Reporting

3 Reasons to Ditch Excel Reporting for Good

Among 6,000 (and growing!) marketing technology tools on the market today, one remains consistent across industries and businesses worldwide. Whether you’re an accountant or performance marketer, you’ve likely used Excel to track costs, plan budgets, and chart data.

Excel skills are taught in schools and online courses. A quick Google search of VLOOKUPs in Excel yields almost 400,000 YouTube tutorials. It takes literally 36 minutes to learn the basics of Excel on Udemy, including IF functions, VLOOKUPs, and reporting. Cheap and easy, no wonder Excel boasts a such a high adoption rate among performance marketers.

So why ditch Excel? While indeed cheap and arguably easy, Excel reporting is very time-consuming, prone to error, and doesn't let you analyze your cross-network and cross-account PPC data in one place. By using an automated reporting tool, marketers can make more time for tasks that are meaningful -- and way more fun. And while someone else spends hours formatting cells, grouping rows, or setting up pivot tables, you’ll be busy researching the competitor landscape, analyzing data to understand lead quality, and testing new approaches and channels to get ahead faster.

ProductShot_Report1_1080x620Automation will free up time to focus on the fun stuff, like strategy and experimentation.

1. Time is limited, and the market is moving fast

An Account Director of a large advertising agency (now an AdStage client) admitted that her team used to spend at least 10 hours a month on a single client report. For 50 clients, that meant that her employees would spend 6,000 hours on reports every year, pulling data across social and search into spreadsheets and then putting it into a PowerPoint presentation for each client.

Every day, the team would run thousands of cross-network campaigns across different locales. For each client report, they’d export data from Facebook Ads Manager and add screenshots of Instagram metrics from a different software tool. They then recreated tables from Google Analytics and combined all the data in slides. “The clients weren’t even reading them, because they were just so intense and, probably, too long,” the Account Director said.

This situation is not unique. Biddyco, a boutique agency from L.A., spent 15 hours a week on reporting before they switched to AdStage, exporting CSVs from Facebook and then pulling them into Sheets. The team at Hired cut their reporting time in half and improved results by focusing their time on campaign optimization.

In a nutshell, while an easy task, Excel reporting takes time, and your time is valuable.

2. Human error puts businesses at risk for mishandling client data

Excel reporting is also prone to human error. The whole process is repetitive and manual: pulling cross-network data into spreadsheets, saving files in separate folders, dropping them into the data warehouse for analysis...

BusinessOnline, for example, uses AdStage’s Data API to prevent any errors and streamline all reporting. “We are all humans. Someone downloads a file, incorrectly names it, or puts in a different client’s folder,” said Eric Ramos, Director of Analytics at BusinessOnline.

For BusinessOnline, ditching Excel and switching to an automated solution like AdStage is not just a matter of efficiency, but work quality and client trust.

3. Siloed data makes it hard to zoom out and see trends

For agencies, reporting in spreadsheets means that you can’t quickly create views across all of your accounts. That could be helpful if you want to see larger agency trends.

Biddyco chose AdStage’s automated reporting solution also because they wanted to see cross-network and cross-account trends at a higher level. Biddyco’s CEO, Ben, is very hands-on, so he built a dashboard where he can pull in every single client in one report and measure macro-trends. If CPAs suddenly went up for one client, Ben would look at the campaign performance across multiple accounts and explain to the client that is was a normal fluctuation.

Automating your PPC reports will let you quickly grasp the insights you need to move your business forward.

Focus on the right things

Reporting in Excel has become a marketing habit that is hard to break. In all fairness, unlike an automated reporting tool, using spreadsheets also costs next to nothing. Unless, of course, you factor in things like improved efficiency, better business results, and risks associated with manual, error-prone processes. If you'd like to calculate the ROI on automation, skip Excel and check out our ROI calculator and see how much you’ll save by ditching Excel for good. 

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Anya Pratskevich

A senior content marketing manager on the AdStage team, Anya manages AdStage's blog, co-hosts the PPC Show, and curates a weekly newsletter with top news in ad tech. Send her tips, pitches, and guest post ideas to anya (at) adstage (dot) io. Anya tweets, occasionally, as @pratsaa.