they need to see whether or not they're getting the best return on their marketing dollars.

The reports need to be easy to understand and look the part of a reliable and reputable data source. We normally run the reports in Excel because of its customization capabilities and ability to control how the reported data looks on the page. Excel gives the finished report a professional sheen and makes it easier for the client to find what they want and understand what it all means.

When it comes to preparing client reports, it's not the journey, it's the destination. The process of creating a report requires careful sifting through and segmenting of data to meet a specific client's reporting needs, data entry and formula calculation to generate what the client needs to see, and preparation to make sure the report addresses the key metrics that are important to the client in a format that they will be able to decipher. There are no thrills, chills, or spills involved, just hard work, attention to numerous details, and a final product that gives the client what they need: results.

(Contributed by Ron Reeves)