atom tips
atom tips

How economic theory changed how I think about reporting

17 Oct 2014
By Zara

Looking back on this year’s BrightonSEO conference, one talk stands out for me. This is because it’s affected how I think about a critical aspect of my job: reporting to our clients.

‘The Unobvious Effect Quantity of Reporting Can Have on Perceived Results’ was an inspiring talk given by Stephen Croome.

illustration of a line and bar combo chart over time

Applying economic theory to client reporting

Influenced by the Kahneman and Tversky’s work on prospect theory and loss aversion, Stephen highlights one key fact:

Losses hurt more than gains feel good.

This is a vital point to take on board as it can be applied to client reporting and relations.

SEO is a long game and many campaigns see incremental organic growth, rather than massive spikes in traffic. Huge spikes in traffic could actually be an indication that you’re doing something wrong, as holistic SEO practices ensure stable growth.

So how does this influence reporting and client relations?

Timescales can affect the trends you see, and this can affect people’s perceptions of your results. Overall success could actually be negated by over-reporting, as the dips and fluctuations of rankings and traffic may make your client feel like you aren’t doing a good job.

marketing analytics illustration of a pie chart and the word 'marketing' written out

How we can improve client relations through smarter reporting

To overcome the negative impact of short-term fluctuations, Stephen highlights two key points:

  1. Report frequently on actions, not results
  2. Change the frequency of your reporting – instead of weekly updates you could actually have more success sending monthly updates

The reduction in reporting might be a hard sell; however, this could be outweighed by the potential to generate much more success and positivity around the work you do. To me, this was a no-brainer.

Tell a story

Along with leaning on the economic theories I’ve described to inform your reporting systems, there is one additional measure which, we find at atom42, can make a difference to client relations through reporting. This is to always tell the story of the work, rather than reporting solely on the results.

By doing this, you can help your client understand your working processes, potentially giving a longer-term view. As a result, the numbers you’re reporting to them won’t have to stand alone. By telling a story you will help the numbers act as part of a more robust and comprehensive framework.

This small change should help you to improve client relations, even during the periods when numbers are fluctuating.

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