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Marketing | Feb 24
Rebecca Reynoso on January 15, 2021 • 17 minute read
Now that 2021 is in full swing, it’s likely your team is wrapping up its latest annual marketing report to go over gains and losses from the last fiscal year.
And even though your team prepares an annual marketing report – well, every year – it’s never a bad thing to go over how to create one and the components that should go into it.
Since marketing is often considered an expendable function in the minds of more numbers-based job functions (ahem, sales), it’s extremely necessary to delineate numbers, facts, and figures in an easy-to-understand report that the non-creatives can comprehend.
To help your marketing team make the most of this year’s annual report, we’ve compiled the following information on how to create a marketing report and what it should consist of to paint a value-adding picture to your organization when it comes to the marketing budget for this fiscal year.
Care to read something specific? Jump ahead at any time:
An annual marketing report communicates the marketing team’s goals, accomplishments, wins, gains, and learnings to the larger organization. In other words, it’s a report that summarizes what the marketing team did over the course of a 12-month period that benefited the organization at large.
Your annual marketing report is a formalized way to communicate with teams outside of marketing (sales, product, research, etc.) and even to highlight what smaller teams within the overall marketing team did for each other that benefited other teams under the marketing umbrella. For instance, this might include what content marketing did to help demand gen, what outreach did to help product marketing, and so on.
It comes to no one’s surprise that managers, both people and project, are primarily responsible for creating and delivering the annual marketing report. In fact, nearly 55% of all marketing reports are prepared by managers, while the remaining reports are prepared by director levels or C-suite executives.
While unsurprising, it’s important to note that though managers and higher-ups are creating the reports, the metrics tracked and goals met are achieved by the entire team, very often individual contributors who are some tiers below management. This means that your annual report is the full marketing team’s responsibility.
Your annual marketing report is important because it:
With this in mind, you might be wondering how to create one for your team. That’s where we come in.
Let’s go over how to create your first marketing report to make it beneficial for your team and simple enough that non-marketing functions understand the metrics you use to track success, your indicators of performance, and more.
Your main goal of creating an annual marketing report is delivering the right information, figures, facts, and projections for the upcoming year to the right people. But before you can deliver those necessary pieces of information, you first need to decide what key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and include.
According to the data below, marketing experts find these four groupings to be the most important metrics to include in an annual marketing report:
More specifically, here are some common marketing metrics teams choose to track (across all subcomponents of the larger marketing department):
Once you’ve decided the core metrics you want to share insight on with the larger organization, break your report down into main focus areas to highlight. We’ll dive into three of these below that our experts focus on for their marketing teams’ annual reports.
The marketing team is responsible for basically everything, but the thing they’re most responsible for is generating leads. Marketing is your lead gen long game, so tracking this metric is a no-brainer.
Andrea Loubier of Mailbird explains how tracking lead generation is of the utmost importance: “Throughout the year, we gather a lot of leads, but when it comes down to it, what really matters is the end result. In other words, we need to see that a good portion of those leads actually convert to sales. By adding this metric to our annual marketing report, we can see which campaigns are working, and where we may need to pivot for the upcoming year.”
Lead generation is just a precursor to sales and revenue. So tracking how many leads convert to customers is number one for marketers and the rest of the organization. This is a must-track component for your annual marketing report.
*Editor’s note: No marketing team is complete without a dashboard for a full overview of your most important marketing functions, including lead generation. When it comes time to compile your annual report, you’ll already have a tool that will help you compile the most relevant inbound funnel information from both HubSpot and Google Analytics.
If content creation is a function of your overall marketing efforts, you’re undoubtedly tracking traffic metrics on everything you publish. But the value of SEO-powered traffic is much deeper than the outward numbers show. Strong SEO efforts mean that a lot of people are reading your content, and you might be able to turn some of those readers into leads – who could eventually turn into customers.
Catriona Jasica of Top Vouchers Code mentions “Traffic demographics are the most important thing that should be included in every annual meeting. If we’re getting junk traffic that doesn’t provide a return on investment, all of the efforts we make so far over the year would simply go to waste.”
While tracking traffic is a given for content marketing efforts, you could be getting a lot of low-quality traffic that behaves as more of an inflated vanity metric rather than something valuable for the long-term.
For example, maybe your team has been publishing a lot of quick win blog posts on hot topics and trends that are time-sensitive and not evergreen. These see a short burst of traffic, then fall to the wayside when they’re no longer relevant. Jasica notes the importance of tracking traffic that actually converts, which Viola Eva of Flow Research Collective elaborates on.
Eva explains: “As we are very focused on SEO, understanding the traffic that actually converts into qualified leads is a very important metric for our end-of-year marketing report. We need to see which of our ranking keywords are actually bringing in more traffic, and then adjust our strategies for the next year accordingly.”
Having top-tier SEO can highlight which keywords your content team should focus on creating content for in the upcoming fiscal year as well as which to avoid. If you notice you’re not ranking for a keyword related to the products and services you offer, you’ll also know where to hyper-focus your SEO efforts over the course of the next year, which you can add as a long-term goal for your team to shoot for.
Your marketing return on investment is an absolutely essential metric that every marketing team pretty much universally would be foolish not to track. ROI is important – so much that Jasz Joseph of SyncShow says it’s the most important metric to include.
Joseph notes: “ROI is the most important thing that should be included in any annual marketing report. For some companies, this means qualified leads delivered. For others, it may mean sales. It is so important to track how much was spent on marketing and how much was made from the results generated by your marketing team. At the end of the day, that matters so much more than sessions, bounce rate, social media engagement, or any other metric.”
This is a bold side to take, but a good one indeed. If you aren’t actually seeing any return on your marketing investments, what’s the point? Spending – and losing – money on unprofitable guest speakers, events, swag, and other nice, but not necessary marketing add-ons is like shooting yourself in the foot.
On top of that, remember that you’re sharing this report with high-level executives, so silly vanity metrics and meaningless numbers that don’t include financial wins or gains mean next to nothing to them. Chris Wilks of BrandExtract notes that “Ultimately, the audience for this report (i.e. executives, board members) wants to know what their investment in marketing yielded. Other metrics can be useful, but the main purpose is to understand how marketing activities impacted the bottom line, so always show ROI.”
You’re doing your marketing team and the entire organization a disservice by spending money if that money isn’t earning anything in return for your team. The phrase it takes money to make money only works if you’re drawing a profit, which is why tracking ROI can’t be optional; it has to be an essential component of your annual marketing report.
*Editor’s note: Something you might also want to use to help you better understand what ROI is good for a company of your size (with your revenue YoY) is using a benchmarking dashboard to track how you’re stacking up against companies in similar positions, regardless of industry. Shown below is a benchmarking dashboard for companies making <$250k in revenue annually.
While every team’s specific needs will differ, here’s a rundown of the 4 core components you should include in your annual marketing report, based on responses from industry experts.
An entire year has passed, and during the past year, you’ve been working toward hitting goals you set up at this same time last year. Now it’s time to show the rest of your organization just what you’ve been doing.
This is a lot of information to include in your report – we know. So take the length of time it will take to put your annual marketing report together from start to finish into consideration as you begin.
Since you’re pulling information from managers in multiple sub-departments of the marketing team, you’re relying on a lot of moving parts working together cohesively to bring the report to fruition.
Most teams (64%) say it takes weeks to prepare the entire report. But that’s just the report preparation itself. Account for the time it will take to receive all deliverables from product marketing, creative, content, and anyone else who has figures to add to the master report.
And while your marketing team might pour their entire heart and soul into the creation and delivery of this report, your executive team is busy and doesn’t have a lot of time to spare.
CJ Xia of Boster Biological Technology explains this perfectly. “As a marketer, I recommend adding a summary of your marketing goals and strategy, and it should be at the forefront of your annual marketing report.
Everyone doesn’t read through the details of your marketing report. This page or page contains useful detail and explains the direction and essential takeaways of your company. You should focus on outlining your annual marketing goals and explaining the strategy employed to achieve them.”
Xia is absolutely right. Imagine being a high-level executive who is tasked with reading 10 reports from every department at the company. If every report exceeds 50+ pages (who knows, maybe people have a lot to say!) – can you really blame them for not having time to read 500+ pages of roundup reports from each team, sub-team, and team member who made valuable contributions?
You’d be hard-pressed to find an exec – let alone anyone – who’d be down with consuming that amount of information and actually retaining it.
In short, make sure there’s a “too long; didn’t read” (TL;DR) version of your marketing report for them to skim over – a summary.
While marketing is an overall function, if you ask 30 people who work in the marketing field, there’s no doubt most of them have different job functions from each other. There’s your content team, your brand designers, your outreach folks, and your friends from product marketing.
Depending on the size of your specific organization, your marketing team might be broken into even smaller groupings.
But from a high-level, executive perspective, there might be no difference between a content marketer and a product marketer in their minds, which is why it’s up to your team to show the KPIs each subteam was responsible for meeting and exceeding. More importantly, you need to bring objectives and a full rundown of completed deliverables each subteam worked on through the past year.
Peter Thaleikis of Bring Your Own Ideas, Ltd. goes into this with more detail: “Marketing is a mix of a little bit of creative work, tracking of results, and persistence. An annual marketing report should mention the projects completed. For each project, the three points mentioned make a great story to tell. Finish each one with a focus on the related KPIs.
If the year went well, the momentum built up over time should show up automatically. A final summary of the results with year-over-year growth of client KPIs helps to showcase the value provided.”
Each sub-team within marketing needs to provide their own metrics, which is how your annual marketing report will be so well-built out. If one team’s focus area surrounds leads generated from social media platforms (probably content marketing), then that should be included in their section of the larger report. Similarly, if click-through rate (CTR) on outreach emails is a metric for your demand gen team, make sure that’s included as well.
Whatever’s important to the smaller puzzle pieces that make up your larger marketing team must be included to ensure everyone has fair reporting and recognition among executives and people in charge.
If you’re a brand new company, you won’t have historical data to track current trends, statistics, and data against. But if you’re here, looking to improve next year’s annual marketing report, you’ve likely been at the marketing thing a while.
That said, what your team’s goals, achievements, failures, and metrics were for last year might be a blip on your radar now because you’re focusing on current, more relevant tracking and deliverables, but executives and stakeholders want to see a “before and after” of some sorts to put last year, the year before, and this year’s projections up against one another. And it’s up to you to deliver.
Ian Wright of Bequests says that YoY performance tracking is – in a word – crucial. Wright suggests teams “Compare the KPIs you measured this year with the previous period to see how you improved. It will also show you where you need more work or which areas dropped in performance.” This is something we’ve discussed: knowing where you faltered will help you succeed in the future.
Your execs need to know this information too. And Andre Oentoro of Milkwhale agrees with Wright on this suggestion. Oentoro notes the most important component is “year-to-year performance reports. It’s a great way to see what your team did right and what could’ve been improved. Along with setting future goals, looking at past achievements can help you plan for the year much more effectively.”
We live and we learn, right? Maybe the virtual event you meticulously planned didn’t turn around as much revenue or as many leads as you thought it would. Maybe the latest design tool you expensed for your creative team was a bust, not user-friendly, and overly expensive.
Whatever the problem(s) were, now is the time to address what went wrong – and more importantly – how you fix(ed) what happened to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Jason Hawkins of Advertising for Surgeons emphasizes the importance of covering opportunities for improvement. Hawkins says talking about what you can do better as a team “allows you to be humble even if you knocked the campaign out of the park. It shows serious maturity to be able to self reflect on things that you can do better with [for your clients and your team].”
Even if you were mostly successful, try to find a small gap where your team could have done better. Bringing your team back down to a place where they can keep a level-head and keep their eyes on an ever-moving target will prepare them for the times when things don’t quite go the right way. Always having high highs without self-reflection and acknowledgment that things weren’t always perfect could cause your team to fail and not be prepared to handle future consequences.
While your annual marketing report comes once per year, the work that goes into it is a year-long affair. From goal-setting for the upcoming year to monthly, quarterly, and mid-year progress check-ins, your annual report building begins on the first day of the new fiscal year, every year.
Knowing this, it’s up to you to work smarter toward setting realistic goals to highlight your successes and minimize errors when coming to your full organization with next year’s marketing report.
What’s more, it’s up to the marketing team to create a hole-free annual report to help align goals across their department and the rest of the company. Sasha Matviienko of growth360 elaborates on this, mentioning that “annual and quarterly reports are a great place to do strategic alignment across channels.”
In all, knowing the right projects, deliverables, and metrics that everyone outside of marketing finds important is the first step to strategic alignment sure to improve the results your team sees in the upcoming year.
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