It’s becoming increasingly rare that you’ll have a manager or supervisor that knows nothing of the importance of digital marketing for a business. However, it does still happen on occasion.
As a digital marketer, you may be viewed as a geek, IT support, or some sort of internet wizard (or all of the above) by management who don’t fully understand what you do. That’s why it’s important to convey the information you have clearly, and in the manner that best illustrates the results.
Sounds easy, especially if you work in digital marketing. But explaining growth hacking experiments, click-through rates (CTR), return on ad spend (ROAS), or first/last click attribution to someone who isn’t digital-savvy is tricky. That said, there are a few techniques that can be used to explain results – and these are familiar to the traditional world of business.
I’ve collected the most effective approaches below, so you’ll be able to whip up a report that resonates with the big cheeses when it matters most.
Visualise Your Results
It might sound obvious, but data can be abstract – and boring – without being visualised. Visual information is easier to consume and understand, and the viewer retains it for a longer period of time. This doesn’t need to be arrows going up and down, but graphical representation of data is essential.
When visualising data, create the right context. Show visualisations from the same period last year, or another comparative benchmark. If you’ve made gains, you can overlay the visuals to highlight the clear improvements in performance. And always keep the raw data to hand, because you might be asked to get granular on why a specific week or month was good or bad.
With data visualisation, it’s important to keep it simple but also to mix up your designs and colours. The same graphical presentation with different numbers will likely bore your audience if shown time and time again, so whilst being clear and concise, you should aim to keep the report fresh throughout.
Don’t Oversimplify Your Role
Naturally, you should avoid complicated terminology and marketing jargon, but be careful not to oversimplify your role and what you’ve achieved. Digital marketing is a complex sphere, and there are many specialties within it. While non-digital management may not totally appreciate this, you shouldn’t dumb down the expertise that’s required to achieve results – nor the hard work that’s done to get there.
When presenting digital marketing results to non-digital management, you need to strike a careful balance between oversimplification and detail. One way to navigate this is to make it clear you’re prepared to clarify terms or figures whenever the audience needs. Try to create an open and collaborative conversation, whereby you’re willing to explain complicated concepts without judgement.
Set Realistic Timeframes
It’s easy to see why non-digital-savvy management might expect overnight success with the immediacy of the online world. But this doesn’t account for lots of your marketing activity – strategic planning, long-term SEO growth, testing and optimisation of paid campaigns, the building of new custom audiences, segmentation, and more. Plus the time you spend sifting through a hefty volume of data.
While some channels (e.g. Google Ads) can be switched on-and-off at the flick of a switch, it’s important for management to understand that sustainable results can take time. Try to be as transparent as possible, and explain exactly why changes will take time to implement and why results might not be optimal immediately. If you can instil patience, this will give you leeway to show progress over time.
Own Your Mistakes
If something has gone wrong, there’s no point trying to hide it. Mistakes happen, especially when the pressure is on to achieve growth. Whilst you’ll be abiding by best practices and principles, each marketing strategy needs to be customised to the goals and audience of your company (or client). You can’t cut and paste to get results. This means that mistakes are inevitable – they’re a part of learning.
When you have management in the room, it’s a good time to ask for extra support if it’s needed, but be careful not to use your mistakes as leverage for more budget or resources.
Summary: Successful Reporting & Happy Management
As you get into a pattern of reporting, management will become better educated about digital marketing, and the metrics that matter. Positive results foster good relationships, but so does an honest and transparent assessment of where you can improve. If you can build trust and demonstrate your digital marketing expertise at the same time, the reporting process will be easier.
- Use creative visualisation to capture the imagination of management
- Don’t oversimplify your expertise or the work that goes into getting results
- Set realistic expectations about timeframes for generating results and making changes
- Own your mistakes publicly, learn from them, and show how you’ve made amends
- Oren Greenberg is a growth marketer and founder of the Kurve consultancy in London. He helps startups and corporate innovation projects scale using digital channels.