Agencies

How Big Sea Generates $50,000 in Billable Time Every Year With Automated Reporting

Here’s how Andi Graham from Big Sea stopped wasting time manually assembling client reports and began tracking data in real-time and billing time for higher-value work.

Kevin Kononenko on October 18, 2018 • 10 minute read

“Everyone is impressed when they come in and they see that we don’t just have fun things up everywhere. We’re literally always looking at the data.

I have a strange tendency of walking into the office in the mornings and standing in the middle of the room. I wait for the TVs to flip through each carousel. And then I start asking questions, like:

‘Why does this look this way?’

or, ‘Why is this number red?’

It really is that little reminder of ‘what gets measured, gets done’ and you’re watching your metrics on a constant basis. You’re required to pay attention to them. So that’s very good.”

-Andi Graham, Founder, Big Sea

What was life like for you guys before Databox?

Graham: Reporting and data have always been very important to me and it’s a hard thing. Clients want to see it, but they don’t want you to spend time on it. And so we’ve struggled with these things.

We used to have these very lengthy Google Docs for monthly reports that were between six and eight pages and then our quarterly reports were 12 to 15 pages long and they were full of screenshots of Google Analytics. There were screenshots of HubSpot and SEMrush. There were screenshots of disparate and various tools that we were using to do marketing for our clients.

We would use our marketing coordinators’ time to spend hours doing those screenshots and sometimes they’d mix the data into tables so that we could show our clients year over year data. Our reporting was taking three to five hours each month to put together, which is just a ridiculous amount for just putting a report together. It’s hard to really sell the value of that when you’re talking about those hours translating to dollars.

How did your clients feel about paying for reporting?

They don’t want to pay for three to five hours. One of the verticals that we do a lot of work around is attractions and museums. We work with a few chains of family entertainment centers as well.

One of them has 12 locations and so we have to report on each individual location as well as the client as a whole. That report could take us five to seven hours and when you translate that to an hourly rate, the value is not there for the client. I’m not going to go to this client and say, ‘It’s going to cost you a thousand dollars to get a monthly report that’s useful to us to make good decisions.’

They would rather spend that five to seven hours doing marketing, which is what they’re paying us to do. But we need the numbers, right? We need the numbers to make decisions.

Databox has been a huge savior for that stuff. I can’t even begin to explain how much time it has saved us on a monthly basis.

How has life changed since you adopted Databox?

We use Databox to pull five or six or eight different data sources into our reports. Some of our clients have multiple locations, and they all have different Facebook pages. We love having one platform where we can have one dashboard for each location and we don’t have to update it.

We just set our monthly report dashboards with a time period of “Last Month”, so on the first of each month, all that data is automatically refreshed for us and ready to go and we just send the link to the client.

Sometimes, we’ll update dashboards with specific campaign data, and then we go in and write a little analysis in a text box where we explain why a number looks a certain way. It went from five to seven hours or three to five hours to one hour or two hours and some of them we’ve got down to about 30 minutes of setup.

What happens when you switch the metrics that you are monitoring?

We do switch our data from month to month for certain industries because they track seasonal metrics. We know that our clients who are in Florida, for instance, have their slowest months in September and October. For some of our clients in northern climates, the slowest months are in the summer because everyone’s outside, not being inside a family entertainment center.

So we have to switch those things every month based on which campaigns we’re tracking. Sometimes we’ll do really heavy SEO campaigns throughout the summer so we can grow rankings.

How do clients first learn about your automated dashboards?

At the beginning of the relationship, we always have clients fly in from wherever they are so they can be in our office for a big kickoff meeting. We have dashboards set up for each one.

We have cross-functional teams and so we have their dashboards with client data set up at the end of their workspace. They all sit at one long train of desks, with six or eight people together. And then at the end, they have a TV screen that has a carousel with the KPIs that we’re tracking for each of their clients.

Everyone is impressed when they come in and they see that we don’t just have fun things up everywhere. We’re literally always looking at the data.

I have a strange tendency of walking into the office in the mornings and standing in the middle of the room. I wait for them [the TVs] to flip through each carousel. And then I start asking questions, like:

‘Why does this look this way?’

or, ‘Why is this number red?’

It really is that little reminder of ‘what gets measured, gets done’ and you’re watching your metrics on a constant basis. You’re required to pay attention to them. So that’s very good.

How do you communicate the reasoning behind these metrics?

We go through a pretty intense goal setting process with our clients. A lot of times they come in and they’re just like, “We want to make more money.”

And we ask, “What does that mean? How does that look? How does that translate into the work that we’re doing?”

For all of our clients in different verticals, the way they “make more money” is very different.

We have to track all kinds of different metrics tied to revenue. So we start by just sitting them down and talking about the “why”, which are the big hairy audacious goals. These are the goals behind what they are trying to do with their business.

When we set goals, we categorize them into awareness, affinity, and action. If we want to grow brand awareness, what does that look like? Brand awareness includes goals like search volume or even email open rates if we’re doing cold emailing. We’re looking at fans and followers.

Then we start looking at affinity, which is obviously engagement, time on the site, etc.

Then “action” is obviously conversions. We’re tracking all kinds of different conversions in different lead funnels. So awareness has to happen before affinity can happen. Affinity has to happen before action can happen. And all those things tie back into the big picture.

How do you measure your progress towards those big goals?

We track progress year over year. If we have a revenue goal or something we’re trying to hit, that’s also on the cover screen of our reports that we send.

We get the revenue numbers from the client. We don’t share the report with them until we have the revenue report back from them if they’re not using HubSpot Sales.

We plan all of our work quarterly. So we send quarterly reports and also monthly reports. We compare last year’s Q3 versus this year’s Q3 because of the seasonality of our client revenue.

How do you present these dashboards to clients?

We send them an email that has a link to the report. Then, we schedule a phone call to review it with them. Some of our clients look at their metrics all the time because they have a live link. Some clients are not as focused on data. They want to know about the tactics and how we’re going to support these campaigns they’re running or events that they have coming up and that sort of thing.

They usually need to report up the chain as well. So we just try to figure out how we can tie our behaviors to what they’re doing. For example, we say to them, “This PPC campaign brought your cost per conversion down, so you paid $4 for every birthday party that was booked at your family entertainment center versus $14, which was the previous cost per party.”

It’s usually a phone call with them or a join.me where we go through the report itself.

On a quarterly basis, we do the same thing. They get a longer Google Doc as well. So, they have a link to their Databox report and then they have a longer Google Doc which actually has their tactical plan. And we have a little bit more of a narrative inside there the campaigns that we’re planning.

What are account managers doing over the course of the month to track this?

We have an analyst on each team who’s in charge of the data itself. The account manager and the strategists work together to pay attention. They’re the ones dealing with the client on a weekly basis and have the weekly check-in phone call and email back and forth.

We send a weekly report every Monday that has an overview of the past week, a preview of the next week, and things we are still waiting on, which is always the longest part of that email. There is a check-in call with some of our clients. We actually have some clients who come into the office every week for standing meetings.

An example of a conversation might be, “We just saw your ranking starting to fall for this. We’re going to change or pivot the content for next week.” Most of that comes from our analysts looking at the data, but it also just comes from having that stuff on a dashboard directly in front of us while we’re working on a daily basis.

How do you put together the quarterly plan?

We’re doing quarterly planning right now for Q4. We just finalized Q4 based on all the data coming out of Q3.

I just reviewed the Q4 strategies from one of our account managers. I noticed that one of the SMART goals they had set in the campaign included an increase in conversion rate. The conversion rate had not changed for the previous 6 quarters.

I started looking through the entire strategy and I didn’t see any tactics tied to conversion rate optimization. I asked the account manager about it. Her response, which I thought fantastic was, “We’re not doing on-page conversion rate optimization. We’re changing the messaging. We’re adding video strategy.” She had a really good response that these are all things that are going to contribute to us converting more visitors because we’re doing better targeting. I was sold on that. I just wanted to know that, if we’re going to set a goal, there will be tactics tied to achieving that goal.

We have a whole page in our quarterly strategies about the numeric goals that we’re tying to the narrative-based goals that we’ve talked about. Then we share the 15 activities that we might be doing over the quarter, and which goals they will impact.

Want to get a firsthand look at how agencies like Big Sea use Databox to automate their client reports, set client goals, and much more? Sign up for one of our live agency demos.

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About the author
Kevin Kononenko Growth Marketer @ Databox. Making it easy for marketers to tell the story of their success. Everton FC supporter. Startup guy.
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