How to Turn Client Reports Into a New Source of Revenue - A Guide for Digital Marketing Agencies
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It’s been famously said that the true sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yet, many digital marketing agencies find themselves in exactly such a vicious cycle when it comes to client reporting.
Agency-client reporting: From necessary evil to growth opportunity
Manual data consolidation, cross-channel calculations, error checks, visualization – a single client report can take agencies upwards of 10 hours of work each week. Besides driving your staff up the wall, it can also negatively impact client satisfaction rates, and cause customer and employee attrition, which all inevitably hurt your agency’s bottom line.
Yet, there’s a general consensus that reporting is vital to agency-client relationships. While showcasing results is the obvious part, reporting has other benefits too:
- Communication. Reporting establishes clear and consistent lines of communication between your agency and the client. It provides substantial material for discussion, which makes check-ins valuable and sought-after.
- Accountability. Reporting turns abstract concepts like ‘growth’ into tangible metrics that can be measured and tracked. This way, agencies and clients adopt a shared vocabulary, set expectations and ensure they are both working towards the same goal.
- Agility. Businesses today operate under major uncertainty. Reporting helps you and your client adapt to changing market conditions, identify quick wins and spot minor issues before they become full-blown crises.
- Transparency. Reporting helps clients peek under the hood and understand where their marketing dollars are being spent. When done correctly, it builds trust, aids client retention and even helps upsell.
So how can agencies shift the paradigm and turn client reports from a necessary evil to a growth opportunity? Our answer – put a price tag on your reporting services. Let us show you how!
In this business guide, we will cover:
The state of agency-client reporting in 2022
To better understand the landscape of agency-client reporting and set the stage for report monetization, we surveyed over 160 mid-size agencies and agency clients globally.
The participating agencies said they typically work with 11-50+ clients and provide a full spectrum of marketing and advertising services, including offline media (print, RTV, OOH).
On the other hand, 50% of participating clients said they work with 1 digital marketing agency, and 43.3% said they work with 2-4 agencies. Most work with multi-disciplinary agencies with a particular focus on SEO, Social and Email marketing.
48% of agencies say client reporting is the Account Manager’s responsibility
When asked who is responsible for generating client reports at their agency, 48% said it’s the Account Manager’s responsibility, whereas 25.58% pointed to the Account Director. Twenty-five respondents said they have a dedicated analytics team to perform such tasks.
Agencies typically collect data from 3-5 different sources
Most agency respondents said they typically pull data from 3-5 different sources per client report. 24% said they pull from 6-10 sources and only seven respondents said they use 10 or more sources/channels to collect data from.
42% of clients are unhappy with the reports they get
To understand reporting patterns further, we asked agencies and clients about the information they’re expected to provide and see in the reports.
Unsurprisingly, both agencies and clients said that performance breakdown by channel is the most important thing to include in their reports. Second place was given to the overview of top-line KPIs. Both sides agreed that breakdowns by country/region are not crucial. However, clients seem to put more emphasis on audience insights versus creative performance compared to agencies.
Even more interestingly, when asked if they’re happy with the level of insight provided in their agency’s reports, a whopping 42.86% of clients said ‘no’. They said they’d like to see more insights on market segmentation, conversion tracking and attribution, benchmarking against industry metrics, recommendations and next steps, and explanations for non-marketers.
Most agencies report on a monthly or weekly basis
Opinions continued to split when respondents were asked about the cadence of reporting.
The majority of agencies said they’re reporting on a monthly and weekly basis, with 23% of respondents also using real-time dashboards. Bi-weekly reporting was mentioned by several respondents.
However, clients seem to have slightly different expectations. Their votes were evenly split between monthly and real-time reporting, with weekly reporting coming in second and daily reporting coming in third.
This disparity is not surprising – as valuable as it is, client reporting is labor-intensive and usually ends up costing the agency a lot of money if reporting and technology costs aren’t covered by their pricing model.
It is well substantiated by the following agency responses regarding time spent on reporting per client.
Agencies spend 1-4 hours per week on reporting for a single client
48% of agencies said they spend 1-4 hours per week per client, and 26.36% spend up to 1 hour per week per client. Knowing most agencies that we spoke to have 11-50 clients, even on the low-end, that adds up to at least 11 hours per week, which is 44 hours per month, or just over one typical 9-to-5 workweek.
If we’re calculating averages, an agency that has 30 clients and spends 2.5 hours on reporting per week per client would spend a total of 75 hours per week, which is 300 hours per month, which is 7.5 workweeks.
This means that to meet demand, agencies either have to significantly cut back the time spent on reporting per client or increase headcount.
79% of agencies charge money for their reports
And now for the fun part – let’s talk about money! As our business guide focuses on report monetization, we wanted to know how – and if – agencies price client reports.
More than half of agency respondents said their reporting fees are factored in the overall agency cost. 21.71% said they charge extra per report, and 19.38% said they don’t charge for reporting at all.
Out of those that do charge money for reporting in some shape or form, it’s typically up to 5% of the account management fee or up to $100 per report. That’s on par with clients’ answers: 51.72% said they’d be willing to pay up to $50 per report and 37.93% would be willing to pay up to $100.
Only 27% of agencies use dedicated reporting software
Lastly, we wanted to know what tools digital agencies use to create client reports. The most popular answer was native platforms, such as Google Analytics, Google Ads or Facebook Ads. 27% said they have dedicated business intelligence or reporting software and 24% still report manually using spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
Out of those that do have a subscription-based BI/reporting software, the majority said that technology costs associated with that software are absorbed by the agency rather than split or outsourced to the client.
How to start making money from client reports
Based on the results of the survey as well as daily interactions with our clients, we can clearly state that reporting is a sore spot for agencies. Even more so if all the costs associated with reporting come out of the agency’s pocket.
To keep it sustainable and scalable, forward-thinking agencies look for ways to turn client reporting into a chance to make money. Curious? Here are three steps to get you started!
Step 1. Know your audience’s appetite for data
Not all clients are created equal. Some require oversight and control, others allow total freedom. Some have robust marketing knowledge, others need hand-holding. And when it comes to reporting: some want to drill down into numbers while others are perfectly happy with a high-level overview.
That’s why the first step to successfully monetizing client reports is understanding your audience and their appetite for data.
After all, a busy CEO is unlikely to appreciate a nitty-gritty dashboard. On the other hand, a marketing executive will have tons of follow-up questions if you send them a one-page report. Knowing exactly who’s going to peruse the information you share will help shape the final offer.
Don’t despair if it’s not as straightforward as one or the other! Reports tend to travel up the food chain: from channel manager to CMO, CEO, and even the board of directors. This is all the more reason to build different types of reporting into your agency’s value proposition and fee structure.
Step 2. Show your clients the value
Now that it’s more or less clear to whom you’re pitching these reports, you still need to ask yourself: do they understand the value of reporting in the first place?
We have already looked at some of the benefits that reporting brings to an agency. However, when it comes to clients, the arguments need to punch even harder. Here are two compelling reasons why your clients should invest in reporting:
- Wasted budget.
- Missed insights.
The wasted budget argument
In a survey of 1,000 marketers worldwide, Rakuten Marketing uncovered that on average, 26% of the marketing budget is wasted on ineffective channels and strategies. Another 20% of the respondents said they misspend at least 20% of their budgets.
(Source: Rakuten Marketing)
In a global advertising market that’s tracking north of $600 billion, these findings suggest a $150 billion problem. That’s no chump change!
Explain to your clients that without visibility and a clear understanding of which tactics are contributing to revenue, a significant percentage of their marketing dollars can go down the drain. And the only way to develop that understanding is through frequent data exchange and reporting. In essence, investing in reporting now prevents them from losing money later.
The missed insights argument
Every organization, big or small, wants to outshine the competition. But to do so, your clients need all the insights they can get: about their own marketing performance, their competitor tactics, market trends, new channel functionality, etc.
“Most clients [...] are increasingly relying on agencies to be their eyes and ears. They are hungry for interesting analogies with brands in other markets facing similar challenges, observations as to how competitors are shaping their offers and communication, any insights they may have missed.” – What Clients Think 2021
Frequent reporting alongside diligent data analysis can help spot micro trends that end up generating thousands of dollars later. Don’t believe us? Let us take you on a trip down memory lane…
#TheDress that broke the Internet (and how the maker cashed in on it)
In 2015, the Internet was consumed with one simple question: Is the dress black and blue or white and gold?! Countless articles, tweets, videos, memes, features in scientific papers… Roman Originals, the maker of the actual dress, recognized the massive opportunity at hand but had one tiny problem – their brand wasn’t listed anywhere on the viral posts.
To capitalize on the craze, they needed to make fast and calculated decisions. Using real-time data via Quantcast, the company was able to understand more about how and where the conversations were happening.
"Straight away, we ran a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook. We made sure that we updated all of the creative to reflect this opportunity. Onsite we changed the homepage to promote the dress, added #TheDress to the product title and ran a competition to win #TheDress to increase subscribers," Adrian Addison, Head of Ecommerce for Roman Originals, told Campaign Live.
The results speak for themselves: over 3.6 million visitors to romanoriginals.co.uk in the first 48 hours; 73 million views of #TheDress across all social media channels; 560% increase in sales compared to a typical Friday. Analytics and data-backed insights were indispensable to Roman Originals’ success – show your client they could be next.
Step 3. Bake it into your agency pricing
By now, we’ve established that when it comes to reporting – clients want it, you have it, all that’s left is to make them pay for it. Based on our research and feedback from our clients, agencies tend to have several options here:
Option 1: Include reporting costs in the management fee.
As shown in “The State of Agency-Client Reporting” survey, most agencies choose to go down this route with 40% of respondents saying their reporting costs make up 1-2% of the total fee.
- Works with most agency pricing models, from retainer to percentage of spend and project-based pricing.
- Can vary between clients depending on the complexity of the account.
- Can be seen as a lack of transparency by the client. To avoid that, agencies can choose to itemize their management fee to show exactly what activities are covered by it.
- Can be unsustainable and hard to renegotiate as the client’s reporting needs grow.
Option 2: Charge a flat fee per report.
Again, looking back at “The State of Agency-Client Reporting” survey, the flat rate was the second most popular option among our respondents with 32% saying their reports cost $50-$100, and 30% saying they charge up to $50.
- Works with most agency pricing models, from retainer to percentage of spend or project-based pricing.
- Easy to set and manage client expectations – they get what they pay for.
- Can result in added complexity if client needs are very different and reports cannot be templatized.
- Can result in high, unjustifiable costs for complex accounts that require lots of reporting.
- Can lead to uncertainty of cash flow coming from reporting if min/max aren’t agreed.
Option 3: Charge an hourly rate.
Reporting costs can also be charged by the hour. However, we all know that calculating hourly rates is no easy feat.
The most basic first step would be to figure out the hourly rate of the person responsible for creating reports. In our survey, most agency respondents said it’s the Account Manager’s responsibility.
The median hourly rate of an Account Manager in the United States is $36, so that gives us a starting figure. But it doesn’t end here. You’ll need to factor in technology and other overhead costs, for example, logging the timesheet.
- Can vary between clients depending on the complexity of the account.
- Complex calculation and tracking.
- Difficult to establish what should be achieved in an hour.
- Can raise questions and suspicions from the client’s side if they feel they’re not getting the service they expect.
Be mindful that the actual process related to monetizing reports will look slightly different at every agency. Most decisions will be heavily influenced by your agency’s size, the number of clients, the number of channels managed, the pricing model and so on.
Nevertheless, the three steps discussed in this chapter are ubiquitous among agencies that monetize their client reporting successfully. Read the following case study to see this strategy put into action.
Agency case study: How "CGR Communications" is turning client reports into a true revenue stream
Here’s an example of how Whatagraph customer CGR Communications successfully managed to outsource reporting technology costs to its clients. CGR is a multi-disciplinary marketing communications agency based out of Kingston, Jamaica. Working with large international brands such as Nestle, Red Stripe and Hyundai, it was faced with significant reporting challenges.
“We’d always scramble to get our clients’ data from various sources, create a 10-page PowerPoint and deliver it within the first week of the month. It took many days and man-hours,” says Jamie Ranston, Director of Interactive Media at CGR Communications.
CGR recognized the need for a digital transformation within the agency. Thus, in 2018, they made a switch to Whatagraph’s automated reporting platform which helped to significantly reduce the time and resources needed for client reporting.
“With Whatagraph we reduced our 10-page reports to only 2 pages and can generate them within seconds. They are ready and off to our clients by 9 AM on the first day of each month.”
Jamie admits that there was a learning curve associated with the new reporting process and format, and some clients remained stuck in their old ways. The logical decision for CGR was to implement it with new clients having the costs already built in the retainer as a line item.
“We charge a flat fee, which allows our clients up to 10 data sources and an associated report each month. Most of our clients have about 8 data sources and we charge USD $50 per month, which is close to a 50% markup on our Whatagraph costs.”
Eventually, Jamie and his team hope to turn client reporting into a true revenue stream by combining automated reports with live dashboards.
How Whatagraph enables client reporting at scale
Hopefully, by now we’ve given you the confidence to go and upsell your existing clients with advanced reporting services or build reporting fees into your pricing model for new patrons. But there’s still one piece of the puzzle left, and that is reporting software.
Sure, you can report in Excel sheets and PowerPoints, force your staff to lose sleep over unfinished slides and complex formulas, leave your clients to decipher the myriad tables and charts… Or you can actually set everyone up for success by adopting one simple tool.
It’s 2022 and the market is buzzing with analytics and reporting software solutions. However, when it comes to digital marketing agencies, there’s no better than Whatagraph.
Whatagraph was built by marketers for agencies, meaning we know what your clients want to see from a marketing perspective, but also adapt to agency-specific workflows, such as:
- managing multiple client accounts at the same time;
- managing multiple marketing channels for the same client;
- scheduling reports for automated delivery;
- easily sharing reports via email or screen,
- adding custom branding, and so on.
Through our built-in features, Whatagraph enables digital marketing agencies to eliminate complexity and streamline their client reporting processes, ultimately saving 1-5 hours of work per week per client.
Published on Apr 14 2022
WRITTEN BYMile Zivkovic
Mile is the head of content at Whatagraph in charge of all content and communications for Whatagraph’s marketing data platform. A marketing heavy with almost a decade of SaaS industry experience, Mile has managed multiple content marketing teams without losing an ounce of his writing passion. The author behind some of the most-read pieces on our blog.
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