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Measuring (and reporting) your agency’s results for clients

A question recently popped up in the Spin Sucks Community for an organization looking to implement a communications measurement program for the first time.

Chip and Gini took the opportunity to explore how to set up useful reporting for client work, as well has how your agency can communicate those results most effectively to your clients.

Measurement isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to be hard either. There are lots of great resources available. This episode will help you to build or improve your own framework for reporting that should lead to better results, happier clients, and improved retention.

Key takeaways

Chip Griffin: “It is so important that you provide context to your report, that you provide understanding to your report, because a pile of data, even if they understand it on the other side, is not nearly as meaningful as if you are able to tell that story and distill down the key points.”

Gini Dietrich : “When you’re thinking about how you can measure the results of a communications program, probably about 50% of it cannot be measured. So you have to have the confidence to be able to say to a client, you’re gonna invest this 50%, and we’re not gonna be able to tell you that it was directly correlated to X number of customers or X amount of revenue.”


The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: And I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And we’re gonna get out our measuring tape today and do something with it right after this.

All right. So let’s see. How do we…

Gini Dietrich: oh, you actually have one!

Chip Griffin: How do we measure the success of our efforts for clients?

Gini Dietrich: So bad, so bad. How do you have a measuring tape sitting right there? By the way your background looks very nice. I just noticed.

Chip Griffin: Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah. I, I made a few upgrades to it over the holiday week, so.

Gini Dietrich: I like it. Looks great.

Chip Griffin: Tried to brighten it up a little bit, you know? Yeah. The brick is nice, but a little, little white bead board.

Gini Dietrich: Got some green plants in there. You have some action figures.

Chip Griffin: They’re fake. Of course.

Gini Dietrich: Well sure. That way they don’t die. It’s great.

Chip Griffin: Correct. Yeah. I mean, you don’t want me to have to take care of plants. That’s just, that’s not gonna end well. You know, but no, I have a, in, I have a measuring tape in my desk and so. Right after I, I started playing the bumper. It occurred to me that, that I had a measuring tape in my desk.

Gini Dietrich: You actually had one.

Chip Griffin: So I spun around quickly grabbed it out and had it in hand by the time the graphic came off the screen. For those of you who were watching in video.

Gini Dietrich: Okay. Well on that note.

Chip Griffin: Show’s over. Yeah. But it’s been great.

Gini Dietrich: Failed fast.

Chip Griffin: So, no, we are going to talk today about how you measure the success of your efforts on behalf of clients and how you report it to them.

Because this is a conversation that took place in the Spin Sucks community. Great place, lots of good resources there. Lots of good conversations taking place. So if you’re not already in there, sign up, how do you do that? How do you do that, Gini? Where do you go?

Gini Dietrich:

Chip Griffin: All right. Well with that, if we’re asked how you do this, how, how do you do this, Gini? Well, first of all, should you be doing this or should you just kind of march forward and just, report your activities and call it a day.

Gini Dietrich: Oh no, no. Please measure. Please measure. Well the question came up because it was the first time that this company had ever done any communications measurement and she said, so nothing exists and what should I do?

And I think the answer is of course, It depends. But if you’re just starting out versus, you know, working inside an organization that is pretty sophisticated and has data scientists and an operational team that can do all that, all the, the analysis and everything. If you’re just starting out, I would look for things.

I would look at things like Google analytics. I would connect that with the CRM and I would connect that with any marketing automation. So if you have a, and your social media. Analytics, is gonna look at everything that comes through the website and it does include social. You’re gonna look at all the social sites that you’re participating in and use numbers from there.

What you use again, depends. I would look at, you know, the CRM too, so that you could start to tell what kinds of things are working to convert people from just a tire kicker to an actual customer. And I would look at your marketing automation because that’s going to tell you what kinds of content is working – email, that kind of stuff.

Chip Griffin: And of course don’t forget to include AVEs, right? Because that’s, that will help you to, to really understand, I mean, Add Value Equivalency gives you all the insight you need for anything you’re doing PR related at least.

Gini Dietrich: Nope.

Chip Griffin: No.? Oh, oh, I think I misunderstood that then. Huh.

Gini Dietrich: He’s joking. By the way. He does not really believe that.

Chip Griffin: I do not believe that, that was, it was dripping with sarcasm.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. So you look at things that will actually tell you. And this is, I think it’s a lot easier for certain kinds of agency owners. So if you’re doing digital marketing, it’s a lot easier for you. If you’re doing SEO, lots easier for you. If you’re doing brand communications – really challenging, and this is one of the, the, I have this debate at least twice a week with clients. And they will say, this is great. People know us. They are saying our names. I had somebody walk up to me and saw, said they read about us in whatever publication it was. It’s great, but I can’t measure it to revenue. And we’re looking at

making, uh, cutting costs. Whew. That was hard for me. And we can’t – the work that you do, doesn’t correlate directly to revenue. And I have this conversation all the time. So there are certain agencies at agencies that will have an easier time of this. When you’re thinking about how you can measure the results of a communications program.

I always say that probably about 50% of it cannot be measured. In some cases it might be higher or lower. It might be cyclical throughout the year, depending on seasonality or whatever happens to be. But for the most part, half of your budget cannot be measured. So you have to say to, you have to have the confidence to be able to say to a client, you’re gonna invest this 50%, and we’re not gonna be able to tell you that it was directly correlated to X number of customers or X amount of revenue.

But the other 50% we can measure, we can show you how many people came to, to the website from the work that we did. And we can show you how many subscribed or filled out a form or asked for a demo, or, you know, had some sort of qualifying action. And then we can help you walk through it, the process and say, okay, of those 10 people that became qualified, five of them became customers.

We can help you do that for about half of what you’re gonna spend your money on from a brand communications perspective. But half of it? You gotta invest and believe that it’s gonna work.

Chip Griffin: Right. Well, I mean, I think that that simply having this conversation with clients can be helpful because if you spend the time to, to talk with clients about what you’re going to measure and how you’re going to report it, it can often give you some real insight into what the client values.

And this is something that we’ve talked about on some recent episodes. If you understand what they’re really trying to achieve. And, and how they will evaluate you, that’s gonna help you out. So, you know, even if you can’t measure things with as much precision as you would like, and you have to explain that the mere fact that you’re having this conversation should be extracting valuable intelligence from your client that you can use in the work that you’re doing, even beyond the reporting itself.

Gini Dietrich: For sure. And I also will say that in some cases you’re going to hit a wall. You’re gonna hit a dead end because there are some executives who just don’t believe in it and they may have hired you because the board said, you need to hire a communications firm. You need to do content. You need to do social.

You need to get your name out there. And that’s why they did it, but they don’t believe in it. So six months or a year from now, they’re going to let you go because they didn’t believe in it in the beginning and it is really challenging to measure. So one of the challenges that I’m having right now with a client is they have decided that the only kind of content that they should produce is, is sales copy. Sales enablement copy. Great. That’s not us. That’s not what we do. So if that’s what you want, let us help you find the right agency for that, but that’s not what we do. And then they sort of, they’re sort of doing this hemming and hawing thing where it’s like, well, but I guess if we, we really have to have top of the funnel because of search.

I’m like yeah, I mean, I guess you have been listening to me for the last two years, but yes, but also if you’re only going to do sales enablement content, let’s find you, somebody who only does that. Right. You’re going to be disappointed in us because that’s not what we do. So there’s all, there are also those kinds of things where you really know, they really only care about revenue.

That’s all they care about. They don’t care about brand awareness. They don’t care about people knowing their name. They don’t care about market share. They don’t care about any of that. They only care about every marketing activity drives to revenue. And if that’s the case, I’m having really hard conversations right now to help them understand that we, we can’t do that.

I would love to be able to do that. But we cannot do that right now. So I think you also have to be willing to take things in stride and know that when you hit a dead end, because you know exactly what they want and you can’t deliver it, that you have to be able to have the confidence and the business built around you in other places to be able to walk away.

Chip Griffin: Right. Well, and I think that you know, part of it is, is being comfortable that you and your agency team have sufficient knowledge about how to do these activities well. And I’m talking about the, the measurement and reporting portion of it, that if you understand how to do that, then it, it makes you, it puts you in a stronger position to have these meaningful conversations about what you can and can’t do.

And, and I think you also have to have conversations about what you can and can’t do with the data. I mean, you’ve already touched on the fact that there are some kinds of, of agencies in the work that they do, that’s easier to track than others, but even within those where it’s easy to track, one of the biggest challenges that you’ll run into is that most of the software packages that are out there do a pretty good job at either first touch or last touch attribution but multi-touch is brutally difficult. Yep. To do in any kind of meaningful way with, with anything short of data scientists involved. Right. In most cases. Exactly. That’s totally. And unfortunately, you know, these days where, you know, consumers, whether those are typical consumers at B2B consumers are accumulating information and they’re having contact with your brand in so many different ways before a sale takes place that without multitouch, you are automatically gonna lose part of the picture.

And so, you know, you need to make sure that your clients understand that, that particularly if you know their tools are doing first or last touch then you’re not going to get that broader swath of people who have some other kind of engagement.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And I think you’re absolutely right. We actually work with another client that has a data science team, and there are seven people on that team.

And I say to them all the time, I’m like, okay, how do we measure this? And they’re like, we can’t. I’m like, no, no, no, we can. Right. So we’re actually working on a regression model right now to be able to do it, but exactly that we haven’t been able to figure out the multi-touch so we know exactly what the last touch is.

That’s easy. Right? What’s the last thing they did. Did they read a blog post? Did they attend a webinar? Did they download a white paper? Did they attend an event? Whatever it happens to be. We know what they did before they became sales qualified and a customer, but you know, in some cases maybe they found out about the company six years ago.

Because they know one of the founders or met one of the founders at an event and have just sort of been through the process of kicking the tire for six years, and now they’re ready to buy, but you don’t have that knowledge. So then everybody sits internally and the sales team is like, oh, well, I met them at an event six years ago.

And the events team was like, well, I ran the event and you’re just like, oh my gosh, help.

Chip Griffin: Right. right. And it, I mean, particularly in, in the B2B space where it is such a long sales cycle for so many things, you know, you’re not – B2B, it’s not a lot of impulse buying right. This isn’t, you know, looking into the, the store and say, I’ll have one of those and one of those.

Right. You know, it’s, it, it does take time and, and it may be that they heard about you a year, two, three years ago before they get serious about the conversation. But all of that does contribute to the mix. And so to your point of the different kinds of content that you can create, you know, the, the top of funnel, the mid funnel, the bottom of funnel, all of these things matter, but how you can track them and how you can report on them is going to vary.

And so, you know, sometimes you need to do, you know, more snapshots in time, you order to, you know, because it may take too much work to, to do it on an ongoing basis, but it may be that it’s worthwhile to invest that on a snapshot in time basis to at least start, you know, periodically check on things and try to get some insight into what’s working.

And what’s not. Obviously the more that you can automate, the more that you can build into standard regular reports, the better. Yeah. But it’s, you have to be realistic about it too, because I see a lot of agencies gathering and reporting all sorts of data that clients never look at, they never use. And so it, it’s a lot of wasted energy and effort.

And so you need to make sure that if you’re gonna bother to collect and report on the data that it’s actually being used, and if not cut it out. Because you’re wasting time and money and effort and brain power and all of that for no good reason.

Gini Dietrich: And I would say also understand what the client, you know, when you’re reporting to this, who the, who the person is that you’re reporting it to.

Is it CEO? Is it the CMO? Who is it? And what’s their understanding of what it is because we have one client who has zero idea. What any of this stuff that I’m talking about means. Like, I may as well be speaking another language to him. So we present the data, but I tell a story with it. Yes. And so we do a presentation every week at, a deck every week and it has the numbers in there and we do it with graphs, but then I have one or two paragraphs at the top where I explain this is what it means, and this is why it’s important.

And before I started doing that, he didn’t pay attention. And now he’s like, ohhh. So he’s starting to absorb it and understand it. But when he was just looking at graphs, he didn’t understand any of it. So also understand the way that you report has to vary based on what your client’s knowledge is.

Chip Griffin: Right. I mean, I, and I, I think you can’t overestimate that point enough.

Or overemphasize that point enough. It is so important that you provide context to your report, that you provide understanding to your report because a pile of data, even if they understand it on the other side is not nearly as meaningful as if you are able to tell that story, distill down the key points, tell you this is what you should be focused on this week, this month, based on what we’ve seen as we look at the data. First of all, make sure that that important things don’t go overlooked because even if they understand it, if you provide you know, a 10 page dense report with all sorts of information. It may be that that even a smart, person’s gonna overlook a key point that you and your team had noticed. Right. But beyond that, you’re able to then focus the conversation that comes out of those reports. And that’s important as well because it’s, you know, this is part of a continuing and an ongoing conversation that the agency is having with its clients.

You are helping to shape the future work that you’re doing. You’re helping to shape their impression of the previous work that you have done. And so you need to take control of that and not just allow some numbers on a page to take you in some random direction.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. I, 100% agree with you and you know, it’s, it’s funny.

We just had an experience where, we did a couple of events and through the events we were doing social media, of course, and on Instagram, especially on reels, I mean, it just blew up. It went out of control. And so when I, the social media manager sent me all the graphics. The graphs to put into the report, it was, it was just, I mean, it showed green arrows and it was pretty and everything, but didn’t give any context. And so in that I said, okay, I want you to pay close attention to two things. One is that here’s the number of people who have saved these videos that are branded, they are your branded videos, here’s the number of people who have saved it.

And here are the number of people who have shared it. We don’t care about followers and fans and you know, how many likes or anything like that. We care that people are saving it because that means they wanna come back to it. And we care because they’ve shared it, which means that they are, they like it enough that they want their networks to see it.

And before that he, the CEO had no context. He was like, I don’t even understand why we’re on Instagram. And we were like. But that gave him, that gave him the context to understand why we were doing what we were doing.

Chip Griffin: Right. And, and, you know, as you talk about this, I’d like to highlight one important thing. I know that that all of you agencies love these color coded things and, you know, reds and greens for good and bad.

Keep in mind that when you create those systems, you tend to be looking at a very small set of data. And so I I’ve seen many cases where those, you know, color coding things for what’s rising, what’s falling, and all that gets picked. And the, the sort of the bands get picked at the very start of an engagement.

When you don’t have a whole lot of data to look at. You can get yourself into trouble later on when you may actually be doing pretty well, but by the standards that you established for them, it’s, it’s now in the red. And in fact, I was just working with an agency…

Gini Dietrich: or it’s declining. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. I was just working with an agency on this recently and, and, and they had a report that they had been generating for over a year.

And all of a sudden it was showing reds and I looked at it and I said, why is it showing reds? And it’s because it, well, it’s, it’s based on the, the average of the last 12 months or something like that. I’m like, well, that doesn’t take into account seasonality or changes in your approach or the quality of some of the, the data that’s coming through, you know, are, are you getting better qualified leads, for example. So. You, you really need to be careful about that, cuz you either need to change midstream and then have a conversation about why you’ve changed it, which all of a sudden looks sneaky. Right? If the client says, well, wait a minute, why, you know, why is this changed? Well, because we realized that we were using numbers that were gonna make us look bad.

Right? So. Sometimes it’s better to just report the straight data and not get cutesy about that kind of stuff on the chart or in the table. And instead make note of those things in the narrative, in the storytelling, right. That you’re doing. So you, you always need to think about those things and, and also think about, you know, when you’re establishing even just the general format for the report, even without this cutesy stuff.

Think about the work that you’re going to be doing and is it going to, to, you know, to ebb and flow. And so maybe some of these things you need to set that up right in advance and let the client understand these are gonna fluctuate wildly. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. And clients love to ask you, well, how does this compare to everybody else?

And what does this, you know what, what’s a good number for open rate conversions, clicks, all that kind of stuff. Well, I mean, there’s no such thing. It, it varies so much based on who you’re targeting, what you’re trying to sell to them. Right, right, right. You know, and so I’ve always told people, focus on your own trends.

Right. Yep. What you wanna do is, is look at, you know, take a baseline and then improve from there. Don’t worry about what, you know, someone else is doing. You can take lessons from sure. But don’t spend a lot of time trying to benchmark yourself against the competition because it’s not an apples to apples thing.

And I mean, it would be like if I was, you know, a startup software business and trying to compare myself to IBM on something, what’s the point. Right. Right. I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s totally different animals.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I think giving the context and providing the information and you’re right, there are, there is going to be seasonality.

And, you know, you have to understand all of that before you start to report. So if you’re just starting out, I think that Google analytics is a great place to start. Having it set up properly and looking at things like, you know, website, visitors, unique website visitors, page views, bounce rate, how much social is bringing in, how much the other, what other referrals are bringing in, traffic, paying attention to that kind of stuff. Pay attention to your domain authority, especially as compared to competition so that you can see when there are peaks and valleys, because that will fluctuate as well. If yours goes up and the competition stays the same, you’re doing something right.

But if yours goes down and the competition also goes down there was probably an algorithm change. So there are lots of things that you can pay attention to, especially as you’re starting out. And then you can start to get much more sophisticated with regression models and attribution models and multi-touch and all that kind of fun stuff.

Chip Griffin: Right. And, and if you’re just getting started, there are lots of great resources out there. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, absolutely.

Chip Griffin: A simple Google search will present some of that, but if you’re doing, you know, PR measurement, for example, an organization called AMEC has tons of great resources available to you.

If you’re looking for information on Google analytics, there’s lots of great sources, but certainly Christopher Penn puts out lots of good stuff you know, that’s worth looking at. There’s all sorts of these resources that already exist. So, you know, don’t stare at the blank screen and try to figure it out instead you know, go out and seek out some of the advice that’s available to you so that you can leverage that and, and shorten the amount of time it takes you to get started. At least you’ll still wanna make your own adjustments and, and make the reporting your own over time, based on what you learn, what your agency is all about, what your clients are about, but, you know, start from somewhere.

Don’t start with that blank piece of paper, cuz that’s a lot more scary.

Gini Dietrich: Amen. Amen.

Chip Griffin: With that, I guess I’ll, I’ll put my, my measuring type away now and we will end this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin

Gini Dietrich: and I’m Gini Dietrich

Chip Griffin: and it depends.

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The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

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