Marketing reports serve an important purpose. They’re critical tools in communicating and validating the work of the department.

But typically, these reports miss the mark, providing little value and not enough guidance for future investments to the entire enterprise. It’s no wonder marketing is often undervalued.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here six essential ways to ensure your marketing reporting matters, to prove the value of your work and investment to the entire enterprise.

1. Speak the same language

Marketers tend to use a lot of fuzzy vagaries such as impressions, opens and clicks when reporting their results. But you should focus more on data and analytics. Doing so will help you better measure how marketing drive sales — as well as speak the same language as the people reading your reports.

This enables you to report on the same metrics that the c-suite uses. This way, you’re more like the sales department, which typically demonstrates a clear specific contribution to the company bottom line — to the penny.

2. Real-time reporting

Marketing reports can also be slow. That is they focus on information from the past – last month, last quarter, even last year. But the industry changes a lot from year to year. Business today happens in real time, and it’s essential that marketing reports are up-to-the-minute.

3. Look forward

When you watch the evening news, the weather report is focused on what temperatures will be tomorrow – not what they were last week. Yet most marketing reports are the equivalent of reports about last month’s weather. So look forward in your reports.

Focus on forecasting the future. With more than 60 marketing channels today, marketing is increasingly expected to act like mutual fund managers. Predicting which activities will be the most profitable is similar to portfolio management. Report on the campaigns you think will be most profitable, and note details like how much of a return on investment you expect by a certain date.

Marketing forecasting like this allows you to solve problems up front and in advance, rather than failing and fixing later. 

4. Focus on the numbers

Marketing reports commonly provide details on how much money was spent on media, trade shows and other line items.

But the most important metric – outcome, or profit and loss – is often played down or even missing altogether. Marketing reports must include outcome to answer the most important question: How much did marketing contribute to the financial bottom line?

For marketing to remain relevant and valued, it must give ever greater details of its financial contribution to the enterprise.

5. Value for investment

Businesses exist to generate a profit, and money is the metric of business success. But marketing is often viewed as just an expense.  CFOs want to know what they are getting for the money. That’s why that in addition to the numbers, marketers must also focus on the company’s return on investment. Provide details on how marketing contributed to the enterprise’s bottom line.

6. Integrate the enterprise

The new era of better marketing reporting will involve many areas of the enterprise. These include marketing, finance, sales, analytics and more. It’s essential to gather data from these disparate areas and collate them into an executive-level view. New software technologies make this possible and can help elevate the importance of marketers and their role in the enterprise.

About the Author

FJeff Winsper, President of Black Ink, offers more than 20 years of leadership experience in marketing, serving companies ranging from Fortune 500 to start ups. His deep experience generated the insight that companies – in particular mid-sized enterprises – are lacking the foundation of proper big data analytics to measure marketing’s performance. Prior to launching Black Ink, Jeff founded marketing agency Winsper, part of Worldwide Partners, with 137 offices in 54 countries.