The death of monthly reporting

I don’t know if this is a controversial viewpoint or not, but I’m pretty sure monthly reporting is bullshit.

I get that the analysis needs to happen, and I get that some clients (usually marketing managers) like discussing these reports in a lengthy monthly conference call, but for every one of those clients, there are about ten that I’m pretty sure slip away from the phone and quietly make themselves a hot drink.

I don’t blame them. These people have a lot going on in their lives without us torturing them with page after page of jargon that means precisely nothing to anyone outside marketing.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a process we have sub-consciously created as agencies to confuse our clients into not asking any awkward questions. By talking them into submission on the detail that doesn’t matter, we avoid having to discuss the only thing that does matter, which is the impact we’re having on their business.

Everything else is just noise.

For every business there are probably two or three metrics that directly show this impact. The key short term metric will almost certainly be sales or enquiries, and the key long term metric may be brand reach or product engagement. Everything else is just noise, as one particularly honest client told me recently.

No matter what we might think, they do not care how many their website pages women of 35-45 view on their tablets or what domain authority that website has that we might get a link on next Tuesday. And to add insult to injury, as agencies we have the gaul to charge our clients for the time it takes to compile these 34 page documents. On smaller campaigns the client may be spending as much to have us perform this analysis of the work we’re doing as they are on us actually doing the work.

It makes no sense.

This is why we have recently, other than for those clients that we know value the detail, binned all monthly reports. Instead, we now send out a weekly text message or email with details of their two or three headline KPI’s along with a couple of sentences on what we’re doing to drive those KPI’s forward. To be clear, the more detailed analysis still happens, but we keep it internal and don’t waste time (or the client’s money!) turning it into pretty documents that sit in the client’s inbox.

And guess how the clients have responded? They haven’t. Other than to say they’re loving the new short updates, which are “easy to understand and give reassurance that Inbound are focusing on the things that actually matter”.

Clearly the title of this post was more of a wish than an observation. Monthly reporting is still alive and well in the industry. I’m just not sure why. What’s ironic is that we’re in the business of consulting people on user experience, forever using phrases like “less is more” and “get out of the user’s way”, and then we drown our own clients in detail until they’re virtually coughing up analytics data.

Maybe it’s time as an industry we thought a little more about our own user’s experience?

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