Is it Time to Re-design your Marketing Dashboard?

As organizations improve their data capabilities, there is an increased expectation and reliance on reporting. A fact amplified in Econsultancy’s Measurement and Analytics report where respondents indicated that ‘producing reports’ was the most sought-after skill under the analytics umbrella. As a result, many organizations now have teams that produce reports bursting with numbers, charts, and graphs as if they were Model T automobiles – all in the same fashion, but with only the basic features.  Often, these reports are referred to as dashboards. However, we, at VisionEdge Marketing, would like to be so bold as to say that you’re probably missing a few design capabilities when it comes to having an effective Marketing dashboard.

How can we claim this? Because most of the dashboards we’ve seen consist of a non-business-centric hodgepodge of numbers that report on marketing activity and outputs.  This recent Allocadia study MPM (Marketing Performance Management) Benchmark Study reinforces this claim. It turns out that over 90% of the respondents revealed that they primarily report on activity (clicks, visits, page views) and outputs (downloads, inquiries).  Less than half of the participants report on metrics related to Marketing’s contribution to the business.

The difference between these two reporting focal points is the difference between having Marketing’s data move the needle for the business and having your numbers be overlooked. Instead of simply displaying an array of charts, an actionable dashboard guides your strategy development and helps you mitigate risk.  Think of it like your car’s dashboard. If it didn’t indicate what was going on inside the machine, it would be significantly more difficult to determine when to fuel up or when to slow down. By the same measure, your Marketing dashboard should help you see what is and isn’t working. It should help you determine whether what Marketing is doing is moving the needle, and if so, how far and how fast.

Redraw the Box and then Think Outside of It

If your Marketing dashboard isn’t helping you gauge whether your Marketing organization is within proper operating and performance target parameters as well as guiding your strategic and investment decisions, it is time to return to the drawing board. I know this from experience.

In my early days as a marketing leader (we’re talking the 80s for those of you who are curious), operations reviews were held monthly. During these reviews, I learned that to have relevance, I needed to provide numbers.  So naturally I did my best to comply and supply my boss with what I assumed were actionable data points.

One day I had the opportunity to observe my boss presenting to his boss. During their tête-a-tête, I was surprised that none of the data I provided was included in his presentation. The implications were loud and as clear as a defective muffler. Marketing initiatives did not correspond to business priorities. It didn’t take an in-depth analysis to realize the implications of this. To circumvent the potential pitfalls associated with not being considered an important function of the business, I approached my boss and inquired after what data he needed. Our conversation resulted in a complete overhaul in what we measured, the data we collected, and the ways in which we reported it out.

To this day, I suspect his requests reflect what many senior leaders still want from Marketing.  They don’t want to see Marketing’s activity and output. Instead they want to see the consequences of these numbers. And they want to see it clearly on a one-page dashboard.

For the last 30 years, I have found the best way to do this is by answering three data-focused questions that my boss put forth all those years ago:

  1. How is Marketing contributing to the outcomes we need to achieve? Back in the 80s, we had several outcomes including Share of Wallet, Product Adoption and Market Share. Design-wins drive all three of these. So my boss suggested we start with design wins as the initial outcome for constructing our remodeled dashboard.
  2. How is Marketing expected to contribute towards these outcomes, and is Marketing meeting the performance targets? In my instance, evaluation boards, simulation boards, and ROM-codes were critical to securing design-wins and were something that Marketing could influence. These formed the key indicators (these eventually became the focus of our objectives) for Marketing’s performance.
  3. Which activities are having the greatest impact on achieving the performance targets and at what cost? Notice cost was incorporated into the third question, not his first question.

This invaluable conversation with my boss brought focus and clarity to what’s important to the business and the role Marketing plays. It’s a conversation that has helped many of our customers change the direction of their dashboard.  If you haven’t had this conversation with your Marketing leadership, perhaps now is the time. The answers to these questions will enable your Marketing leaders to craft a dashboard that incorporates metrics that show how Marketing generates value for your organization, the impact Marketing has on the business, and what actions or course adjustments are required for success.

Relate Your Marketing Dashboard to the Growth Engines for the Business

Armed with these anchor questions, you now have the links between Marketing activities and business outcomes. This serves as the platform for your Marketing team’s metrics chain: the sequence of metrics that establishes the tie between activity, output, operational, and outcome metrics.

Here’s a quick illustration of the concept. Let’s say your company needs to acquire a specific set of new customers for one of your proven solutions to help increase market share, drive growth, and realize the financials. It is Marketing’s job to identify the best opportunities and motivate these prospective customers to participate in a trial. To support this objective, your Marketing team could develop a program using a customer endorsement strategy.  Key touches and elements might include a customer case study (perhaps a video), an online demo and associated content, an ROI calculator, a webinar that includes the customer case study, and a speaker with associated content.

Your team may also need to create a series of pre- and post-touches through various channels to facilitate engagement. Each of those touches and channels must contain a performance target designed to produce webinar registrants, demo requests, and trial inquiries.

You now have an interlocking chain between the work of Marketing and the business outcomes. The metrics are inextricably joined into a system that explicitly conveys how marketing programs contribute to the Marketing’s performance targets, which in turn drives the business outcomes. The relationship between metrics is deliberate. Marketing can now employ the chain construct an executive level dashboard.

Dashboards that contain metrics chains show the relationship between what constitutes success for your business and the contribution Marketing is making toward that success. Unsurprisingly, this approach will result in a much more effective Marketing dashboard; one that that will help you drive improvements and prove the value of your marketing investments. Interested in diving deeper into dashboards? Learn more about dashboard construction, and find out if your dashboard measures up here.