Reporting

Quarterly Business Review: How to Write One and How to Present It Successfully

What is QBR? And why should you do one? Here is a complete guide on making the most of your Quarterly Business Reviews.

Avatar Davor Štefanović on October 1, 2021 (last modified on September 24, 2021) • 20 minute read

After working hard to develop a sustainable client base, you found out you have to work twice as hard to keep them. Now you have to handle countless meetings, project updates, reports and assure them that everything is on track, every step of the way.

You’re hardly alone in that. Many business owners and executives have found out that, as their business scales, the need for reporting grows.

Even if you’re doing everything right, you still need to present it to your client in a way they’ll understand. They’re your client, they expect results, and it’s your job to ensure they get them. That’s why you need to keep wowing them if you expect them to stick around.

However, presenting raw data isn’t gonna cut it, no matter how good it is. Crunching numbers and statistics really isn’t most people’s forte, and most people’s eyes glaze over when you start spouting technical explanations full of jargon. All told, your clients would probably rather look at the digest version with pretty charts. You just need to make them.

While this may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools, preparation, and a little know-how, you’ll be able to deliver interesting reports to your clients that will ensure they continue trusting you and relying on you. You will also be able to establish a deeper and more productive relationship.

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What Is a Quarterly Business Report?

Let’s start with the basics and go from there.

Quarterly business reports are usually designed for clients (but can be aimed at your own sales team or stakeholders). Their purpose is to reassure the client that things are going well and to show what your plans are for the future. After all, you need to convince them that things that are going well will continue to do so and that challenges will be resolved. You’re presenting yourself as a problem-solver and an invaluable resource.

A quarterly business report is an important part of customer relationship management. It’s there to highlight the value your business brings to the client. It’s very likely your clients aren’t very good at making sense of raw numbers, so you need to give them a visually interesting presentation to explain what’s going on. Show them what you did in the last three months, how it affected their metrics, and what you’re planning to do in the next three months until the next QBR rolls around.

Keep in mind that QBRs need to focus on the strategic, big-picture layer. They’re an opportunity to gain deeper insight into the client’s business and to make a strategy based on their plans and current position on the market. This isn’t the place to talk about minutiae and deal with minor issues and challenges. You’re not simply providing services anymore — you’re stepping into the business advisory role.

Why Should My Company Conduct Quarterly Business Reviews?

The truth is that not every business needs it. Depending on your focus or business size, you might not need quarterly business reviews. You might just need annual or more frequent reports. However, even if you don’t need quarterly reports, some kind of reporting will be necessary, and similar broad rules apply.

When Are Quarterly Business Reviews Needed and When Not

B2C companies are usually much faster moving and have a large number of shorter-term clients. Creating a client-facing quarterly business review for each of them would be too time-consuming and often unnecessary. They’ll usually need per-milestone or per project updates. By contrast, B2B companies with fewer clients are usually more focused on QBRs and are more likely to require such a structured form of reporting.

Another factor that determines if you need quarterly business reviews is company age. Startups or businesses in the early stages of development have fewer clients or customers, and it’s still easy to maintain a relationship with them. However, as the business and the client base grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain frequent communication. The need arises for more structured, longer-term reporting and meetings.

These aren’t hard and fast rules. Every business and client is unique and has specific needs and challenges. Putting together a quarterly business review does take a lot of time and resources, so make sure you either need to have it (is it worth it), or that you have access to tools that will make the whole process a lot easier.

Think about the size of the company, how many clients you have, and how much money those clients spend. Focusing on big, important clients is just common sense, and it will help you understand their priorities better. Ensure the customers who need and deserve top-level treatment get it.

The Reasons for Conducting Quarterly Business Reviews

No matter your business type or stage of development, building and maintaining relationships is crucial for growth. And that’s the key reason for having QBRs. They help you maintain good relationships with clients as it shows them that you put special thought into what they need.

QBRs strengthen partnerships and give you the opportunity to really strut your stuff and dazzle the client. It shows them how well you’ve handled their business and your ability to plan for the future. You’ll be able to highlight your achievements and everything you’ve done for the client.

Finally, they allow you to show the customer what’s the most beneficial path for them (and you, since you’re in a business relationship) to take. That way, you both prosper and continue growing.

What Should You Include in a QBR?

Again, the information you should include in a quarterly business review varies on the type of client, but there are some basics that need to find their way in almost every one of them.

Clients need to know:

  • Where they stand against the competitors (a popular metric)
  • What was the ROI for the last quarter 
  • What kind of ROI you can deliver in the future
  • Other goals you plan to accomplish
  • What gaps you identified in client’s goals and plans
  • Challenges and difficulties you’ll need to overcome
  • Customer’s CHI (customer health index)
  • Data related to KPIs

Of course, not all data points need to be given equal priority. Every client is different, but you can always highlight the ROI and present market benchmarks. Business owners usually love to see how they stack up against the competition.

Customer health index is another important metric that gives the customer an overall impression of how they’re doing. Use a set of weighted data points in order to assign them a number between 1 and 100. Keep in mind that while customers may dislike raw data, they like objective numbers as opposed to opinions. If you’re making a projection, ensure it’s based on cold, hard facts.

So try to be unbiased and take a good look at the depth and breadth of product usage (how useful you are to the client), engagement (how frequently do they engage with you and to what extent), growth, age, etc.

Another important note is transparency. Don’t try to hide or obfuscate the negatives because if a client finds out that you’ve been lying to them, they’ll lose their trust in you. Be honest and frame setbacks as challenges to be overcome.

What Are the Benefits of a QBR?

You really should look at a QBR as a set of opportunities.

We’ve already mentioned that quarterly business reports are about maintaining a good working relationship with the client. So, you get an opportunity to improve your business partnership. Like with any relationship, this one is built on frequent communication, honesty, and taking into consideration everyone’s needs. If you do that, you’ll ensure you’re all thriving together.

Another opportunity presented by QBRs is aligning people’s interests and getting on the same page with the client. This adds to the relationship-building aspect above. By figuring out the state of the business and communicating it properly, you can give your customers value and continue to benefit from a good business relationship.

Continuing with the opportunity theme, consider what you have to do in order to conduct a quarterly business report. You need to analyze all relevant data (pretty much everything you can), and you can use it to find more information and market gaps in your client’s offer or come up with interesting ideas to implement.

QBRs are excellent check-in points to monitor progress. You can figure out if short-term plans are getting accomplished and see how you’re doing with long-term goals.

Finally, QBRs can help you prioritize tasks. This is another benefit of the comprehensive analysis you’ll have to perform. By comparing various metrics you’ll be able to determine which tasks are more important or valuable than others and prioritize them accordingly.

How Do You Conduct a QBR?

Now we come to the big one, how do you actually perform a quarterly business review?

You start by reviewing the client’s KPIs or, if you’re just starting to work with them, set the KPIs now. Focus only on the KPIs your company is influencing, but if you think you can improve on others, feel free to include them and mention them in the report.

Specific KPIs depend on the business but can include ROI, net profit margin, gross profit margin, number of conversions, number of new leads, number of subscribers… literally anything that you can use to assess business performance.

You want to highlight achievements and focus on the goals you accomplished. Put as positive a spin as you can on the last quarter. However, keep in mind the transparency mentioned above — stay honest. Point out issues and challenges, as the client should feel like you’re serious about addressing their concerns and tackling problems. Identifying a hitherto unknown and unaddressed problem and presenting a plan to solve it will make you seem invaluable.

Additionally, you need to make a solid plan about what to do in the future. If you’ve identified new opportunities, you want to come up with a plan to capitalize on them. Write down actual steps and what the plan for the future is expected to bring. If you’re introducing new KPIs to be tracked or even if you just want to test a strategy out, you should mention it.

Finally, you need to wrap the whole thing into a neat little package. Using customizable templates can help you make the whole process easier, from building a report, gathering metrics, crunching numbers, and presenting it all in a visually appealing manner.

PRO TIP: Figure out who should participate in a QBR. Including a customer relationship manager is a must, but executives from both sides should be present to get the most out of a QBR. This allows both companies to assess how they fit into strategies. In addition, it keeps the channels of communication open and provides the opportunity for C-suite to get to know each other better.

Tips for Writing a Quarterly Business Report

Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when writing a QBR.

  • Use a business analytics tool
  • Tell a story through the report
  • Make a basic QBR template
  • Revise after every QBR
  • Include highlights
  • Make is concise

Use a Business Analytics Tool

While you may think that there’s nothing Excel can’t do, you’d be wrong. Business analytics tools (like Databox) crunch numbers more quickly and help you make sense of them with easy-to-understand and attractive-looking charts. Additionally, data visualization capabilities can ensure you’re ready to present all the data to the client in a visually interesting manner.

Tell a Story Through the Report

Numbers can be boring, and no one wants to sit and listen to you read a bunch of percentages. If they don’t fall asleep, your clients will probably think you’re trying to obfuscate something by hiding behind dense statistics, or even that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Use pictures, data visualizations, and talk about goals. Build a narrative of the last three months and present a story about what you plan to do in the future.

Related: Creating Dashboards from Multiple Data Sources – a Marketing Superpower

Make a Basic QBR Template

This will save you time and make sure everyone understands what needs to be included and what steps need to be taken. If you already have a preset workflow, you’ll be able to put together a QBR much more quickly. It’s very likely you’ll continue tracking similar metrics from review to review, so you’ll be able to focus only on what’s new and finding an interesting way to present it. 

Using pre-built reporting templates can also be a huge time saver as you’re relying on the expertise of people whose business it is to know how to structure data.

Revise After Every QBR

Use a QBR as a learning opportunity. Did you notice any gaps in performance? Are there any KPIs that should have been included? Did your client offer any feedback? What would they like to see and what did they especially care about?

Write down your observations and use them to make the next QBR better.

Include Highlights

You can follow the rule of three here. Pick three things as your main message for each segment and try to center your presentation around them. People remember things that come in threes more easily, and you want to take advantage of that. 

Make It Concise

Your clients are likely busy people and don’t have too much time to listen to a lengthy report. Be crisp and concise, no QBR meeting should take more than an hour, and even that is pushing it. Don’t pad the agenda and stick to the things that really matter. 

If possible, structure the presentation with the most important information in the beginning. This allows attendees who no longer need to be a part of it to leave. Time is money, after all. You really don’t want to hear a customer say, “this really could have been an email,” after you’re done presenting a quarterly business review.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Quarterly Business Report

Some of these may sound like no-brainers but you really want to avoid making these mistakes. Don’t:

  1. Call it a QBR if you don’t actually hold them every quarter
  2. Hold QBRs when it’s not necessary
  3. Get defensive
  4. Spend too little time preparing
  5. Focus on the numbers
  6. Just read what’s written on the slides
  7. Make it too long

1. Call it a QBR If you don’t actually hold them every quarter

If you’ve decided that you need to hold your business reviews less frequently you can use:

  • Executive summary
  • Executive business report
  • Strategy and performance workshop
  • Strategic planning review
  • Annual business report/review
  • Annual performance overview
  • Anything else that gets the point across

2. Hold QBRs when it’s not necessary

– While the quarterly makes it sound like you have to do it every three months, you really don’t. Sometimes you just don’t need to hold them that frequently.

If you get a big new client you might want to do an “onboarding summary.” You’ll take a good look at them, identify new KPIs, figure out their goals and their current position, and make a strategy on how you can get there. Then you can schedule a meeting that coincides with meeting specific milestones.

3. Get defensive

– If your client interrupts you to ask a question or ask for clarification, be ready for it. The same goes if they ask you about promised milestones that you didn’t manage to deliver. Just stay calm and patient and address their concerns.

If you get flustered and defensive, it’s likely you’ll just sour the relationship and make it harder to gain the customer’s trust.

4. Spend too little time preparing

– You really don’t want to treat a QBR as something to get off the agenda as soon as possible with minimum effort. Even if it doesn’t take too long to prepare, don’t do it the day before! 

Your client deserves more than a hastily made presentation. Talk to them, and invest time and effort into the process.

5. Focus on the numbers

– while you do want to showcase all the shiny metrics that improved while you were working with them, that can’t be the focus of the presentation. 

It bears repeating, a QBR is an opportunity to improve your relationship with the client, so use it. It’s likely that they either won’t understand all the numbers or won’t care to analyze them thoroughly. You need to be more than a talking spreadsheet. Be patient, and use the time to connect with the client.

6. Just read what’s written on the slides

– If you’re just going to read the slides, you could have sent the QBR as an email and saved everyone some time. Your clients want to hear what you have to say, not just a recitation of dry statistics and phrases that can fit into a slide.

7. Make it too long

– Respect your client’s time. We mentioned being concise, but it’s still something a lot of people flub. They get caught in the idea that more is better and end up delving into minute details that aren’t necessary and dragging the whole thing out well past the point it’s needed.

Tips for Presenting a Quarterly Business Report

You’ve got your QBR written up, the slides look eye-catching, and you’ve briefed everyone who’s supposed to be involved. All that’s left is to actually present it to the client, and you don’t have to worry about it for another three months.

Well, let’s cover the presentation part and you’re good to go. 

  1. Make it an event – don’t hesitate to add a bit of marketing spice to the whole thing. This isn’t just another meeting, but an opportunity to improve the partnership. Make it glitzy and ensure you brand the dashboards and slides you’ll use in the presentation. Tailor the experience to wow the client.
  1. Send the QBR document in advance – you want to give the client an opportunity to see it ahead of time and come prepared. There’s nothing more valuable than constructive feedback from an engaged client. Additionally, they’ll be able to plan their time better and only attend parts of the presentation they’re interested in.
  1. Read the room – This is true for any presentation. Pay attention to how people react to your report and skip information no one seems interested in. If people seem bored, try to figure out how to make things more interesting.
  1. Interact and engage with the audience – If possible, prompt the audience to ask questions and check if everyone is clear with what’s being presented. If you’ve sent the QBR in advance, it’s likely the client will have some questions prepared.
  1. Don’t stick to the script – Make the whole thing feel more personal by sharing anecdotes or dropping in a funny story. Ice breakers can cut the tension and add a little color to the topic.
  1. Put the most important highlights in the first ten minutes – The most important parts of the presentation should be close to the beginning. People’s attention will wander as time goes on, and you want them to pay attention to the important information you want to share.
  1. Don’t overuse buzzwords – Whenever possible, use plain, easy-to-understand language. First, you sound less pretentious that way; and second, you’ll come across as someone down to earth who just wants to get the point across. Finally, your clients are more likely to understand what you’re talking about and understand how your plans impact them.

Overuse of buzzwords also runs the risk of making you look like you’re trying to hide something or that you don’t really know what you’re talking about, and that’s the last thing you want.

  1. Use templates – This is a huge time saver and can really streamline the whole reporting process. Using pre-built and customizable reporting templates ensures consistent tracking and lets you build each report on the information gleaned from the previous one.

Use Quarterly Business Reviews to Build Stronger Connections

Quarterly business reviews are a key aspect of any customer success program. By dedicating time and effort to growing your relationship, you can ensure you’ll bring value to your clients and grow with them.

Databox Dashboard Designer can help you build more effective and eye-catching presentations. Just link the data sources, and you’ll be able to populate a dashboard with relevant metrics that are easy to read and understand. Emphasize important data points and showcase how much you’ve helped your client and how valuable your partnership is.

Of course, you don’t have to create reports from scratch. Databox Dashboard Designer will take care of that for you by offering pre-built visualizations for the most popular metrics from 70+ data sources. Dashboards are fully customizable and you can create your own unique look that will suit the needs of your QBR presentation. All elements are dynamic, so you can move them around, and they’ll resize automatically depending on the room available.

Databox is far more than a simple data visualization tool. It will allow you to track performance from multiple sources, compare them, and identify trends that you can capitalize on. 

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No coding skills are required and the tool is incredibly simple to use, saving you both money and time.

Like what you’ve read so far? You can create a free Databox account in minutes and make building quarterly business reports easier than you thought possible.

About the author
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Davor Štefanović Davor is an English literature graduate and an avid reader with a passion for languages. Working as a translator, editor, and writer has allowed him to learn about a wide range of topics — making him something of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to content. In his spare time, he reads, plays video games and boardgames, and runs/plays tabletop RPGs.
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