Weekly or Monthly Reporting? What is the optimum frequency?

At JimmyData our goal is to save you time on digital campaign reporting so you can focus on other things in your business. When I say ‘other things’ I mean things such as getting more business, running better optimised campaigns or even sleeping more. However we save you time then we all win right?

So let’s say we save you time on your reporting, does that mean you should report more? Less? The same? Should you be reporting weekly, monthly or quarterly? Is there even a right answer?

I would say no, there isn’t a right answer but there is a solution that would suit a certain type of business and a certain type of client.

Let’s look at the 2 main reporting frequencies, weekly and monthly and the pros and cons for each of these.

Weekly reporting

Looking at the numbers within JimmyData, weekly reporting is not as common as I had initially thought. Of all the users that use JimmyData for digital reporting, monthly is by far more popular compared to weekly reports.

How much more popular? Try 88% are Monthly and the rest scattered around weekly and daily.

What are the advantages of reporting weekly?

Contact – I would say the biggest benefit of reporting weekly is the communication factor with the client. One of the main reason our agency continues to grow is that we maintain extremely high levels of communication with our clients. These clients love our service and rave about it to other business owners who then come to us as referrals and this process repeats.

Part of this high ‘service mentality’ is engrained in our culture however another part is that for most of our clients we report weekly.

What does reporting weekly have anything to do with it? Well, its really simple actually; reporting weekly forces us to keep the communication high and clients like that. In fact no.. they love it. We have had the occasional client call us and ask for reporting to be monthly but this is very rare.

You need to remember that as an agency, we provide a service. Our role is to serve our clients as well as we can and like it or not, this is the key to running a great business in this field. We can’t exactly claim having superior products when we are tapping into the same inventory as our competitors can we?

If you don’t believe me, try not speaking to the client in 3 months and see what happens. Regardless of how hard you work on that campaign and how good a job you do, the relationship will suffer. Communication is king.

Accountability – if you practice reporting weekly you can ensure your accountability stays high. You can spot issues quickly and weekly reporting keeps you and your team on your toes across all aspects of the campaign and reduces the tendency for procrastination.

Opportunities – frequent communication can open up opportunities to grow that client and offer them other services that could improve their business. We found that for clients where we report weekly they tend to expand into our full suite of services as not only are we spotting opportunities but we are being attentive and yes, again, clients like this. Do you know another reason why it opens opportunities?…

Differentiation – Reporting weekly is a great differentiator when a company is comparing your company with that of another agency. In most cases that new client you just started working with was being given monthly reports.

Then you come along and give them additional attention and started to report weekly. How has their experience changed? Put yourself on the other side; if you trusted your hard earned money with someone who you spoke to monthly and then spent that money with someone else who spoke to you weekly how would you feel? In terms of value which one do you think takes the cake?

In the commoditised world of search and digital marketing, agencies are fighting ferociously over new business. New companies are popping up all the time and pursuing business by dropping their margins and competing solely on price.

Setting yourself apart and focusing on your service instead of the product enables you to retain and gain clients and at the same time not compromise on your margins. Remember people don’t buy products, they buy the experience. Provide and sell the experience and you won’t have to fight about the product.

Bargaining and revenue – this might sound confusing but what has bargaining and revenue got to do with the frequency of reporting? To me it’s one of the largest bargaining tool we have as a business when pitching for work.

Think about it. Reporting weekly takes up more time and as an agency, we charge for time so naturally we charge more to report weekly. If the client is happy with that then great!

If not then that gives us room to move immediately and so the fun begins. If they are not happy with costs, instead of giving them discounts, we simply change the frequency of reporting.  We can shave hours off a retainer by changing reporting frequency from weekly to monthly. Most of the time this is the part where we seal the deal with the client as the costings start making sense for them and at the same time we are not eating into our margins. Win-Win.

What are the disadvantages of reporting weekly?

Time and Money – If you have not factored in weekly reporting into your retainer or pricing structure then I guarantee you it is what will bring you unstuck. Weekly reporting is a time sucker (hence one of the reasons Jimmy is invaluable to our business!)

Data integrity – Depending on the size of the account and the size of the data sets that you are working with, weekly reporting may not provide insights that are statistically relevant. What you will find is that the data will fluctuate week on week, meaning one week you’ll have a jovial client who is singing your praises and the next week they want your head. Sometimes monthly reporting is actually the most effective way to report and providing weekly insights will lead to you chasing your tail with very little direction if you don’t view the bigger picture.

Another factor you need to consider is that weekly reporting may not factor in the nuances of a particular industry. Industries with a long lead cycles or require multi-channel touch points won’t provide the insights you need over one week. Impression based attribution will also fluctuate heavily when looked at over small periods and anyone running DoubleClick will know this all to well.

Monthly reporting

Monthly reporting is by far the most popular frequency of reporting. Running a reporting platform makes this extremely obvious and something I really didn’t expect when I started the JimmyData journey.

Our website and usage numbers spike at the beginning of the month… every single month. The middle part of the month and creeping up towards the end of month is our slow period and there is very little movement mid week, or any part of the week.

Lets take a deeper look and the pros and cons for monthly reporting.

What are the advantages of reporting monthly?

Cost – time is money and reporting takes time. To mitigate it’s costly effect, reporting monthly means less time and less of a strain on our resources.

This is especially the case for smaller agencies where they are resource stretched and having to replicate the reporting process several times a month can be too much of a strain.

Time Allocation – Since time is not being spent on reporting, time is better allocated across other areas of managing a campaign. One of the reasons we decided to create a tool to do our reporting was so that we could spend more time optimising campaigns as opposed to mundane reporting tasks.

Bigger data sets – Bigger data sets can often give you a much better idea of how a campaign is performing. When you report weekly it does not factor in nuances that different periods in a month provide.

In our own JimmyData software example, if we only reported monthly on any of our marketing then we would effectively have 1 super duper week (beginning of the month) which we will think is a target benchmark. Then we would realistically not be able to hit benchmarks in any other week of the month! Simply reporting weekly would not provide us with nuances of our market.

Trend Identification – As you have bigger data sets you can use these data sets to get a much better idea around trends. Analysing day of the week or hour of the day is much more accurate when it’s analysed over a significant period of time. Monthly reports provide a good idea of trends that you can use to better optimise your campaign.

What are the disadvantages of reporting monthly?

Communication – lack of communication can hurt relationships with clients and sometimes the only time we get to properly interact with those paying the bills is when we report to them.

An an digital agency serving clients, we provide a service to them of value which isn’t simply running a search campaign or Facebook campaign. As mention before, it’s a service. What client’s are buying is our insight, our feedback, our suggestions, our care.. not clicks to a page. The more we do ‘our job’ the stronger the relationship and our job comes to the forefront when we report, not when we pump traffic to a site.

Campaign management – Lets face it. When we get caught up in the day to day we tend to focus on things that require our most attention. With most small to medium agencies structures, there is often something that needs to be forgone in order to do a particular task. ie Hold an internal meeting or call a new potential client? Send out a final proposal or send off a regular client’s report?

You can see where I am going here. This deviation from things that matter becomes exacerbated when you report monthly. As humans we put things off and focus on either what is easier or what will give the fastest gratification. Working on a client that you have worked with for 12 months is neither easy nor does it provide fast gratification. This means there is a high tendency that these tasks start to fall down the list of things to do.

When you report monthly it allows for easy an easy ‘put off’, also known as procrastination. And here is the kicker; before you know it, its not only reporting you are putting off, it will soon become the management of the campaigns. Reporting weekly keeps you dedicated to the mundane and the ‘put off’ has less catastrophic effects.

Committing to a weekly reporting structure reduces the risk of complacency and generally leads to better managed campaigns. Setting self-imposed deadlines are not effective to get things done and do not contribute to improving procrastination.

However when we put down hard deadlines and they were authority deadlines procrastination behaviour changes.

One effective (and incredibly actionable) strategy is to set hard, spaced out deadlines with your boss; prior research suggests that evenly spaced deadlines leads to the highest level of on-time completion and quality.

Delivering work to paying and demanding clients on a weekly basis allows us to mitigate the effects of procrastination. It allows us to stay on top of campaigns on regular and evenly spaced deadlines which leads to quality work and great customer service.

What’s the solution

So what do we do now? Is there a conclusion to all of this and what should I learn from it? Here are a few takeways that could help you make up your mind:

  1. Report more, communicate more, retain more (Weekly reporting)
  2. Keep procrastination at bay (weekly reporting)
  3. Bargaining power (weekly)
  4. Time restraints (favours monthly)
  5. Trend identification (monthly)
  6. Data integrity and insight (monthly)

Take what you will from this post however we invested heavily in creating a tool like Jimmy (and continue to do so) so we could do our job better with greater efficiency regardless of what frequency we commit to. The importance of reporting cannot be understated and sometimes it’s more than just a progress report, its a client management strategy.