How Agencies Use Client Reporting to Sell More Retainers

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All new digital marketing agencies, indeed all new businesses, seek a steady flow of cash. In the beginning, this might be done by trying to get as many clients as possible. That’ll work in the short-term, but it’s a bad long-term strategy.
Working a constant stream of one-off projects is no way to make your agency’s cash flow steady. The way to overcome this is to convince your clients to hire you on retainer. To do this, you must show your clients that you offer value over time and that keeping you on-call is in their best interests.
How do you do this? How do you sell marketing retainers? It’s all about client reporting.

How Agencies Use Client Reporting To Sell More Retainers

 

Why is Client Reporting Important?

Before we talk about what client reporting is, let’s talk about why it is necessary. Maintaining your current retainer contracts is all about demonstrating value. You need a way to show them that you are meeting the goals you said you would achieve as part of the contract. If you can do that, they know they’re getting a return on their investment. It lets them know that they chose the right agency.

Reporting also helps you gain new retainers. You’ll know what your agency is capable of based on the performance of your other contracts. You’ll be able to make data-driven promises in your contract negotiations. If you can confidently say that you can improve X and Y metrics over Z time if they hire you on retainer, you’ll have a much better chance at landing a long-term contract.

In order to secure these retainers, you’ll have to do some upfront work to prove that you are not only an expert in their niche but that you are capable of filling in the gaps for them (more on this later). Once you’ve done that, the client will trust you to work with them toward long-term objectives, rather than micromanaging you through a series of small-budget deliverables. And you’ll be able to prove you’re on track with on-going reporting.

What is Client Reporting?

Your client entrusts a certain aspect of their business to you, so it’s important to provide them with frequent updates on their marketing campaigns. A client report simply shows the client that you’re doing what you said you’d do. The variations from client to client can be significant; each client may need a custom one made based on their specific contract requirements. More on how to do this easily at the end of the article.

A client report is not a metrics dump. Many clients may not understand marketing jargon or know how to interpret analytics. Your client reporting is an opportunity to teach them how you’re providing value to their company and improving their ROI. Don’t baffle them with statistics. Use the KPIs outlined in your contract to guide your reporting so you can clearly show you’re on the right track.

If you’re not on the right track, that’s a great time to create a report to raise the issue with your client and discuss a solution. In fact, some marketing firms set up email alerts for when metrics dip below a certain point or a goal set isn’t reached. This lets them be proactive about making a solution.

Creating the Client Reports

As a digital marketing agency, you likely offer a slew of digital marketing services to your clients. Some may retain you to manage just one facet of their of digital marketing while others will want you to manage every aspect of it. The services you provide will determine what information you include in your report and how you put it together.

 

The Client Report

 

Types of Reports

Here are some reports that you may generate for your clients and the metrics you’ll want to include in each.

Content Marketing Report

Content marketing reports work best when you examine the performance of each piece of content on its own merits as well as the overall campaign.

List all the pieces you created since the last client report and include details about each item’s type and length. For instance, you might list the title of the piece, the type of the piece it was (blog post, ebook, white paper, etc.), and the word count.

If social media is a major part of your content marketing campaign, those posts could also be added in this report. It’s best to list only the posts that were intended to drive traffic to your content pieces; this is a content marketing report, not a social media marketing report.

Next, include any metrics that are related to your retainer contract. For instance, if you’re trying to increase the number of visitors to a website then measure how many visitors each new piece received and compare it to a baseline. Do the same for overall visitors. You can also break down performance by channel, conversions, or whatever other metrics you and the client deem important for your partnership.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Report

SEO can be somewhat challenging for marketers, but it’s a complete black box to clients. A minimal SEO report might demonstrate the changes in keyword rankings since the last report, but it can be taken much further, and your client will appreciate more detail that helps them understand the work that goes into a good SEO campaign.

Can you explain to the client why they moved up or down on specific keywords? What specific changes did you make to influence the rank? Is new content you created providing a boost? In your report, describe what you think worked (or didn’t).

If you did keyword analysis, you can make your pitch on which ones to add or remove in these reports and back it up with data? If your client is targeting a real dud or you’ve discovered a better keyword niche they could exploit, you owe it to them to explain why a strategy shift is necessary.

PPC Management Report

For most clients, the primary goal of a PPC campaign is to generate conversions. There’s usually a clear funnel: prospects see an ad, they click it, they read the offer on the landing page, and they (hopefully) convert.

Since measuring the ROI of PPC is relatively easy once you have implemented conversion tracking, your report can go into greater detail for each funnel stage. Where are visitors leaking, and what are you doing to fix it? Do you have a CPC or CPA goal? By the way, your retainer should include enough of a budget to set up and maintain conversion tracking or any other on-going costs of PPC.

If you’re called in to manage an existing campaign, doing a funnel analysis as part of the report will highlight your contributions over time.

Social Media Report

Social media has so many uses and potential goals that you’ll need to be clear with your client about what they’re looking for before designing a report. You know all the basic information that comes through their social media dashboards. Relating that to their marketing goals is the tricky part.

A brand awareness campaign may focus just on measuring followers, impressions, and engagement. A sales campaign will look at the CTR for promotional links and conversions. Running a special event or a contest will have its own metrics. Like SEO, social media performance measurement can be challenging. Try to demystify it through your reporting. Again, show your work and your interpretation of the results.

The Purpose of Reporting

For each type of report, the purpose is the same: to treat your client like a partner and provide the information that you need to review together in order to achieve the goals you have set. In every report you deliver, the core idea is that you show:

  • Where you started
  • What you did
  • What changed
  • What you’ll do in the future based on this month’s performance
  • Where you are compared to the goals set in the contract

By providing regular reports with this information, you’ll keep your clients engaged, happy and willing to renew their retainers. You’ll also have an easier time selling retainer agreements to new clients because you have a demonstrable reporting methodology holds you accountable for results.

Using Reports to Secure New Retainers

Once you have a set of good reports from different clients you can use them as collateral to secure new retainer contracts. There are three keys to implementing this.

First, you need to redact all confidential information from the reports. For instance, if you capture before and after images of an analytics dashboards, you’ll need to blur out or remove anything that can identify the client. We don’t need to mention why revealing confidential client information to others is a bad idea. In fact, your contracts probably have clauses just for this issue.

Second, include your redacted example reports in your pitches. The purpose is to prove that you have a methodology for executing retainer contracts that get results. You can create sets based on the needs of your potential clients.

Be prepared to explain how you improved the metrics. Screenshots are great but your prospective client is going to need a reason why they should believe the screenshots. If have included text in your reports that explains what you did from month to month, this will be easy.

Third, show how you are using the reports to measure against the larger goal and stay accountable. Clients want to know how well you are performing, whether they understand marketing or not. If they’re going to spend money on your agency each month then they need a way to hold you accountable. Regular, clear reporting is the way to do it.

Creating a strong reporting methodology and using past reports to generate future clients is a great way to sell more retainer contracts. If you do not have a reporting solution in place, there are software packages now such as Megalytic that can help you create beautiful and easy-to-understand custom reports. This is a much faster solution than manually compiling the data and creating charts for each client.

Take some time this month to examine your case studies and read those old reports with fresh eyes. Identify some of the most compelling reports and use the process above to integrate them into your sales strategy.

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