Do your reports get read?

Those important documents that you spend hours preparing provide the performance metrics that, in theory, your client cares about to improve their bottom line. At their best, they are powerful tools to recognize accomplishments, to confirm what’s working, and to be honest about what is impeding success. Whether it’s lead generation, social media growth, website traffic, brand recognition, sales, advertising spend, market analysis, or other factors, a manager without reports is like a jet pilot without flight instruments. They’re needed to fly smooth and straight towards the destination.

But if you’re not preparing them in the language that your client best understands, then you might be wasting your time. And theirs.

Here are four strategies to reporting that your clients will love:

  1. Revisit Project Goals

Start by restating the goals for the project. How is it performing compared to where you wanted to be by this time? If you’re ahead of projected goals, review what’s gotten you to this enviable position. Consider how you might continue the momentum over time. If you’re behind, then it’s worth exploring the reasons for the lag, and whether the variables can be avoided in the future. Use your reports as a check-in point to understand whether or not you need to revise your strategy.

  1. Review Accomplishments

Everyone likes a winner, and your clients want to know that you’re helping them steer their business in the right direction. Restate accomplishments appropriately to help everyone recognize what’s supporting the improved production, sales, campaigns, or any other aspect of their business.

  1. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

Nobody likes to look at a spreadsheet with 20 columns and 40 rows. Clients get overwhelmed if you present them with too much data at a time, and they may not be able to read between the lines as well as you do. By using single-screen dashboards, for example, you can highlight trends with colors or overlays to support your insights and recommendations.

Along those lines, simply omit things that don’t directly contribute to the reporting message you’re offering. You can ask yourself, “Does this really matter to this report?” You can always provide an Addendum of additional notes that may be of interest in a different context.

  1. Always tie KPIs to business goals

Make sure your KPIs are correlated to business goals. It can be seductive to report on other metrics purely because they look good, but you should avoid the practice. If you can’t reasonably justify that a metric contributes to the achievement business goals, then omit it. Otherwise you may be on the receiving end of questions that you may not be prepared to answer.