Reporting Best Practices to Strengthen Client RelationshipsJan 23, 2023
Reporting is a key element of maintaining happy, long-term partnerships with clients. It’s how agencies share results and demonstrate the value their team brings to the table. Reporting is also an excellent tool for teams to evaluate their own performance and adjust strategy and workflow accordingly.
Right now, reporting is more critical than ever–especially for client retention. As experts predict an inevitable economic downturn, clients will evaluate the ROI on every dollar spent more closely than ever. Over the past quarter, we’ve seen agencies experience an uptick in requests from clients for clearer metrics and a stronger reporting cadence to showcase the value that they bring as strategic partners. However, updating and improving your reporting process doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task.
The first step is to identify the areas in your process that need improvement. There are a few common problems that agencies experience when it comes to reporting.
- Reporting is taking too much time. If the team is spending too much time on reporting, it’s taking away from time spent on execution. One of two things happens when reporting takes too much of the allotted time for a client– either more time is spent on execution, ultimately blowing the budget, or the team is unable to deliver the promised results. Team morale will always suffer when reporting takes too much time.
- There is a lack of ownership and accountability. Agencies often know that reports are needed, but don’t assign responsibility for gathering metrics, compiling the report, and delivering it to the client. This causes chaos and confusion.
- The team isn’t bought in. Creative agencies are typically staffed with highly-creative individuals, who can find it incredibly cumbersome to spend time on reports. It’s important for agency leaders to give context to the big picture. This is an important step to get the team bought into the importance of reporting and significantly impacts the quality of the insights and recommendations outlined in reports.
Below, we’re sharing our top recommendations for mitigating these common challenges.
Assign ownership & accountability.
One of the biggest gaps we see in accountability inside agencies is defining who is actually accountable for driving results in order to have a strong report to deliver to clients at the end of the month, quarter, or campaign. As agencies grow, they experience different operational challenges, and when boutique agency owners begin hiring a leadership team, they often don’t clearly offload the ownership of results & reports to newly hired leaders. Reports are just as valuable as results, so it’s imperative that the leadership team not only understands the significance of thoughtful, strategic, and well-executed reporting but understands their role in executing these reports as well.
Establish the right cadence for reporting.
When reporting on a set campaign or project, it’s fairly common to send a report at the end of the project. However, many agencies struggle with the cadence of reporting for retainer clients. Often, monthly reporting can feel too cumbersome and time-consuming, especially for clients with smaller budgets. However, quarterly reporting may leave the client asking what the agency is up to and how things are going--something every agency should always aim to share before being asked.
The right cadence for reporting unfortunately isn’t one size fits all. It will typically be based on the individual client’s needs and the internal operations of the agency team. When an agency decides on a reporting cadence, we urge their team to consider the following.
- How frequently clients want to hear from the agency. Agencies should ask the client what metrics are helpful for them to know for their own internal reporting and when is the optimal time for their team to have those metrics.
- The optimal cadence for the agency team to evaluate their own performance and progress. Strategies don’t always work and often need tweaking and refining. If an agency chooses to report quarterly, that may mean they are continuing to implement a strategy for three months that just isn’t working. It’s essential to decide how often an agency needs to evaluate its own strategies through reporting. The client will always appreciate the honesty and transparency of these insights as well.
Once an agency has established the right cadence for reporting and defined key information to include, consistent workflows and templates can be implemented to streamline the process. This cuts down on time spent reporting and, when done well, provides immense value to clients.
Strategically decide what to include in client reports.
What goes into each client report will depend on how often the client receives them and what information the client values most. However, there are a few key elements to consider when designing client reports.
Data. These are the hard numbers that the agency has gathered based on the activities they have executed for the client. This will vary depending on the services performed but may include things like the number of people who attended an event, the total number of impressions from press mentions, or the click-through rates on a digital campaign. These numbers are concrete examples of what the agency team has accomplished since the last report.
Analysis. This is part of reporting that often gets overlooked. The analysis is an interpretation of the results. It explains what the data means and shows how the agency can continue driving momentum forward. This is something that an agency should do when they have enough data to create a meaningful analysis, often quarterly, yearly, or at the conclusion of a campaign. This information will help inform future strategies and tells the client a story of how the agency partner’s results affect their business.
Visuals. Visual representations of data often make a bigger impact on the client and can be powerful when paired with hard numbers. There are endless opportunities for visuals, so an agency should choose what makes the most impact on all stakeholders within the client’s organization. Further, visuals are often part of reporting that gets forwarded on to a client’s most senior leaders, giving an agency visibility with stakeholders they may not have access to every day. Some examples of visuals include charts showing the data an agency has shared, key success points for sales teams to utilize in presentations, and press clippings.
Shift the team’s mindset on reporting.
Agency teams notoriously dread reporting. A few mindset shifts can impact the way teams view reporting and significantly impact the quality of reports produced.
- Help the client understand how they can repurpose their results. Simply suggesting that the client share a new graphic with their sales team provides immense value to their company, and may not be something they would otherwise think about doing.
- Tell a story with the results to help clients understand what they mean and how they impact their business. People are busy and may look at a set of impressive numbers without really thinking about the impact. Telling this story will help the client see both the value of the agency’s results and strategic thinking.
- Treat reporting like marketing for the agency. When presenting results to clients, agencies are essentially selling their services and establishing a track record of success.
- Don’t treat reporting like a chore. When teams think of reporting as another step in strategic client management, it becomes as essential as campaign execution.
We often see that agencies struggle with client retention not because they aren’t producing results, but because they are failing to communicate those results to the client. Demonstrating agency value through strategic reporting practices is an effective way to fill that gap.