InboundCon 2016 "How to Create Meaningful Reports" - Mark Sullivan

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How to Create Meaningful Reports

From Toxic Mold to Google Analytics

October 2016

Meaningful is the key word here.

Toxic mold & meaningful reporting???


I know what you all are thinking: What is this guy talking about?

Just wait

February 2015[INBOUNDCON 2016]

I was reminded of the challenges recently when I became ill.

This is me and my new family about a year and a half ago.

July 2016[INBOUNDCON 2016]Memory lossSevere cognitive impairmentDizzinessHeadachesExcessive urinationExtreme fatigue

By July of 2016 I was in a tailspin health-wise. And the doctors did not know what was going on.

10 weeks of testing yielded lots of reports[INBOUNDCON 2016]but none were meaningful.

By July of 2016 I was in a tailspin health-wise. And the doctors did not know what was going on.

Status Quo:[INBOUNDCON 2016]no change in action.

By July of 2016 I was in a tailspin health-wise. And the doctors did not know what was going on.

meaningful:meaningful report: What do we mean by meaningful?having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose.communicating something that is not directly expressed.a report that empowers and informs decision making.a report that inspires confidence in taking specific action.


Decisions are made on data. This affects your job, your clients decision to keep using you, and how you take action as a marketer.

If your reporting doesnt empower and inform decision making, then its not meaningful.

1. meaningful reports:

empower and inform decision making.


This is our rubric for judging our reporting work.

Does it empower and inform decision making?

2. meaningful reports:

inspire confidence in taking action.


Does it inspire confidence in taking specific action?

Why care about reporting?


We spend a lot of time reporting.


And its going to get harder


Challenges facing digital marketersExplosion of new tools, KPIsClosed-loop attribution remains elusiveTurning fire-hose of data into narrative


Weak reporting is Poor choice of dataPoor display of dataMissing data

[INBOUNDCON 2016]characterized by:

Effective choice of dataEffective display of dataComplete data

[INBOUNDCON 2016]Great reporting is characterized by:

1. Choose the right data for your audience.


Choice of Data[INBOUNDCON 2016]4 Complete Blood Counts3 Liver & Kidney panelsBrain MRISleep StudyAbdominal UltrasoundPhoto diary

Sometimes you dont know you have the wrong data until you collect a lot of it.

Choice of Data[INBOUNDCON 2016]

What are you doing for me again?Should I care about these numbers?

Heres a perfect example of the wrong choice of data for an oil change shop owner.

Choice of Data[INBOUNDCON 2016]

Lowest funnel metric available for this client.Right data for the right audience.

2. Display data in a way that encourages narrative.


Display of Data[INBOUNDCON 2016]

I have no idea what this means but Im told not to worry.Data from sleep study.

Display of Data[INBOUNDCON 2016]

What decisions can be made from this report?This is awful, btw.

Display of Data[INBOUNDCON 2016]

I see a lot of this kind of reporting from agencies.Information density is usually not a good thing.

Display of Data[INBOUNDCON 2016]

Succinct and crystal clear.Always err on the side of simple.

From a tool called Measureful

If more complexity is desired by your audience, let them request it.

3. Include all relevant data to give context.


Data Completeness[INBOUNDCON 2016]

Something is missing here.What happened?

Data Completeness[INBOUNDCON 2016]

Turned off all PPC ads for holidays.Timelines make more sense with event annotations.

Data Completeness[INBOUNDCON 2016]One critical annotation was missing from my health story.

I found (and cleaned up) a lot of mold in our bedroom shortly before getting sick.

What action did we take?[INBOUNDCON 2016]Moved into a tent Hired a certified mold remediator for testingReviewed indoor air dataStarted treatment planThrew away our stuffLearned a lot about mold!

For Great ReportingChoose the right data.Display it in the right way.Include all relevant data.Before you share a report, ask yourself

Does this help my audience make a decision?


How to Create Meaningful Reports

October 2016Thank you!

Mark Sullivan