Ian Lurie // Jan 22 2009
“OK, but how do we know what you did helped our business? Maybe it was a coincidence.”
Just writing that caused me to hurt my head pounding it against the bulkhead of this airplane. I’m currently on an Alaska Airlines 737, en route back to Seattle after a travel week that felt like someone was repeatedly kicking me in the tenders. Once the nice flight attendant determined I hadn’t gone insane and was about to start belting out Stevie Wonder tunes while ripping off my clothing, she cautiously headed up the aisle to resume glaring balefully at anyone who pushed the call flight attendant button.
I’ve been asked that fateful question lots of times. Each time, I grind my teeth and repeat all the stuff we did, the timing, and how A points to B.
It rarely works.
Why? Why oh why can’t anyone get it?
It’s not the clients’ fault. It’s ours, because we frequently fall into the list-and-report mentality. Present a list of things we did this month on one piece of paper, key performance indicators (KPIs) on another, and then start strutting around like a peacock.
That’s a mistake. Internet marketing isn’t about lists of tasks. Nor is it just about KPIs. It’s about the narrative. N-A-R-R-A-T-I-V-E.
The sooner we start communicating that way, the sooner I can stop scaring flight attendants.
When you conduct an internet marketing campaign, you’ll probably:
That’s the minimum.
Every action you take for each of these tactics is a blip on a narrative timeline for your campaign. Don’t just list each blip, like this (pretend I’m reading in a nasal, annoying voice for this next part):
Right about there the client stops listening and/or reading, and starts playing Solitaire while saying ‘mm-hmmm’ into the phone. Or they start figuring out whether they can outsource all this stuff to underpaid Vietnamese children.
Parts is parts. If you show the client parts, they’ll take ‘em at face value, which is nada.
Disclaimer: My company is about to launch a tool that generates the kind of reporting I’m describing. So yes, I’m biased. But there’s a reason we developed the toolset, and this is it.
Instead, present your data in a narrative. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just tie changes in data to an explanation of what changed:
All I did was explain, in writing, what changed.
Yes, I know you tell the clients all of this. Guess what? They have other stuff on their minds. So you need to report your data as part of a narrative.
Here are the rules for narrative reporting:
You’re rolling your eyes. Stop it. These are little things that can completely turn around (or totally sink) a campaign. Yes, it takes a little extra time to prepare a narrative report.
In my experience, that little bit of time changes “OK, but how do we know what you did helped our business? Maybe it was a coincidence.” to “How can we do more of that?”
If you’ve got any narrative reporting tricks, share ‘em with the class: Post them below:
Ian Lurie is founder and CEO of Portent Inc., an internet marketing agency that has provided internet marketing, including PPC, SEO, social and analytics services, since 1995. Read More