How report automation can improve your reporting process

Report Automation Illustration

Every single day at DashThis, we answer questions about marketing report automation. Some wonder what it is or how it works, while others would like to learn how to automate their reports.

 

Most marketers don’t know all the tools out there, or what they do and how they do it, and I can’t blame them: this is a very recent industry, in which there’s progress and innovation every single day, and it changes so quickly that even I have trouble keeping up.

 

Let’s take a deeper look into what report automation is, why your agency should automate its reports, and how you can do it.

 

What is report automation?

Report automation is the process through which digital marketing reports are created and automatically updated using a software. The gathered data can then be delivered to specific email addresses on a regular basis with automatic email dispatches.

An automated reporting software generally goes through APIs to automatically fetch data from each platform and integrate it into the software’s system. Thanks to this automated data collection, marketers have access to updated digital marketing reports that they can then send regularly to all parties concerned.

 

report automation process

 

Even if it sounds like this process would also skip the communication and custom nature of marketing reports, the problem is easily solved with customizable options like: comments, custom email messages, white label design, notes, and other features offered with most automated tools.

 

Report automation is all about saving time by automating the parts of the reporting process that don’t require human insight, and giving enough custom options to add those insights where they matter most.

 

Report automation is about giving marketers their time back.

Why should you automate your reports?

Why shouldn’t you?

 

Marketing reports are your way of communicating the effectiveness of your work and your value to your client. You need to keep track of SEO strategies, social media campaigns and presence, AdWords campaigns, website data, and a lot more. All this data can quickly become a burden for any marketing agency. Having to track, aggregate, put together, and present hundreds of KPIs for each client, each month, really is a waste of time, which is why report automation was created in the first place.

 

Clearly, automating your reports will save you time and energy. But did you know that it saves you money too? How is buying a new tool going to help me save money, you ask?
Let’s take a look:

 

Let’s say that your marketing agency has 30 clients, and you create one report per client, every month. It usually takes an employee about 5 hours to create a single report. That’s 150 hours per month for all your client reports. If an employee’s average salary is $30 an hour, that’s an average expense of…

 

…*Drumroll*…

 

5,250$ every month, just to create reports.

 

Isn’t that crazy?

 

If you want the exact numbers for your own agency, use our handy calculator.

 

Shocking, right? Proof that you need to start automating your reports! You could save almost 60,000$ every year if your agency is anything like our example above!

 

Not only that, but think about how much time you’ll have to work on strategies and campaigns. Talk about a way to grow your agency in the blink of an eye!

 

As if you needed another good reason to automate your reports, agencies can also use automated reports as a competitive edge, by offering personalized marketing reports for each of their clients, without actually wasting time and energy to create them by hand.

 

How? With white label options.

 

You can get automated reports that have the branding and overall look of your client’s visual identity, giving your client an even bigger WOW factor.

 

This means that your client could receive an email from you, stating that their report is ready to consult. They would then click on a personalized link that has your agency’s name, and find a live online report with their very own branding and updated data, personalized with comments and insights from you. The best part? You didn’t have to do a single thing except provide your insight, either by talking with your client, or by commenting on the report itself. It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

How can you automate your reports?

To automate your reports, you need to choose an automated reporting tool and implement it in your agency.

 

There are many tools out there that offer report automation, so you just have to choose one that fits your own particular needs as an agency and marketer.

 

What kind of tool is best for you? Let’s find out!

 

First off, make a shortlist of what you want from your reporting tool:

  • What type of KPIs and integrations do you need to track?
  • At what frequency do you need to send your reports: monthly, quarterly, weekly?
  • Do you need to include more than one integration per report?
  • How many different reports do you need?
  • How much time and resources are you willing to spend on the tool to set it up?
  • How many employees need to have access to the tool in order to see and/or work on your reports?
  • Would you like to have a specialist available to you at all times to help you create perfect reports?
  • Do you need design customization and/or white label options?
  • How will you share your reports? Online (URL), PDF, print, or automated email dispatches?

 

These are all very important to keep in mind when choosing the tool that works for you.

 

Now that you have a better idea of what you want and what is important to your agency, what report automation tool should you pick? Let’s see:

 

Report Automation Tools Pros & Cons Infographic

Code-it-yourself system

You can code your own system for your report automation. The advantage of such tools is mostly its incredible flexibility and personalization. Since you’re doing it all yourself, it’s going to be perfectly adapted to your agency.

 

However, these types of tools take up a LOT of time, money, and effort. You have to pay a team of developers to create the software, then maintain it, update it, as well as solve any bugs, problems or glitches that occur over time. Take into consideration that you’ll have no support, no forums, and no online community that can help you; you really do it all yourself.

 

It’s basically like building a house with your own hands: it’s a lot of work!

 

Business intelligence (BI) tools

Another option is to use a BI tool, like Tableau. You don’t have to build the tool yourself this time, and it can still give you a lot of custom options. You have all the flexibility you want for calculations, data, and analysis.

 

You need to be ready for a challenge though, because you’ll have to learn how to use the tool first, and since they’re pretty complex, they tend not to be very user-friendly. Also, these tools are made mostly for analysis and therefore probably won’t appeal to your clients. Your reports will probably look way too intimidating to them. And if your clients don’t understand or like your reports, that sort of defeats the purpose of creating them in the first place.

 

All in all, this is a very complete option, but it’s a complicated type of tool made for analysis, not reports.

 

Data analytics dashboard tools

Data analytics dashboard tools like Google Data Studio are a little less complicated than BI tools, but they’re still not very user-friendly. These also lack some basics in terms of reporting like: various data sources other than just google, automatic email dispatches, and pdf sharing options.

 

This type of tool is almost as complicated as a BI tool, while offering way less flexibility. It’s biggest appeal is usually it’s price. It’s got a wide variety of price ranges, in Google Data Studio’s case it’s even free!

 

Automated reporting tools

Automated reporting tools like DashThis are created with the sole purpose of making automated reports. With regards to DashThis in particular, all the features were created to give users an easy-to-use report automation tool: 30+ integrations, easy-to-use interface, unlimited users, your own account manager, and customizable.

 

It’s a tool that was made to be straightforward, while other types of tools, like Tableau and Google Data Studio, are way more complex. If you’re looking for a tool that gives you a deep and complex analysis of your data, DashThis is probably not for you.

 

On the other hand, if you’re looking to create awesome reports, easily, and quickly, it’s the best solution there is.

 

Now that you have a better idea of the types of report automation tools available, you can choose the one that’s best for your agency! If this tool happens to be DashThis, go try it and let us know if you like it. I’m sure you will!

You can also watch our video and learn how to create your own automated reports with DashThis:

 

Marie Marie Lamonde

With an ever growing love of writing and marketing, Marie proudly wears her title of Content Marketing and Communications Specialist at DashThis, sharing her dashboard expertise with her fellow marketers. Want to be a guest writer on the DashThis blog? Drop us a line at marketing@dashthis.com!

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