Looking to create a high-quality onboarding experience for your clients? In this guide, 28 experts share their best tips for doing just that.
Management | Apr 26
Mara Calvello on June 11, 2021 (last modified on June 8, 2021) • 17 minute read
No matter who you are and what industry you work in — everyone makes mistakes.
Whether you use the wrong date range in an Out Of Office email or you implement the wrong code in the backend of a website, some mistakes are worse than others.
But one place where you definitely want to try and avoid as many mistakes as possible is during a client reporting meeting.
If you’re new to the world of client reporting meetings or just want to make sure you’ve dotted all your i’s and crossed all of your t’s, here are the 15 client reporting mistakes that you definitely want to avoid.
Need help avoiding a specific mistake? Jump ahead to:
One of the worst things you could do before entering a client reporting meeting is walking in with the wrong mindset. Doing so will only set you, and the client, up for disaster.
Here to elaborate further is Christopher Fenning of chrisfenning.com. “The biggest mistake anyone can make is going in with the wrong mindset. It’s good to be prepared and have confidence, but don’t believe you’re always right.
Go in with an open mind, explain your work, and await feedback – don’t just dismiss it, make sure you practice active listening and incorporate it. The frequency of meetings depends on the deliverables.
Typically, we have regular meetings at least once a week to discuss past performance and upcoming events. In case of any close launches, we shift to nearly every day or alternate days to ensure everyone is in the loop,” Fenning explains.
When it comes to sharing information and data with the client, you want to find a happy medium of what they need to know and what they’ll understand.
“Oversharing details that will likely breed a lot of confusion or misunderstanding is the quickest way to elongate a client reporting meeting. There are loads of backend details you can spare your clients to avoid an unnecessary amount of back and forth. To avoid this, synthesize the most pertinent information for your client and keep them on a need-to-know basis,” shares Kevin Miller at KevinMiller.com.
Another potentially detrimental mistake you could make in a client reporting meeting is not being prepared enough. It’s vital that you have all of the information ready to go and the answers to the client’s most need-to-know questions.
And how much time should you take to prepare for a client reporting meeting? According to our survey, business owners need between 1 to 3 hours per client to get ready.
If you fail to prepare properly, you may, as Umarah Hussain at Surge Marketing Solutions explains it, “showcase the wrong statistics or not explain insights that the client wants you to emphasize.”
And how can properly prepared client reporting meetings benefit your company? Hussain continues, “The Surge team holds client report meetings monthly, with regular catch-up calls each week. This has helped us in our success towards 45% turnover growth in 2021. Our client reports usually take around a few hours for each team member involved in the account to carry out, extracting that all-important information to pop into the reports.
What’s more is that our clients always have access to performance data and we always endeavor to send across the report prior to a call, which is usually a few days from their call to ensure we’re allowing them to process the information on their own time,” says Hussain.
Adding to this mistake is Timmy Yanchun at LTHR Shaving, who states, “One of the worst things you can do in a client reporting meeting is coming ill-prepared. Many people think that they can just ‘wing’ it if they don’t have the time to really do the research and dig through the supporting data. However, a client will easily see that you don’t have the information that you need to provide them with details, strategies, and more.”
You may be thinking, “how will a client even know that I’m not prepared?” One tell-tale sign of not being 100% ready for the meeting is reading off the report without going into detail. Anthony Chen at PaidSearch.Pro elaborates to say, “Not sending the report ahead of time and just reading off the words in the report. As we are in a number-driven world, it’s important to make eye contact with the client while presenting instead of just reading the slides in front of you.
After all, your client can probably read the slides themselves! Therefore, it is important to point out what they need to focus on within the report, why it’s important to the business, and use voice-over to help paint the full picture of the report to the client.”
A client report can have a lot of details and information within it. One aspect you don’t want to forget to include is a progress update on a specific project or assignment.
“The biggest mistake I ever made was ignoring the progress of my client’s project. With so many clients I handle, sometimes keeping on track with every project is challenging. Not only do I have to monitor each project plan, but I need to follow up with different clients weekly. When I lose track, sitting together in a client reporting meeting becomes exceptionally harder. Moreover, I have to re-check our last updates and prepare for the meeting way longer than usual,” explains Natasha Rei at Explainerd.
One way you can ensure that you don’t make this mistake is to always share performance data ahead of the reporting meeting, like most our the companies we have surveyed do (58%).
Before you enter a meeting with a client, do you know what’s most important to them? Is it PPC clicks, website traffic, or sales numbers? Whatever the case may be, the report needs to include their most sought-after metrics.
Explaining further is Nate Tower at Perrill, who says “The biggest mistake you can make when reporting to the client is not having a clear understanding of what is important to them. If you talk about the wrong metrics or you don’t know what their goals are, then you are going to fail to tell the right story. Everything you present in terms of data should tie back to the overall goals and purpose. Make sure it is clear and concise, otherwise it will feel like you are just trying to overwhelm the client with numbers.”
If you aren’t sure what the clients are most interested in knowing, you may be tempted to throw all of the information and data into the report — just to be safe. This will only confuse the client further.
Elaborating on this mistake is Sudhir Khatwani from The Money Mongers, who says, “A mistake I have done in the past is I draft unnecessary details: Often, in the lieu of giving as many details as possible, I end up drafting unnecessary details which just elongate the report for no particular reason. This may put off the client and prevent them from reading even the necessary details.”
As you go about crafting the actual report, remember to tie all of the data back to what the client cares about the most.“The biggest mistake a consultant can make in a client reporting meeting is not tying efforts or results back to the project or company goals and objectives. Clients want to know how the results or efforts are moving in a positive direction and how the relationship is adding value to the business. Can everything be measured and quantified? No. But showing how consultative work and deliverables are supporting goals and objectives is part of what makes a consultant’s work valuable,” explains Sunny Hunt of Hunt Interaction.
Another mistake people often make when creating the report for the meeting is making them too long. You may feel like you need to jam-pack it full of data, but this can only confuse the client further or take away from the numbers that matter most.
For this, Michael Robinson at Cheap SSL explains, “One mistake to avoid is making reports too long and monotonous: In my opinion, the biggest mistake you can make in a client reporting meeting is making reports that are too long and repetitive. Clients don’t have the patience or mental capacity to read a 50-page document every month. Keep your reports short and sweet, and get right to the point.”
Explaining further on the importance of getting right to the point is Lily Ugbaja at Dollar Creed. “The biggest mistake you can make in a client reporting meeting is to make the report too long, boring, and monotonous. The aim of a reporting meeting is to present clear, concise data. Get to the point, summarize where necessary. The client is more interested in knowing how your work is helping them meet their targets, so show this upfront,” shares Ugbaja.
Another way to avoid making your reports unnecessarily long and repetitive is figure out how often should you report to clients. Should you report on a weekly basis? Or maybe every month or quarter? While the answer depends on the nature of your business and the project you’re working on with your client, according to our surveys, most teams hold reporting meetings on a monthly basis.
Editor’s note: For a clear and concise look into data surrounding your marketing efforts, consider utilizing the HubSpot Marketing dashboard template for insights for increasing traffic, converting leads, and proving ROI.
Another thing to remember when creating a client presentation is to use words and phrases the client actually knows and understands. You don’t want to be incorporating jargon or phrases that they aren’t used to hearing, as this will only take more time to explain or could lead to overall confusion.
Highlighting this tip further is Olivia Tan at CocoFax, who shares “The most important thing to remember in a client reporting meeting is to consider their knowledge about the key indicators. Most agencies do not consider the technical knowledge of their clients and keep throwing technical terms towards them. However, you need to break down your report in simple words and try to educate them about the indicators before giving them the numbers. Creating a simple rule of mentioning the importance of each key indicator (along with the numbers) is the best practice to follow in client reporting.”
Ameet Khabra at Hop Skip Media has also fallen victim to this client report mistake and highly recommends you steer clear, too. “The biggest mistake I have made in the reporting meetings is not speaking to my client at their level. It’s super easy for us to use all the lingo and talk about specific strategies but sometimes clients don’t quite understand all of it. Remember that most clients are beginners when it comes to pay-per-click advertising, so you need to slow down and explain things a bit more. The last thing we want is for a client to leave the meeting more confused,” shares Khabra.
Clients who are meeting with you want to know the truth. The good, the bad, the ugly, and even the potentially really expensive. Because of this, it’s important to be honest and straightforward surrounding all of the data in your report.
Going further into this mistake is Steven Derevencha at Atlas Creative Digital Marketing. “Withholding or downplaying low performance is the absolute worst thing you can do in a reporting meeting. The fact of the matter is, clients are coming to you because you are the expert and they need your insight. Regardless if that is positive, negative, or neutral, your agency should be as transparent as possible. This does two things; it builds trust with the client and helps establish realistic expectations for long-term strategies,” shares Derevencha.
Someone else who has learned from this mistake is Michael Knight at Incorporation Insight. Knight elaborates to say, “When reporting, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is cherry-picking results. Most businesses make the mistake of only reporting what went well because it portrays them favorably, which is directly related to the client’s loyalty to the company. Making the mistake of being selective about which results to report to clients limits your company’s ability to sell itself as a solution provider for the issues you haven’t told them about. In essence, you are removing opportunities to upsell your service to the client.”
Once the meeting is wrapping up, what happens next? Your clients want to know what you’re going to continue to work on and what to expect in the future. Failing to include a wrap-up or tasks to follow up on is a crucial mistake to avoid.
Jason McMahon at Bambrick goes into more detail on this to say, “A common mistake is to not send follow-up items. Make sure every meeting participant has a key takeaway from the meeting and knows what they are responsible for. Send a follow-up message after the meeting with a brief recap of the meeting. Include action items that resulted from the meeting and list who is responsible for what, by when. Each team member needs to know what they will be held accountable for.”
No matter what kind of meeting is taking place, it’s often not ideal for the same person to talk 100% of the time, without anyone else chiming in or getting a chance to speak. Because of this, don’t make the mistake of holding a client reporting meeting that lacks participation from others.
For this tip, Daniel Foley at Halcyon School explains, “Don’t fall victim to a lack of participation. It’s necessary for meeting leaders to structure meetings in a way that interests every team member. If one or two decision-making people are the exclusive ones talking during a meeting, it’s hard for the rest of the group to give consideration or feel that their contribution matters. Try making each separate team member responsible for an agenda item. If their name is pitched next to an item, they will be prepared, cooperate and pay better attention. You can also specify someone to take minutes or notes so they have to stay alert.”
What’s a good way to put your clients to sleep? Create a boring or lackluster presentation.
So, how do you spice up your presentation and ensure everyone stays awake? “Don’t forget to include graphics to illustrate the points you’re making. I find that clients want to see graphs and images illustrating progress or issues. It helps them process the data you’re explaining. Bringing visuals can also help you make a point more clearly and convey the need for a certain project, resource, or next steps,” shares Ronit Levy at Simple SEO Systems.
No one likes hearing bad news, especially if they’re completely blindsided by it in a meeting. If you’re about to present to a client in a reporting meeting that includes some less-than-ideal news, it’s best to give them a heads up.
To do this, Paige Arnof-Fenn at Mavens & Moguls shares, “I do not recommend surprising clients with bad news in a meeting. In my experience, it is much more productive and constructive to share poor results in advance of the meeting when there is more time to discuss the context and data.”
Do you know how the KPIs in the report are aligning with the goals of your client? Not being aligned here is a common mistake when presenting client reporting in meetings.
“A mistake we see often is not defining the KPIs being measured in advance. Then, reporting for every month as a column in Excel or Sheets. This makes trends in data over time easy to spot. We do change KPIs but tend to add new ones while keeping the old ones for continuity. Some people cherry-pick the best results and only show current data. This creates a lack of transparency and trust,” explains Robert Donnell at P5 Marketing Inc.
Also sharing advice on how to avoid this mistake is Jillian Rhinehart at Next PR. “The biggest mistake you can make in a client reporting meeting is not connecting your metrics to specific goals. Data means very little without context. You can make these reports useful to your clients by comparing metrics to previously set KPIs and then outlining clear recommendations for how the data impacts your strategy moving forward,” adds Rhinehart.
Whether the news you’re sharing is positive or negative, remember that a client will be watching you for your reaction. No matter the metrics, it’s always good to have a plan in place for what you’re going to do next.
To do this, Zack Duncan at Root and Branch Group shares, “The biggest mistake you can make in a client reporting meeting is overreacting to recent performance. You can overreact to strong performance and unintentionally set unrealistic expectations for the future with the client. Alternatively, you can overreact to poor performance by drastically altering strategy when it’s possible (likely, even) that only minor tactical changes were needed. If your overall plan is solid, you generally should be making minor modifications to your approach, rather than making dramatic swings. If you get into a pattern of always making major changes, it will be increasingly difficult to understand your performance and optimize towards your key performance objectives.”
Editor’s note: Be able to show performance metrics, like website engagement, with total ease, thanks to the Google Analytics Website Engagement Dashboard template from Databox. In your reporting, you’ll be able to highlight average time on page, bounce rate, unique visitors, and more.
It’s easy to forget the phrase “the customer is always right”. In the case of a client meeting, even if you don’t have all of the answers to even the most spontaneous question, it’s important to remain positive and remind the client that you’ll get back to them with the necessary information.
To do so, Ben Johnston at Sagefrog Marketing Group, LLC., recommends “A major mistake is to repeatedly tell the client ‘no’’. There are obvious situations where this doesn’t apply, but as an example, let’s say that you forgot to prepare a piece of data or a client asks you an on-the-fly question that is off-topic or deals with another team. ‘No’ is blunt, one way, and is often interpreted as being negative. A response like, ‘let me get back to you on that’ or ‘let me check with the appropriate team for you’ is acceptable, and a lot warmer than a wooden ‘no’.
No matter the size of your organization or the industry it’s within, you’ll definitely want to make the effort to avoid these mistakes when you put together client reporting meetings. Steering clear of these no-nos is a great way to leave a positive impression on your clients and leave them looking forward to the next time a reporting meeting is on the calendar.
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