How to report marketing data to C-level executives

Published May 9 2022 5 minute read Last updated Apr 23 2024
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  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

There comes a day in every digital marketer’s life when they are asked to present their team’s performance reporting to the “big wigs.” You know, the head honchos. C-level executives. 

For many, especially for those who may not have presented to executive leadership before, this can feel like an incredibly daunting task. Plus, as anyone who has done it before can attest, that particular audience can often blow a whole straight through whatever case you are trying to make with a single question — if you’re not prepared, that is. 

So how do you prepare yourself for such a presentation?

Well, there are obvious strategies like practicing your presentation ahead of time, asking others on your team to ask you mock questions, memorize some key points of data backing your digital marketing reporting claims, and more. However, a more dynamic way to prepare for the C-suite is to approach it from a storytelling perspective.

Marketing reporting for executives

Tip 1: Only share the metrics that are important for your audience

We’re going to do a little visualization exercise. Don’t worry, we won’t need any data sets for this. 

Imagine you were going to present your digital marketing reporting to a consumer audience. We know, it may seem a little far fetched, but just go with it for a moment. You wouldn’t put every single piece of detail into the dashboard or presentation. That would be way too much granular information. Your audience would likely get overwhelmed and wouldn’t know what to focus on. 

Instead, you would probably make strategic decisions to hand select the information that is most critical to that specific audience. 

Delivering digital marketing reporting to the executive leadership is no different. Much like our hypothetical consumer audience, the CEO, CMO and/or CFO aren’t going to be interested in the nuances that shape performance on a day-to-day basis. It’s boring. Instead, they want to see how digital marketing is affecting overall business performance. 

What your Chief financial officer thinks is important 

Leadership, like your CFO, may be curious about the average customer acquisition cost. The reason: a decreasing or increasing average CAC can indicate broader financial health of the organization. And if it is a key indicator of the company’s financial health, that will mean investors are interested as well. This investor interest, in turn, causes a bit of a feedback loop and leads to further scrutiny by leadership. 

What your Chief Executive Officer and CMO think

There is no magic pill solution here. Every company, and every leader, will have different wishes and questions. But we can make a general assessment, of what most C-level executives will want to know.

High level executives might want to understand how your team’s focus and KPIs are aligning with the overall business objectives set by the organization.

For instance, does your campaign spend and tactics align with the annual objective to reduce that acquisition cost? Are you growing organic reach to help bring that cost down? Are your digital marketing efforts attracting customers that increase annual recurring revenue? Or are your campaigns attracting less valuable customers that lead to a higher churn rate?

Keeping a longterm perspective

All of these questions could have a profound impact on business operations 3 months, 6 months or even a year from now. This is the sort of perspective that leadership is bringing to the table. 

If you’d like more information about which KPIs you should be highlighting for your audience, check out our Funnel Tips episode below. We’ve also put together a handy KPI cheat sheet, that you can download for quick reference. 



Tip 2: Make it look good

You don’t try to interpret and analyze your data by looking at raw spreadsheets do you? Of course not! 

You bring your digital marketing reporting to life through the use of diverse visualizations. They bring color and interest to your dashboards. With proper attention to aesthetics, they also help to strategically draw the eye around the dashboard — starting with the most important information followed by supporting details. 

Use visualizations 

Visualizations make complex subjects easy to understand quickly. They also make it much easier to identify core insights that can drive business performance forward. That is why your marketing report, be it a presentation or a PDF, should always contain data visualizations.

This also goes for your marketing dashboards. When you share your digital marketing reporting with the C-suite, your dashboards should be as beautiful and vibrant as possible. To use our ad metaphor above, these visualizations represent the beautifully shot creative. They convey the concept, the mood, the idea. 

Less is more

Much in the same way that you’re curating the information you are presenting to leadership, though, it is important to make strategic selections for your visualizations. There should be a clear hierarchy of information when taking a single glance at your dashboards or slides. The visualizations should be clean and orderly. 

Also, while pops of color are extremely useful to convey a lot of ideas strategically, you don’t want to overdo it to the point that your reporting looks like a Picasso (in a bad way). A little restraint can be a very good thing. Especially when you are trying to…

Tip 3: Tell a compelling story

Remember, your leadership team is still just a group of humans. And humans love a good story. 

In fact, that group of humans has probably been in back to back meetings and presentations all day. Think of this as your opportunity to entertain them with a fantastic story arc. 

Data in the spotlights

This could mean highlighting a sort of “hero’s journey” for a certain metric. Perhaps that metric once held KPI status. However, over time, it fell out of favor — even losing its place on the digital marketing dashboard. Now, other metrics became more important in the marketing strategy. Explaining why a certain metric or KPI was important before, but is not anymore, can be a good way to put a spotlight on the data.

Yourself as the hero

Another way to craft a meaningful story is to focus on the drama. In this example, think back to the executive who wants to understand how digital marketing is helping to reduce customer acquisition cost. Maybe you weren’t able to accurately make the connection between your campaigns and the organization’s KPI. After analyzing data across platforms, though, you could finally quantify digital marketing’s contribution as well as your return on ad spend. 

Both examples turn somewhat mundane topics into a more compelling narrative that can (hopefully) capture the attention of everyone in the room. 

Now, what do you do with that captive attention?

Tip 4: Get them to take action!

This is where we put it all together. We take our curated content, supplemented with stellar graphics that tell a compelling story and get the c-level executive in our audience to do something. 

After all, this isn’t some weekly project update meeting. You're in front of the C-suite. Now is your chance to swing for the fences! Just be sure you’re clear about what you want.

Are you looking for more budget? Do you need to increase your team’s head count? Are you looking for buy-in to build more conceptual ads? Are you looking to move up in the organization?

The call to action

To take it back to our ad analogy for a second — you would never run any advertising without a call to action. It would be silly. You spent the money and did the work to get in front of your audience's eyes. Now it’s time to tell them what to do. 

Same goes for executive leadership, again. Just be sure that you’ve come prepared, because this is where the pointed questions are going to be launched toward you. All of the careful curation and construction of your presentation should be compelling (of course) as well as laying out the case for your “ask.” 

You will undoubtedly get some difficult questions, especially since most of your “asks” will require additional money. Just keep cool, acknowledge when you need to come back with further detail, and maintain your confidence.

 Conclusion & read more

While these tips are not a foolproof blueprint for success in presenting a digital marketing report to the C-suite every time, they can help you stand out and gain the confidence you need. 

For more tips, read our Ultimate guide to digital marketing reporting.

Or watch the webinar on C-level reporting we did.

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