Business

6 Reports Every Small Business Needs to Use

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We put together this list of the most important reports to be running at least once a week, if not more.

Data reporting is a vital part of business – without it, how do you know how you’re truly doing? By running reports in the morning and at night, you get a glimpse of how much inventory you have on hand, daily sales totals, and more. This information should drive your budgeting, resource allocation, marketing efforts, employee scheduling, and more. Without reporting, you’re running blindly through the dark.

The combined business intelligence you gather will inform better decisions to help your business grow.


Sales Reports

Sales are the lifeblood of any business – without them, you have no revenue, no money, and no way of continuing. Monitoring sales reports gives you a view of past, current, and future sales so you understand how things are truly going.

Pipeline reports provide a complete and accurate picture of which deals are pending so you can forecast a realistic sales pipeline. Benchmark reports allow you to see specific conversions through each step of the sales cycle, either on the whole or by sales rep. Customer churn reports are also important, as they provide insight into where you’re losing business.

You probably already have sales reports available if you accept credit cards at your business. Credit card processors often provide reporting dashboards and analytics to give insight into key metrics. If you use a full point-of-sale system, you may have even more detailed reporting available.

Each processor or POS system will have slightly different layouts or reporting capabilities, but you’ll almost always be able to set specific parameters, such as dates, items, payment type, and more. That allows you to dig deeper into your data. The image below shows a sales summary for Square credit card processing:

Square sales report

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the sales reporting options for your system. Try out the different pre-loaded options and experiment with the tools to create your own custom reports to see the data that matters most for your business.

Inventory Reports

Inventory reporting gives you updated (ideally real-time) analysis of what you have on hand. This helps with restocking, reconciling with sales reports, and more. Inventory management is a key to the success of fulfillment companies like Amazon – imagine having to tell your customers you’re out of the latest seasonal brew or clothing.

A general inventory report is simple and basic, typically a checklist. They can be more focused by creating inventory ranking and hits reports.

An inventory ranking report ranks products in descending order by gross margin generated and compares profitability with holding costs to determine if the overhead is worth continuing to sell the product.

Inventory hits reports quantify the same thing by tracking sales volume instead of ticket value.

Reporting can be customized to sort by item, category, vendor, and more across whatever timeframes you specify. Additionally, some POS systems can be configured to alert you when items run low, or automatically generate purchase orders for seamless reordering when you reach a set stock level.

Inventory reports are crucial for all businesses, but are especially important if you have more than one location. You’ll be able to accurately track stock in multiple branches, transfer items between stores, and more.

Related Article: Knowing When to Expand Your Business.


Workforce Management Reports

Your employees are your most important business resource. Running regular workforce management reports lets you optimize scheduling, reconcile payroll, and keeps you in touch with where your team is at and what they’re doing.

Proper staffing is crucial to customer satisfaction – no one likes to wait in long lines or sit around hungry because there aren’t enough cashiers or cooks. Workforce management reports, especially when coupled with sales reports for peak hours, can help you effectively schedule your staff. Top sellers can be scheduled during higher traffic times and you can plan for extra workers at peak hours and less staff in slower periods.

Correctly managing staff isn’t just important for customers – it’s important for your bottom line. Reviewing and adjusting staff based on workforce reports is a key way to manage payroll and ensure you’re allocating employee hours (and payroll dollars!) most effectively.

Online Traffic Reports

It’s easy to see foot traffic in your brick-and-mortar location, but even then you need reports to quantify it. This problem gets worse online, where you don’t see people visiting your ecommerce “store” unless you’re running the proper reports. More than just traffic, you need to understand the patterns of your visitors.

Inbound traffic reports show you where visitors were referred to your site from, allowing you to optimize the site to attract more. Heatmaps and engagement reports show you exactly where people are looking and clicking, while social media reports show offsite engagement. Conversion reports then help track the sales funnel and provide an ROI to your online marketing efforts.

Google Analytics is one of the most comprehensive (and easiest to implement) online traffic analytics platforms. Often these are the only traffic reports businesses will accept to confirm traffic.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics reports are easily exported to a spreadsheet for loading into Salesforce, QuickBooks, and other popular business programs.

Google Analytics can be a bit intimidating for new users, but there are plenty of tutorials online and from Google itself that can walk you through the available reports and help you get usable data. It’s worth spending a little time to get more actionable insight for your business.

In addition to free services like Google Analytics, some companies offer add-on reporting capabilities that tie in multiple facets of business reporting. If your current reporting solutions aren’t giving you the information you need, you may want to check into third-party reporting companies or software.

Related Article: Red Carpet Reporting Software Review.


Marketing Reports

Although there’s a direct link between marketing and sales, they’re not always linked through reporting. If you spend $10,000 on a large marketing campaign, you should have detailed reporting to show an ROI for the expense. With today’s data-driven marketing, there’s no reason any small business can’t run marketing reports to justify expenses.

Lead reports help you track where leads are coming in, and some of this information is collected through customer surveys. Contact tracking shows you where customers are in the sales cycle and lets you group by demographics to target marketing materials. Leads by offer reporting shows you this information for online campaigns as well.

As with online traffic reports, Google Analytics can provide valuable information for marketing initiatives, including pay-per-click advertising, social media campaigns, and more.

Network Traffic Reports

Businesses lose a lot of revenue from wasted time online. Employees paying attention to social media and games instead of work, non-customers stealing the signal, and hackers stealing data can all cause a negative impact on business. There’s no reason these problems can’t be proactively resolved by running daily network traffic reports.

Wireshark used by IT professionals worldwide. It can identify which devices are connecting to which sites and more. If someone intrudes on your network or hogs all the network resources, Wireshark will identify them for removal.

Conclusion

When running a business, it’s crucial to keep an eye on multiple aspects. The reports listed here are six of the most important reports to run regularly, but it’s not an exhaustive list. As you become more comfortable with analyzing your data, you may find that you need to add to the list, or that some reports can be run less frequently. Explore your processor’s or POS system’s capabilities to put together the right reports you need to make the best business decisions.

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Brian Penny

BY Brian Penny

Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Countrywide and Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer. His banking career also included jobs for Chase, American Express, and client work for Wells Fargo and other large banks. He's interested in all things finance, and spends much of his time for CardFellow writing about financial technology and payment security.In addition to CardFellow, you can find Penny's blogs on Huffington Post, Forbes, Fast Company, The Street, Cracked, High Times, Quicken's Small Business Resource, and Small Business Daily.

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