9 ways to build client trust with your marketing reports

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Have you ever heard of the broken windows theory?

The idea behind the criminology theory by James Wilson and George Kelling is that when people see little things going wrong in their neighborhood – broken windows or graffiti on the bus – it becomes a signal that no one cares and they shouldn’t bother caring, either. And that, in turn, opens the door for more serious crime to spread like an infection in the area.

The theory posits that keeping places well-maintained basically makes people behave better and expect more from one another.

So what does the broken windows theory have to do with your marketing reports?

In the same way that neighborhoods can be slowly eroded by not keeping up the little things, the trust your clients have in you can be similarly eroded by small things in your reporting.

Don’t give your clients any reason to doubt your expertise. To keep them focused on the big picture – all the great work you’re doing on their behalf – it’s important to make sure that all the little details in your report are polished, professional and flawless.

Here are 9 little things to look out for that help your marketing reports build trust with clients.

1. Benchmarking

Your client wants to quickly see campaign performance versus last week, last month, last year, etc. First, it creates the opportunity for dialogue about campaign performance. Second, they will appreciate that they don’t have to find prior reports for comparison. You’re good at what you do. Make sure your client sees the proof front and center.

2. Branding

Good branding can help build your credibility. It makes you and your agency (even if that’s just you!) look polished and professional. White-labeling your marketing tools and reports, such as adding your logo, changing the report’s color scheme and adding a custom footer  says to that client, “not only am I getting you results, but I am taking this very seriously.”

3. Consistency

Sporadic reporting doesn’t instill confidence, nor does it make your client feel like they are getting their money’s worth. Clients want to compare apples to apples and know what they’re getting from you on a regular, predictable basis.

Once you agree on the reporting timeframe that works for your client, set up scheduled reports so you never miss a deadline. Schedule reports to run every day, week, month or quarter depending on the reporting cycle you and your client have agreed upon.

4. Availability

Business can be unpredictable – there are time when a client needs an updated report available right now. (And by right now, I mean five minutes ago.)

Keeping all of your data, or as much as you can, within one platform will ensure that when your client (or boss!) calls in a panic saying “I NEED A REPORT NOW!”, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips. Keep research data, any mentions you’ve acquired across the web, social media metrics, and PPC campaign data together and available at a moment’s notice to turn over.

Are your reports giving your clients a reason to trust you?

Are your reports giving your clients a reason to trust you?

5. Simplicity

Your reports should be easy for your client to read and understand. Remember, if they knew how to market their company, they wouldn’t have hired you in the first place. A few things will keep these reports simple for your clients:

  • Arrange the data in a way that tells a story to your client: what makes the most sense?
  • Ensure the date range of the data reflects exactly what you want the client to see
  • Add summary notes for more context

6. Personalization

If your client has made it clear they only care about XX metric, don’t overload them with unecessary data. Show them you’ve listened and responded accordingly by isolating the stuff that matters to them.

Set up your own quality metrics that allow you to show exactly what matters most to this client. Maybe you want to make a quality score with just SEOmoz’s Domain Authority. Or, maybe you want to combine both MajesticSEO and SEOmoz’s metrics together. Do what feels right for this client. Treat every client with the personal touch they deserve.

7. Spelling

Nothing erodes confidence like misspelled words. All the green arrows in the world can have a hard time making up for a report that looks careless and sloppy. If you’re more of a technical type and words aren’t your strong suit, enlist an editor to proof your reports.

8. Straightforwardness

Hiding behind industry jargon can make clients skeptical or confused. Instead, educate your client. Explain all terms you’ll be discussing in simple language that lets them immediately know how the term relates to them. Add images to your report to give clients some extra context, and use summary fields for extra education:


9. Followup

Your picture-perfect reports don’t matter much if your clients aren’t actually reading them. Use trackable download links to see who’s actually opening and viewing your reports – or not.

What tips help you inspire client confidence as you report results? Let me know in the comments.

6 Responses to “9 ways to build client trust with your marketing reports”

  1. belikeliquid

    Courtney, what a great write up! Very practical and applicable. I have been in business for over a decade and cannot agree more with what you are saying here, and the artful way you have explored the idea. Naturally I do well in most areas, but #1 and #4 seem to be the most challenging at this time, as it falls off the list of priorities, but in fact is so important. If I don’t have time to provide reports or be available to my clients, then all the other effort is marked, like a broken window. 😉

    Mahalo, just what I needed to read today.

    • RavenCourtney

      Awesome; I’m so glad to hear that! #4 can be a tough one. Particularly when your client load gets heavy, it’s hard to make sure everyone’s getting the attention they need. As for #1, we’re actually working on some benchmarking tools at Raven right now. I hope very soon I can report back that we have just the tool to help you with that. All suggestions welcome. 🙂

  2. Dynamic Search

    Thanks for this great write up! What you’ve created with this post is a very useful and practical tool that business owners (and employees who are required to do reporting) can refer back to. Kudos! We will definitely be using a few pointers from your article. Thanks again!

  3. Wow, what an awesome post!! This really made me think about not only my reports a lot and how I can make them even better, but each client relationship as well. I truly appreciated your angle on this. The Broken Glass Theory is such a great illustration!

    Another point I often feel is important is the “Opportunity” for more business that opens up when doing reporting for clients. Whether you get a client that is more easy going, or you have one that is (totally A-type driver to the extreme) obsessed with looking at their own numbers, at the end of the day your client’s love a bottom-line focused partner or extension of their business that is an expert. By using opportunities every time you send a report to try and add something to their bottom-line will really win you trust — and help score some awesome referral business too. This opportunity is not limited to reporting communication, but how much more so to consider when it’s reporting time. I always ask myself how I can add value to this client in this report, rather than being too wordy hoping they don’t read them.

    Make your clients you biggest fans, and they will bring you business by tell all their business owning friends and family to use you over anyone else. Get them fired up having you working for them. Bring tons of value every day. If you do that they can’t wait to tell people how great things are going and that you have helped grow their business.