Business Writing 2020-05-19 00:00

Write for Your Customer: Writing a Report that Your Customer Wants to Read

A weekly, monthly, or quarterly report is one of the most efficient ways to communicate information with your customers or clients – but how do you know they will read it? The last thing you want is for your reports to be skimmed over and forgotten – or worse, ignored right out of the gate.

Writing a report that your customers want to read can seem challenging – but it doesn’t have to be. It just takes a little time and effort to make your report something easily digestible and quickly readable. You don’t want to send your client a 10-page update that is purely block text. That’s a great way to get your report put on the backburner to be forgotten.

Instead, treat your customer reports as you would any other piece of content – and make it as engaging as possible. Do your best to grab your customers’ attention from the subject line of your email – and don’t waste time with a long email. Put all the important information in the report. Then use the email to tease at what is included in the report and encourage them to download it.

Follow these simple guidelines and you’re sure to send out a report that your customers will benefit from and appreciate.

  1. Decide What the Focus of Your Report Is
  2. Understand What Your Customers Want
  3. Utilize Visuals like Infographics and Charts
  4. Keep Your Content Organized and Specific
  5. Don’t Forget Action Points for You and the Customer

Decide What the Focus of Your Report Is

This might seem like an obvious first step, but the truth is, we tend to try to cram as much information into one space as possible. While this is not always a bad thing, in a report where you don’t want to lose your customers’ attention, it’s not ideal. Determine one single focus and stick to it.

Examples of types of reports include:

  • Financial/Sales Report
  • Marketing Efforts Report
  • Customer Satisfaction Report
  • Review Goals and Progress Report

It can be easy to try and combine multiple or all these topics into a single report – but that becomes information overload. You wouldn’t want to trudge through all those stats, so why drag your customers through it?

Similarly, it can be easy to try to keep things routine and send each client or customer the same type of reports at the same regularity. This might not always work. You might have a client who only cares about whether their marketing efforts are paying off or not. Meanwhile, another client has hired you to look at the bigger picture.

You’re always better off sending separate reports for separate subjects – perhaps send them bi-monthly, with a sales report at the start of the month and a marketing report mid-month. Or maybe you send a marketing update monthly and a sales update quarterly. That’s just a couple examples – depending on your customers needs, you may need want to provide reports more frequently, maybe less.

Understand What Your Customers Want

Once you’ve decided on what type of report you’re writing, you should take a few minutes to think about your customers. What are the things they would find the most important or relevant to them? What do they ask you about the most often? Try to cover these things up front – it will make for a happy customer and keep them reading hoping for more useful information.

It was mentioned earlier that you should treat these reports the same as any other piece of content you write – so stay focused on your reader. We’ve touched on this subject in the past – and it’s super important here as well. Do your best to understand your customers. What do they rely on you for? What are your goals together? How does the information you’re sharing pertain to those goals?

Once you understand what your customers are looking for, writing a report that keeps their interest becomes a whole lot easier.

Utilize Visuals like Infographics and Charts

Keeping your customers attention can be difficult – as business owners, CEOs and the like they don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to emails that aren’t urgent immediately. One way to make sure they get all the most important information is to make it something they can visualize.

Infographics and charts are your best friend when it comes to getting important statistics out in a way that will stick with your reader. Charts make hard-to-read numbers much easier to make sense of – especially when you’re looking at month-by-month or year-over-year comparisons. Infographics are a great way to get small chunks of information out in an easy-to-follow manner – and the visualization helps keep your readers attention from beginning to end.

Think back to your school days – pie charts, line graphs, and bar graphs make information significantly easier to understand. It’s like the difference between a simple math problem and the three-sentence equivalent of the same question.

Rather than breaking up your paragraphs and subsections by using stock images like you might in a blog post, instead use custom graphics that provide value to your reader. This will also help you fit more information into your report, without losing your customers to thick blocks of text.

Keep Your Content Organized and Specific

Again, it can be tempting to throw all the information you can into a single report – but don’t give in to this urge. Fit as much as you are reasonably able while sticking to your original focus and keeping it simple. After all, your client knows you’re an amazing writer – that’s why they hired you after all, isn’t it?

You’re past the time to impress them with your writing skills – now your customers are worried about results. They want to see that their money is going to the right places. One of the ways you can ensure that your services are continued are to provide undeniable results – in the form of a report, condensing those results.

Use short sentences and everyday language. Keep clunky industry jargon to a minimum and don’t beat around the bush. All your client is interested in is the progress. Have your sales gone up or down – and what are you doing to either keep it going or improve? Are your marketing efforts paying off? What has worked and what isn’t?

Stick to the facts as much as possible – and don’t get lost in your own bias on any one subject. Remember, your customer wants to see results – and your report is supposed to provide a clear update on whatever you were hired to take care of.

Don’t Forget Action Points for You and the Customer

The last thing that you want to include in any report you send out to your customers is actionable steps that you can both take to keep things moving forward. If you require your client to review and approve work prior to publishing it, make sure to remind them there’s content awaiting approval.

If you’re writing a sales report and sales are down in one area, but up in another, address what is being done to bring sales up where they need it. Similarly, if you’ve noticed that one of your marketing efforts has fallen flat, while another one continuously outperforms all your other efforts, address that toward the end of your report. If something hasn’t worked as well as you expected, address that as well as what you plan to do instead.

You want to ensure your client knows that you are still progressing. If you’re working on a long-term project provide them milestone updates. For reoccurring projects, let them know where you are on the latest project – and anything you have in mind for the future. This is basically your chance to let them know what your plans are going forward – and how it affects and benefits them.

Especially when you’re sending monthly or quarterly updates or reports, these action steps are important. It not only tells the client what is needed on their end to keep things rolling – but it also shows them your next steps as well. If you go long periods without communication, then these sorts of reports are essential. It builds trust with your client when you can provide clear results – and even when you’re willing to own up to something that didn’t work out so well (as long as you have a plan to change things going forward).

Remember: Focus Is Key

Writing a report that keeps your customers’ attention isn’t an easy thing to do – but with a little creativity, it’s far from impossible.

Remember to stay focused on your reader – once you decide what sort of report or update, you’re providing, don’t stray into other subjects. Use visuals to grab your customers attention and keep it by keeping your sentences short and your language easy to read and understand. By doing this, chances are your customers will stick with you after opening their email.

Keep focused and give your report its best chance to shine. Happy writing!

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