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How To Create An (Effective) Digital Marketing Dashboard

Posted by Nate Caminata on Apr 5, 2016 9:00:00 AM
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Macbook screen with charts, graphs, and analysis

Stand up and raise your hand if you’re guilty of delivering or receiving a marketing report through a clunky spreadsheet file.

Good.

Now remain standing and keep that hand raised if you’re entirely convinced that whoever received that report actually opened it and understood it.

If everyone has been honest, we just accomplished the digital version of “the stadium wave.”

 

In the breakneck pace of marketing, especially as digital becomes baked into the DNA of our efforts, swift access to real time results matter. Gone are the days of a multi-column, monochromatic spreadsheet that shows month-to-month trends of website “hits.” Instead, the expectation – and, frankly, the need – is for an at-a-glance digital marketing dashboard that conveys meaningful insight to better enable decision-making.

With various campaigns, tactics, channels and key performance indicators (KPIs), a marketing CMO, manager or consultant is expected to spot trends, capitalize on immediate opportunities, and in general, moderate performance metrics.

But you can’t see ahead of the curve if you’re always looking in the rear view mirror.

 

One Client Needed a Dashboard to Compare Marketing Tactics. Read their Story. 

Even for companies that have moved beyond the spreadsheet, the lack of a centralized solution makes the process of coalescing data across multiple systems a major headache. In many cases, those companies have few people on staff capable of nabbing those treasured insights. And collectively, all of that data is rarely aggregated and displayed in a meaningful, personalized way.

When instrumented correctly, a dashboard eases the pain of multiple systems and aesthetically bankrupt spreadsheets. Through the magic of API calls or other integration methods, modern dashboards can convey critical insight to the appropriate individuals, and become central to a transparent and well-functioning team of marketers. 

That’s the goal, at least.

 

The good news is there are numerous data visualization platforms that aggregate real-time key metrics across multiple platforms, transforming them into colorful illustrations that should convey meaning to its observer.

The bad news? Without a strategy that translates data into business objectives catered to each audience, a dashboard will merely tantalize key stakeholders just long enough until it becomes the equivalent of an unplayable version of Candy Crush.

In short, if done poorly or haphazardly, it could become little more than lipstick on that dreaded but ultimately useless spreadsheet.

Based on our experience at Springthrough with delivering custom marketing dashboards to our clients, we first identify a strategy before breaking out the coloring brush.

 

Know your Stakeholder

If a marketing team has a tiered hierarchy, as many do, this is of utmost importance. Like the metrics they convey, dashboards are not one-size-fits-all It is vital to approach a dashboard as you might the discovery phase of a project, and that includes identifying your stakeholders.

Or, basically, who requires a dashboard.

And what they need to see.

Stakeholders have unique objectives, and dashboards should communicate only relevant data that speaks to them. For example, leadership might want to monitor overall brand value or the lifetime value of a customer type, whereas the consultant or manager will be most interested in the top performing tactics of an individual campaign.

At the end of the day, the dashboard needs to better enable the stakeholder to do their job effectively. And if they’re forced to sift through charts deemed irrelevant, however colorful they might be, it will be effort – and opportunity – wasted.

 

Man looking at charts and graphs on tablet

 

Understand your Stack

When identifying a dashboard solution, ensure it caters to your unique marketing stack – that is, the suite of digital tools your team uses to operate marketing campaigns. For example, if you rely upon Google Analytics, Salesforce and Marketo to glean data, confirm they’re supported and any avoid surprises. Further, you might be wholly unaware of applications already in use across the team, and those that are commonly accessed for analytics insight.

We recommend assembling a list of your applications or other data points, aligning them with any existing insight or metrics they provide. Next, prune the duplicates, and consider your chosen vendor’s capacity to support them. If they don’t, custom work could be required.

Although most dashboard vendors, such as Klipfolio or DOMO, support many common platforms, it is a relevant question to investigate before you embark on a journey that turns unnecessarily costly.

 

Grid of logos from Klipfolio of other tools they integrate withSome of the integrations available with Klipfolio

 

Identify your KPIs

I wasn’t kidding before when I mentioned “hits.”

Although most marketing teams have a clear set of objectives, that doesn’t always mean they have identified KPIs associated with those objectives. Further, the knowledge of how KPIs translate to actual numbers isn’t always a given.

There’s a considerable difference between “website hits” and the conversion percentage of cart recovery emails.

Consider the retail web site that sells argyle ties online:

When an objective is to “increase leads and sales over a quarter,” a spreadsheet does just fine communicating the raw numbers as requested. But the KPIs might be real-time Total Leads Versus Previous QTR and Cost per Lead (against benchmark), as well as Total Sales Against Previous QTR and Cost per Customer (against benchmark).

You might even want a trending sales conversion percentage, perhaps demonstrated via a line chart over the past fiscal year.

 Chart tracking the number of website visitors that receive a quote

Another example: One of our clients offers healthcare plans.

They needed to track how many of their website visitors continued in the sales funnel to receive a quote. 

 

Ultimately, it’s vital to understand that a dashboard is not a data insight service, “turn-key” solution or data dump. The data still must be interpreted and assessed by the person on the other side of the screen. Again, that’s why a dashboard should only have the most important measurements that are appropriate to its audience.

Additionally, there is no such thing as a “completed” dashboard. Because of the very chaotic nature of the world in which we operate, namely, digital marketing, the process by which we identify and evaluate data is inherently iterative and always evolving.

 

One healthcare used a dashboard to make sense of their data. Read their story.

Topics: Digital Marketing

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