November 27, 2023 Content Chat Recap: End of Year Reporting: The Internal and External Metrics That Matter and How to Present Them

A Content Chat header image featuring an array of flowers behind a text overlay that says today’s topic is end of year reporting: the internal and external metrics that matter and how to present them, with guest Amy Higgins.

“Don’t wait to be asked. Tell people the value you’re bringing early and often, because that’s how you ensure content continues to be a department.” – Erika Heald

Whether you’re directly asked to or not, it’s smart to prepare an end-of-year marketing report to quantify your team’s success and see what did or didn’t work (and possibly even make the care for a raise or promotion!).

In this #ContentChat recap, Erika joins Amy Higgins, an award-winning marketing director and consultant, to explain how to streamline your end of year reporting and communicate the right details to both internal and external audiences.

Watch the full conversation on YouTube or read through the highlights below.

Q1: What goal(s) do many content marketers forget about when preparing their end-of-year (EOY) reports?

Amy thinks that marketing teams often overlook four areas: people, productivity, competition, and innovation.

People: Find ways to recognize individual contributions and spotlight cross-organizational collaborations. Erika recommends keeping a folder where you save positive feedback from customers, colleagues, or executives.

“Ask who you are working with on your team who has really excelled. Who has tried something new? Who have you worked with outside of your team that helped your team do better?” – Amy Higgins

“For example, one year I worked with a company [and] the product marketing manager was in charge of the website. And so I worked with him, our web analytics team, and the SEO team, and we ended up getting a 1,200% year-over-year search increase. Now, if I just said 1,200%, that’s a great number. But showcasing that Julian and Brian and I worked together, we were sitting on completely different teams, completely different managers, and we were able to accomplish that goal together. Giving kudos and calling that out.” – Amy Higgins

“When you do those cross-organizational collaborations, when you get that positive feedback it’s a great idea to create a kudos folder where you save all of those positive things that people say about that collaboration. Because then you can pepper that into the report.” – Erika Heald

Productivity: Explain how you have changed processes to drive productivity. Things like documenting and improving upon a process or creating a template drive quantifiable time and money savings.

“Look at process and productivity. How have you changed things? What have you reduced time-to-market? For example, I worked at one company where the agency we were working with really overcharged us. And when I got in there and started reworking things, I was able to reduce our content spend by 82%—changing agencies, changing people, realigning processes. Showcasing that as a value is definitely helpful, and a lot of people forget about that.” – Amy Higgins

“And things like documenting and improving upon a process so that way it can be replicated more easily by folks. Those are also time and money savings.” – Erika Heald

“Some other things that help with productivity and process is how you’re updating the teams throughout. One of the things I changed at one company is I reported monthly metrics, and we had month-over-month metrics. But then we also had key wins, key losses, and lessons learned. And so it’s a perfect opportunity to showcase how people can subscribe to get to that internally, or where they need to go. Where they find the content request template, where they find the ongoing metrics, where they find how to do social shares.” – Amy Higgins

Competition: Demonstrate how you’ve differentiated your brand, stayed on message in your content, and grown your community on social media channels. Amy recommends using Semrush and Buzzsumo to help gather this information.

“I don’t like to compare myself to others. But products like to compare themselves to other products. It’s really good to showcase the difference of your brands, and how your content is on message. And then you can also compare keywords and PR messaging.” – Amy Higgins

“I love Semrush. You can—at the beginning of the year, so time to set it up now—set up a keyword list with your top three to five competitors. I wouldn’t go past five because it’s really hard to manage. But looking at those and then if you do some qualitative work and see how people are messaging, then you can cross-compare that way. You can also use Buzzsumo to see how many shares their site is having versus your site.” – Amy Higgins

“I frequently will do a competitive social audit, so that way you can see what content is really resonating with your shared audience. This can frequently give you ideas about where you might be able to change things up a little bit. And it can also show you if your numbers are good or not—let’s say you had 10% growth in followers on LinkedIn, but then you look and see your competitors had 50% growth and you both started from a similar spot.” – Erika Heald

Innovation: Showcase new things you’ve tried, like any AI use cases.

“A lot of companies are testing different things with AI, seeing how it works, seeing how it doesn’t work. This is a really good opportunity to bring those points up. That way, if your C-suite says [they’re] going to let go the majority of your team because we can just use AI to write everything, it’s really good to say we’ve been trying AI, here’s what’s working, here’s what’s not working, here’s why I need to keep human riders on my team.” – Amy Higgins

Q2: Thinking of internal stakeholders, what content marketing metrics are valuable to share to showcase key wins?

Communicate and celebrate work where the content team supported other departments in reaching their goals.

“Internally, you’re going back to the people. The key wins of how your team is helping other teams. Show those metrics of how you work together, what you were able to improve, how it was better, and why. Some of the good things are events… showcasing how [your company] was able to produce live events and online events, and then how you replicated that into content that helped the growth team. So that helped with lead generation.”  – Amy Higgins

Focus on initiatives that were requested by your C-suite, such as thought leadership wins.

“The other thing to think about is when there’s specific requests from your C-Suite. How to evangelize thought leadership with your C-suite, how you’re trying to get them known for a certain thing, how the work that you’re doing, or working with other team members to do that, what’s working, what’s not working for that.” – Amy Higgins

“So much time is put into creating content for thought leadership, getting it distributed, doing things like being parts of executive boards. And almost never does anybody create that kind of end-of-the-year report around how successful all those thought leadership efforts were. People feel like ‘we did the thing, our KPI is to do the 12 pieces of content.’ Did it work? Did it cause anything to happen?’ – Erika Heald

Your reporting is an opportunity to create friendly competition and encourage more engagement with your team.

“The other thing that can help is if you’ve asked your C-suite to do things, showcasing how that worked. And sometimes putting a little competition amongst your C-suite. For example, we did a ‘State Of’ year-end report and put together an entire plan for how our C-suite could share it out. Their shares helped drive, I think, 12-20% of the traffic within the first week to the report. And then I could call out the leader of that percentage, and that kind of creates some internal dialogue.” – Amy Higgins

Q3: How should content marketers present their EOY metrics to internal team members?

You will have more opportunities to present your metrics to internal team members. Amy advocates sharing your results in a combination of channels — like hosting the information in a presentation that can stand on its own, circulating key points in an email, and discussing takeaways and answering questions during a team meeting.

“Some people love spreadsheets, some people love docs, some people love decks. I like a deck that can be shared on its own, that people can forward around in email. I also like having a time to present it to the team. It might not be the marketing all-hands, but it’s your own team members. And then also following up with an email. On the email—people are going to read the first 10% of the email, they’re not going to read the rest—put the top three metrics that you want people to know, line those metrics up to the team’s KPIs (both the overall company and your marketing team KPIs). Then put call-outs for each individual team member and some kudos. If you really want to get detailed, toward the very end I would put things that are low-hanging fruit, things that almost made the mark, and then total flops and why we tried this. So think about the things that you’re learning from.” – Amy Higgins

If a project or activation did not meet its goals, be clear about what you tried and what you learned from it.

“And if something was a big flop and it was something that was requested from another team, you don’t want to throw them under the bus in that flop section. But having the project that you didn’t necessarily think was a great idea, and that you went ahead and executed and what you learned from it means that you won’t have the exact same ask from that team next year. Or if you do, you can say here’s what we learned last time and you already have that mini case study there.” – Erika Heald

“One of the ways that I present the deck is: here are the top metrics, here’s the year-over-year changes, here are things people cared about, and then I usually do two to three call-outs of specific projects. And on those specific call-outs: What worked, what didn’t work, and what we want to try new. So the stop, start, continue methodology.” – Amy Higgins

Q4: Thinking of company executives, what information should content marketers present to demonstrate the impact their team has made this year?

Company executives expect easy-to-digest information about how you’ve helped the company in reaching its goals or driving tangible value.

“You want to keep it simple and you want to align it back to the KPIs. Hopefully, you have companywide KPIs and marketing KPIs. And you don’t want to have those 20 pages of KPIs, you want to have the top three. Here’s what we did, here’s year-over-year metrics, very very very top of funnel.” – Amy Higgins

The goal is to spark interest and open up a conversation. You do not want to leave them wondering ‘why?’ so include context that explains your results.

“And enough that creates some interest, so that they’re like ‘This is amazing, how did you do it? Can you tell me more?’ You always want to open up that conversation. And you also never want to say anything that leads them to wonder why. Our year-over-year metrics increased by 1%. Why? And it might be because you changed CMS systems and when you change that, there might be a 20% drop in overall traffic for six months, but then it’s going to pick up later.” – Amy Higgins

“Context is so important. How can you go back and remind folks? Yes, we didn’t have the 10% increase we thought we would have this year, because we completely overhauled the website. Or when you got a ton of traffic from doing a big advertising spend, and then you’re comparing that data to a quarter when you didn’t have any advertising spend. It’s helpful to make notes of that kind as you go along so when you get the sudden, but inevitable, plunge, no one panics.” – Erika Heald

Tailor your report to the interests of individual executives (when appropriate).

“Really think about what they care about most. You have written down goals, but you might have a leader who you know really cares about the customer community. Or you have a leader who really cares about this one new product that you launched. So calling out those differences; saying we did this content and 80% of our traffic is coming from our content community that we have set up on this platform, or 80% of the traffic to the product page is coming from our content.” – Amy Higgins

Q5: How can content marketers access the information they need to prepare their EOY recaps? What data sources are most valuable?

Many tracking and reporting methods need to be set up at the start of the year so you can effectively compare data.

“A lot of this you have to set up at the beginning of the year. Trying to set it up at the end of the year, you’re chasing it down.” – Amy Higgins

Look at your website traffic and insights in your CRM to understand how content supported the customer journey.

“For hard data, look at your website traffic. That you can do any time. If you’re on Adobe or Google Analytics, dig into the traffic, and then look at your CRM system and really dig into demand gen. The closed/won and closed/not won deals. If you don’t have things set up, you cannot track it back to a specific piece of content, it kind of becomes nebulous. 8,000 people downloaded this report, we had ad sales, but you don’t know if that sale happened because they came into your website based on your report.” – Amy Higgins

“Especially if you’ve done a lot of content, some of these deals can have 20 or 30 touchpoints, half of which are content. You can’t do that all manually unless you’ve only had a few big sales.” – Erika Heald

Semrush, Conductor, and Ahrefs can help with measuring your SEO.

“Same thing with SEO, looking at how your SEO is doing year-over-year. I personally like Semrush, but there’s others like Conductor and Ahrefs that you can set up all of the things ahead of time to track.” – Amy Higgins

A project management system like Asana and content management system like Kapost or Optimizely can provide data on how you improved processes.

“Process data is kind of a little bit more soft. That one you have to set up with your project management system, so something like Asana. One of your workflow templates, even if you have a spreadsheet, to say we had 80 pieces of content requested in 2023, on average an ebook takes three months, it costs this amount of money, we had this many leads from it.” – Amy Higgins

“Kapost or Optimizely, the content management systems, really looking at steps and process and frankly blockers. So going back to that C-suite person who will block the reviews, thinking through how you broke down the time and change that process.” – Amy Higgins

“When I did have Kapost because we had a pretty good sized content team internationally and lots of people involved in creating and approving content. What I liked about tKapost was it was integrated with Salesforce in a way that meant it was really easy to see which pieces of content did have at least some role in a closed/won sale, so that it would actually chart it for us. So whenever we would be doing this kind of reporting, it was just ‘go to the reporting page, take a screenshot’ as opposed to being a horrible process of data collection.” – Erika Heald

“I think letting the systems do the work for you by taking those screenshots is very helpful. And also, it helps the other analyst on the team to know that you’re not making up numbers.” – Amy Higgins

Look for customer quotes or executive statements that demonstrate the impact of your work.

“And then I’ll go back to what we were talking about earlier with the customer quotes and executive statements. Have that kudos board or folder in your email collecting that soft data throughout the year, all that praise so you can pull those quotes at the end of the year.” – Amy Higgins

Regardless of how you pull your data, ensure you’re comparing apples with apples.

“The other thing that helps for collecting the data is make sure you’re comparing like with like numbers. If you’re doing year-over-year and last year’s data was actually pulled October 1 and now you’re pulling data December 1, there’s a lot that happens in the months of October and November. Your metrics are going to be off. So either putting the context there and saying the data is not optimal because of when it’s pulled, or saying ‘based on January through October 1.” – Amy Higgins

Q6: What pitfalls should content marketers avoid when presenting their EOY results to their team or company executives?

If you haven’t already, set up Google Analytics 4. We previously chatted with Google Analytics expert Kyle Akerman in this #ContentChat recap to explain how to use GA4 to its fullest.

“A big pitfall that people are going to be finding when they are looking at Google Analytics, is if you did not start collecting Google Analytics 4 data as soon as it became available to do so, you’re not going to have a full year of data in Google Analytics to actually compare against.” – Erika Heald

Focus on the information your audience cares about, not what you care about, especially with executives. Present information in an inverse pyramid format, highlighting information in descending order of importance.

“Showcasing what they care about and not what you care about. A lot of times when you talk to marketers and you talk about content, you have to explain a lot. You have to explain why the bounce rate really matters, why the time on page really matters. But they don’t really care about that. They care: Did someone view it? And did we get a sale from it? Showcasing that up front and doing that pyramid – showcasing this is what they care about, this is what’s most important to them, and then putting everything else in the appendix.” – Amy Higgins

Prove how content marketing helps the entire company succeed.

“Don’t make it about you or your content. It’s really about the entire company. When you could pull in other things that are outside your team, like the events team: we wrote 80 blogs last year, four of those blogs were repurposed for a major event, here’s how the event subscription rate doubled. Something like that that can showcase how it’s going beyond just its original use case.” – Amy Higgins

Remember to use built-in reporting features in your tools to streamline the process. Your content management system can likely show you who your best-performing authors are, which is valuable to report on.

“Depending how your CMS is set up, you can even pull the data to find out who your best-performing authors are outside of the team. So if thought leadership was one of the big executive priorities, within Google Analytics you’ll be able to pull that report. It’ll show you by author for your blog content what those stats are, so then you can rank them [and see] whose content is getting read the most or shared.” – Erika Heald

Be clear on the context of what you are comparing. Teams often compare campaigns that reach a very different audience, or compare themselves to companies that have more resources to work with, which isn’t fair to compare against.

“The other pitfall that happens is people compare apples and oranges. Say you have a niche, very niche audience. So manufacturers in the Midwest who are producing hard hats. And you’re comparing that to manufacturers of shipping boxes for Amazon. You can’t say our blog for the hard hats only got 1,000 views and the blog about boxes for Amazon got 5,000 views, so it’s worse. Start looking at the data. Did the hard hats actually convert to sales? Did you hit the right audience at the right time, when it mattered? Or are you just blanketing, throwing spaghetti at a wall?” – Amy Higgins

“What was the objective of creating that piece? And what is the total addressable audience? If you were trying to hit the 1,000 people who are interested in purchasing large quantities of hard hats and you had 900 page views and a bunch of shares from that page and you had people contact sales, then that’s what matters. You need to say, in advance, why you’re creating the pieces of content, because it’s not just for awareness.” – Erika Heald

Q7: Is there a relevant and engaging way to share your yearly marketing results with customers or public audiences?

If your customers or public audiences contributed to your content in some way, thank them.

“We had a customer community, and probably 30-60 a year contributed to our content. So giving them thanks for that and showcasing it. Also showcasing that [a person] got a raise. I did one piece of content with a customer, and the content did so well, it helped them get a raise at their company. Showcase those wins of how they are a part of your company, not just a customer of your company. It’s a way to say thank you and make sure that they contribute next year as well.” – Amy Higgins

“It’s a great way to get other customers saying ‘wait, you have a customer marketing program? I can contribute to this, I can be a case study, or I could be a blog.’ Because when they see other people sharing their stories and having that success and being supported and deepening that relationship with you when you’re a brand they love, they want that, too.” – Erika Heald

Companies commonly write “best-of” blog posts to show their most-viewed or most-successful content and campaigns. Erika and Amy feel this is a tired approach that doesn’t often drive results. Instead, Amy encourages you to consider what has changed.

“Think around what has changed. It would be fun to see a blog from December 2022 and then say here’s everything that changed from this blog. And then repost the blog later. But putting that in the email, like ‘remember, this was only a year ago, here’s everything that changed and how we change.” – Amy Higgins

Spotlight individual writers to celebrate their work from the year.

“Think about the people behind the top blogs. Here are our top blogs that were written by this person, did you know that they’ve also written this one? Erika has written 15 blogs for our website, here’s her latest one, and here’s her author page if you want to see all the other ones.” – Amy Higgins

Q8: How can the EOY reporting process help generate content ideas?

Don’t simply copy the topics and ideas that have worked.

“You never want to look at ‘here are the top performers, let’s just recreate that.’ Look at the low-hanging fruit, like [content] that barely worked — what is going to tip it over the edge, how can you do it differently? Also look at things you can optimize. December is a great time to start optimizing posts and not publishing new ones, because no one’s going to read it in December.” But if you can look at older ones and change around the search traffic algorithm [and] change around pictures.” – Amy Higgins

“The Content Marketing Insitute does a great job with this. It was a number of years ago that I wrote my process for defining brand voice. And since then, they’ve published two updated versions of that post. So there are three versions of this post on their website. And I think that’s really smart, because when you have content that is resonating with people, taking that time to optimize it or refresh it is such the smart, easy thing to do versus trying from scratch with a new topic, a new author, a new subject.” – Erika Heald

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