For agencies, consultancies, and freelancers – getting your reporting right is crucial. How well you report back to your client can make or break your relationship.

That’s because the reporting process goes well beyond: “did we do well this month?

It’s about demonstrating how your performance contributes to your client’s overall strategy.

Often, it’s also about taking your client on a journey – helping them understand which metrics to pay close attention to, and what the data is actually telling you.

Ultimately, it’s about trust.

Does your client trust that you are taking responsibility? Do they trust you are taking performance as seriously as they are? Do they trust you’re not just using data to pull the wool over their eyes?

The benefits of manual reporting

In a pre-digital age – reporting was always manual. There was no other way to do it.

The benefit of manual reporting (at set intervals – weekly, monthly, quarterly) was that you could craft reports that provided your client with valuable context.

You could focus on the metrics that mattered, and use data storytelling to draw out important narratives, and highlight areas that deepen the conversation.

Not to mention, you could supplement your reporting cycle with client meetings – to make sure everyone stayed on the same page. (Maybe even including a Mad Men-style martini lunch or two.)

Don Draper and Roger Sterling at lunch
Don and Roger weren't worried about reporting on live Google Ads data. (Image courtesy of AMC)

How “Digital” shifted client expectations

Since the dawn of digital, client expectations have fundamentally changed. In addition to periodic reporting, they also want access to live reporting and shared information – in the moment.

And why not?

Whether you're delivering on marketing, recruitment, customer support, sales or fulfilment, you’re using technology that generates live data.

So why shouldn’t you give your clients open access to your drives, spreadsheets and digital tools?

Well here are some reasons why...

The risks of open data

No doubt there are huge benefits to increased data transparency and openness. But there are also some pretty significant risks you may not want to expose yourself to. For example, what if your clients...

  1. Access sensitive data – a completely open approach might mean your clients gain access to sensitive data – from other clients you are working with, for example.
  2. Get lost in the weeds – it’s not a great experience for your client to sift through thousands of data points to find the one important thing they need to see.
  3. View misleading metrics – sometimes data needs to be processed or analyzed before it’s reliable. Sometimes (through no fault of your own) the data present in the tools you use is wrong or misleading. For the uninitiated, direct access to this data might be unsettling, or cause confusion.  
  4. See metrics without context – part of your job is to help clients understand and contextualize data, in a way that will help them make progress. Data without context can often lead to false assumptions based on data fallacies.
  5. Break something – with the best will in the world, sometimes you just don’t want non-technical people poking around your elegantly crafted campaigns and reports, in case they accidentally change something important.  

Sharing metrics and KPIs in a risk-free way

Fortunately, there is a way to satisfy your clients’ desire for live data – without the risks.

A live KPI dashboard, made using Geckoboard, allows you to surface important metrics in real-time. It connects to over 80 data sources including Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn.

Not only that, by designing a bespoke client dashboard, using our easy-to-build interface, you can reconnect with that sense of “agency craft”. You can include elements of data storytelling, which are often lacking when clients get access to live data.  

For example, it’s easy to emphasize your most important KPIs through their size and position. Plus, status indicators and comparisons help you to contextualize whether metrics are good, bad or normal. No more urgent client calls because they suddenly got spooked by anomalies they saw in the raw data.

Take a look at some examples of dashboards used by agencies and freelancers...

Recruitment dashboard

Example of a recruitment dashboard
More examples of recruitment dashboards

A recuitment agency can build a live dashboard like this, simply by connecting Geckoboard to a spreadsheet. However, there’s nothing to stop the agency also visualizing data from multiple data sources such as Google Analytics or LinkedIn.

The client is able to stay up-to-date with their recruiter’s progress, without needing to contact the recruiter or access their spreadsheets directly.

Digital advertising dashboard

More examples of marketing dashboards

This dashboard has been created using data from Google Ads and Google Analytics. Both of these platforms have a steep learning curve. And to the untrained eye, the sight of all those campaigns and metrics can be overwhelming.

However, by using Geckoboard to give your client a steady diet of useful data, you can draw them into the process, and build their understanding over time.

Building awareness and understanding

One of the best things about Geckoboard is how easy it is to surface metrics with users on a regular basis.

Not only will your clients have 24-hour access to their dashboards via sharing links and view-only accounts, you can also set up Geckoboard to send snapshots of your dashboards automatically to clients, at regular intervals – either via email or Slack.

Screenshot of Geckoboard on Slack
Regular snapshots to Slack help build awareness

By exposing clients to key metrics on a regular basis, you are helping them build a familiarity with KPIs, gaining a deeper understanding and awareness of how metrics behave and change over time.

This, in turn, helps to strengthen the relationship between client and agency – both improving their understanding of data so you can have more productive conversations, and raising the profile of your agency’s work more generally.

Try Geckoboard for free

Geckoboard is free to trial – no credit card required. If you want to create a better customer experience for your clients, without the risks, why not give Geckoboard a try today?