Understanding the Difference Between Reporting and Analytics

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Marjorie Munroe
Marjorie Munroe



Whether you work on a marketing or sales team, you've probably heard the phrase “reporting and analytics” tossed around. These terms may seem synonymous at first, but reporting and analytics each play a distinct role in optimizing your content, website, or overall business strategy.

It's important to know the definitive difference between reporting and analytics to ensure that you're informed about the value each can provide to your business moving forward.

What is Reporting?

When drilling down on the definition of reporting, think about two factors: what a report is and what reporting does. report is defined as "a written or spoken description of a situation, event, etc." Let's take this definiton and apply it to your marketing or sales efforts. In this context, reporting becomes the process of compiling and organizing your data into visual, written, or spoken summaries. 

What does this do? In short, reports tell you what is happening and help you transform the raw data your business is collecting into a readable format. Did your campaign receive the expected amount of traffic? Did your team close as many deals this quarter as last quarter? Reporting helps give you a health check on how the initiatives of your team are performing overall. 

Several online tools can help you on your way to creating reports that are easily accessible to your team members. If you're a HubSpot user, reporting options such as dashboards visually render your data, making it simple to explain and easier for your team to understand. Other online tools, such as Google Analytics and Kissmetrics, can be great ways to zoom in on key data points and track different interactions of your online audience as they move through your site.

What are Analytics?

Analytics is defined as the process of using analysis. This definition may seem obvious, but to take it a step further, analysis is the "detailed examination of anything complex in order to understand its nature or to determine its essential features." How does this fundamentally differ from reporting?

Unlike reporting, which focuses on compiling data you have been collecting, analytics focuses on exploring and interpreting data or reports in order to glean valuable insight into why certain trends happened the way they did. Both processes rely on the collection of data to run. However, the analysis piece provides a deeper understanding into the behavior of your visitors, leads, or customers. Once you understand why they behaved the way they did, you can then continue to improve your content or process. 

So why does understanding this fundamental difference between reporting and analytics matter? On a high level, understanding what each of these processes accomplishes ensures you are using the potential of both without missing out on key features of either. In order to make data-driven decisions about the trajectory you will take, you need the fullest picture possible. This requires knowing answers to the what, how, and why found in your data as best you can.

By implementing both the capabilities of reporting and analytics in your team's routines, you're building a critical framework that not only answers these questions, but then uses the answers to help you optimize your processes moving forward.  

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