Why Agencies Should Replace Marketing Reporting with “Insights As a Service”

Author's avatar Agencies UPDATED Apr 6, 2023 PUBLISHED Dec 11, 2017 5 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    When most digital marketers create reports, they focus their energy on summarizing their results from the previous month.

    But, if Charles McKay had followed conventional wisdom like that, he would have never turned Synx into a 1-person Platinum HubSpot Partner Agency with 45 clients (!!)

    Before he started Synx, Charles worked at an IT services business. “Reporting” meant compiling 470 reports in Cognos, and running them over 6 months. By the time the reports were finished, they were useless due to outdated data and lack of insights.

    So, when he started Synx in 2014, he knew that he couldn’t waste his precious time on building reports that wouldn’t offer anything valuable to clients.

    “I never wanted to spend my time as a business creating reports for clients until I could automate the reports and add insights. An agency dashboard looks great, but what the hell does it mean?”

    Charles McKay
    Founder, Synx

    Charles is a little more tech-savvy than your average marketing agency due to his background in IT. He executes projects with a team of developers in India and an inbound services provider called MPULL in South Africa. Many projects involve the complicated deployment of new sales and marketing technology with clients, so project management is very important.

    Here is how he has created processes that allow him to spend all his time on digging for insights in client data rather than building reports.

    Most Marketing Reports From Agencies Are Not Actionable

    Here is the sequence that most digital agencies use for reporting:

    1. Collect data from the entire month across multiple software services
    2. Format it into a Powerpoint report
    3. Present to client so they stay on top of their data

    Before Charles started using automated reporting software, he replaced this process by asking clients to visit the Sources report in HubSpot. It has live data, even if it is a limited amount. It would provide the same level of insight as a typical marketing report.

    “Reports are typically outcome-based. They say ‘These were your numbers from the last month’. You need live information so that you are not always a month behind.”

    Charles McKay

    While reporting is a once-a-month activity for most agency clients, monitoring data using a client dashboard software for insights is a continuous process that does not rely on arbitrary dates.

    How To Start Offering Insights As A Service

    When companies hire Synx, they usually don’t have an understanding of their best sources of leads. They may be generating traffic through multiple channels, with no clear winner. That is why they are hiring an expert!

    Although they will eventually need a full strategy for their marketing, Charles likes to start the relationship with immediate value. “The quick win is never the process of creating documents and developing a strategy. It happens through technology and insights,” says Charles.

    He sets them up with HubSpot Marketing Free and a preliminary set of reports automatically generated through Databox. He can immediately begin digging into their data and provide insights within 2 hours using this business dashboard software. The strategy and ideal personas can come after this preliminary analysis.

    Charles then uses a standardized set of up to 10 automated dashboards to help the client stay on top of their sales and marketing numbers. He will only include up to 10 total, because beyond that number, he knows that he is diluting the focus of the client.

    The client can check their numbers at any time, and when they call him with a specific question about a metric, he can immediately look at the same numbers they’re looking at.

    To deliver the insights, he will either meet clients in person or discuss their KPI dashboards via a screenshare.

    Other Ways of Offering Insights, Not Reports

    At this point, Charles works on marketing strategy and execution on a high level. But in the future, he would like to help individual members of the client’s marketing team become more productive. His previous employer grew steadily from $15 to $120 million in revenue after implementing one KPI per employee across the company.

    If he can help each member of the client’s marketing team become more focused, they should see a jump in revenue. He will use Databox’s Goals to assign SMART goals to individual marketers and track progress for individual KPIs on a daily basis using a marketing dashboard.

    Right now, marketers must wait for someone to assemble their monthly report before they can judge their success. Individual KPIs tighten the feedback loop for every digital marketer. Rather than spending months on a strategy that is not leading to revenue, Charles can create a more granular strategy that will help each individual team member achieve their monthly goals by adjusting their marketing plans in real-time.

    Synx also generates leads from around the world that may not be a good fit for his hands-on, high-touch model, but still could benefit from better data analysis. Charles recently launched a low-cost insights subscription service for these companies. He often finds that marketers do not have a firm grasp on their data, so they put their efforts in the wrong place.

    The standalone insights service will allow him to help marketing leaders that do not need new technology deployment or full strategy, but could use help with making data-driven decisions. Charles can offer this service because he can easily analyze a consistent set of performance dashboards, and then investigate further to provide specific recommendations.

    Become A Better Advisor To Clients

    Most clients have become accustomed to the typical spreadsheet or Powerpoint report. And although you can certainly offer analysis alongside these tools, the hours of data collection and formatting make it time-consuming and therefore expensive . Most agencies estimate that they spend 2-4 hours per client per month compiling reports. And after that, they need to squeeze in the time to identify and type up insights!

    Instead, use business dashboards to eliminate the cut and paste time-suck, and use your newfound time to deliver insights to clients instead.

    PS. Worried that clients will be skeptical about the concept of automated dashboards? Read our guide on positioning  the value of automated reporting.

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    Tamara Omerovic

    Tamara is Content Editorial Manager at Databox. She is an SEO aficionado, a coffee addict, and a huge museum lover! When she's not working or writing, she enjoys visiting an art gallery, drinking her 5th coffee with her friends, or playing video games.

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