As a digital marketing agency, it’s sometimes difficult to explain to clients or even friends what it is we really do. Well, if you had a few hours we could probably explain the vast number of Google ranking signals that affect your keyword rank, how to optimize a paid social campaign over Facebook, and how blog posts factor into your sales funnel.

Alright you’re already falling asleep. Maybe your business doesn’t even have a sales funnel in place or really understand it.

One of the most difficult challenges many marketing agencies face is failing to properly communicate with their clients through the reporting process.

Creating a concise, repeatable reporting process establishes a standardized template that your business objectives are based and scaled upon. But what if I told you there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach and that many agencies don’t even possess a standard reporting process or even a CRM.

Let’s look at the top client reporting mistakes that could be losing your agency valuable leads and long-term revenue.

Lost in Translation

Forget vague phrases, professional terms, jargon or even grandiloquent speech. I mean what even is link juice and should a client even care when I try to sell them a link building package?

The number one client reporting mistake that marketing agencies make is reporting the wrong key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics.

Ultimately, a client report should provide transparency of the marketing process/tactics and an explanation of how their investments are aligning with their overall business objectives.

A standard client report should focus solely on the metrics that impact their revenue growth or return on investment (ROI). This includes leads as they enter the sales funnel and directly impact their revenue growth.

This does not necessarily include organic web traffic, dwell time or bounce rates. A standard client report should include an exact measurement of your client’s ROI. Your agency could leverage e-commerce sales or the website’s conversion ratio to better calculate an ROI if you have no measurement in place.

Report on the increase in blog subscribers, online sign-up forms, sales opportunities and any organic metric directly related to that website’s conversion funnel. On the other hand, if you’re running a PPC campaign then report on available AdWords metrics, such as an account’s ROAS, CPA, and conversion rate- this is important to their bottom line.

Your business should not rely on offline sales figures from your clients to prove your agency’s value. Your agency should leverage analytics software and create a customized process that is repeatable across different clients and provides the most necessary metrics impacting that business’s ROI.

Most importantly, your agency should be able to communicate how your SEO or SEM strategies improved upon last month’s figures.

Wasted Time

Failing to automate and leverage available information technology sounds ironic for a digital marketing agency. Yet, there exists a small percentage of agencies who don’t leverage a CRM nor even an automated reporting system.

What do they use? I’m assuming, but probably Microsoft Excel, manually inserting hours upon hours of endless data (for each client).

A CRM system will increase your business’s ROI by saving you valuable resources, but it can also be used by every member of the digital marketing team, even outside of the outside sales team. This will allow you to focus more time of campaign and account optimization for greater digital marketing results.

On the other hand, some agencies spend too little time on client reporting and simply scrape unrelated data and tables to stuff into a powerpoint presentation. Whenever you provide data in a table or chart it should be accompanied with a general explanation.

Create attractive templates that are branded and could be used for all client reports. You want to provide a unique report that makes your brand stand out from the competition, which is fierce.

On each report provide an executive summary where you present the most important information in the beginning. This makes your report more digestible and a little creative use of headers and formatting could truly highlight the most positive campaign results thus far.

Communication Breakdown 

Failing to keep in touch with clients consistently, as well as providing your agency’s value could result in lost leads. Every client is different and some are content letting you take control of the wheel.

In PPC reporting, we often find that some metrics may communicate different campaign performance than others. For example, client’s may be alarmed of the cost of marketing a PLA across a mobile or tablet device, when in reality they only make up a small portion of the overall distribution strategy.

Such metrics as conversion lag or your attribution model may also mislead client’s into skewed campaign results. It’s important to provide brevity in client reporting and you should consider segmenting your campaign results by categories that directly impact that business’s ad spend.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

While this tip may not be considered actionable, it’s true. There’s no silver lining for each client and sometimes the reporting process will be amended based on that client’s business objectives, vertical, or even personality.

It’s important to maintain a standard reporting document that can be delivered to each client to save on time. But, choosing not to adapt your model to each client’s needs will simply result in losing your clients.

Losing Control

Finally, it’s important to understand that most clients have no understanding of what you’re doing and have a hard time trusting such an esoteric field with a large big investment.

To compliment this sentiment, some clients have been burned by agencies in the past and have a hard time trusting an agency with a big chunk of money. It’s like trusting your savings with an investment advisor who wants to invest in lean hogs that promise a high rate of return in the end.

SEO specialists especially suffer this bias and it’s incredibly difficult to keep telling clients that you will start to see a massive ROI a year down the road. People want immediate returns and only complete long-term investments or speculation in areas they are familiar with.

We’ve found that client management can slowly slip out of control through the reporting process. For example, clients will often suggest keywords and become perturbed when their keywords either aren’t included in the ad spend or perform horribly.

If a client has a recommendation for how you should run your campaign, contrary to best practices, don’t be afraid to say no. Let the results, your testimonials and your character speak for itself. Of course, this requires trust on the client’s part.

Striking a Balance 

Client relations and sales are reserved for a special few. Creating a standardized reporting template that pulls targeted analytics data is a great step toward creating a repeatable reporting process. This will save time and resources that could be better utilized on the digital campaigns themselves.

Always remember, every client is different. Consider taking a personalized approach with some clients and a more professionalized approach itself. Ultimately, the reporting process depends on the fulfillment side itself and there’s no way to spin a bad investment.