Gauge Your Success

Designing a dashboard to share marketing successes beyond the marketing team requires some editing and interpretation.

Dashboards can help marketing teams track everything from e-mail open rates and website traffic to revenue-focused returns on marketing investments. They offer flashy pie charts, intriguing graphs and lists galore. It’s easy to get enamored of the bells and whistles, and lose sight of the goal—which often is to package success metrics to demonstrate marketing’s results and impact to those inside and outside of marketing departments.

To build a dashboard that will clearly communicate marketing’s success, and potentially inspire increased marketing investments, aim for a streamlined, results-oriented, user-friendly presentation, experts say.

Show Returns, Not Cost

Create dashboards that show the revenue generated from your projects, rather than focusing on the cost of the efforts. “Cost per click, cost per lead and cost per customer—semantically, these frame marketing as a cost center,” says Jon Miller, co-founder and vice president of product marketing at San Mateo, Calif.-based marketing automation provider Marketo. “You’re forcing people to associate your activities with cost. Instead, you want your dashboard to focus on the metrics that are meaningful and relevant to executives. The metrics that give marketing power are the metrics that speak the language of business: aggregate impact on company revenue, pipeline performance, revenue forecasts, profits and incremental revenue contribution. These are the metrics that CEOs and CFOs care about. … The executives don’t need to know how hot the boiler is. They need to know how fast the ship is going.”

Less is More

“The biggest mistake people make is that companies have a tracker, something that is always collecting data, and there are 50 metrics in there. They think they need to report all of the metrics at once,” says Niels Schillewaert, managing partner at the New York office of London-based market research consultancy and design firm InSites Consulting, where he led the department in charge of creating dashboards before becoming a partner. “Make a dashboard that’s simple and appealing, and makes people ask for more, rather than giving them everything at once.”

Keep numbers on the dashboard to a minimum, adds Dela Quist, CEO of London-based e-mail marketing consultancy and design firm Alchemy Worx, where he has worked with brands such as PlayStation and Hilton on designing dashboards that report on individual e-mail campaigns. “I’m wary of anything that shows rates, or what I call campaign-based reporting,” he says “What are important are totals, not rates. Rates are confusing—they blind you and they make you do the wrong thing—but numbers never lie.” For example, touting a 0.02% open rate is misleading if it led to a $2 million sale that day, Quist says. As a rule of thumb, focus on the five metrics that will matter most to your team and the C-suite so as not to clutter the dashboard with too many numbers, he advises.

Use Graphs Strategically

“Line charts are great for showing trends, for any stat where how far it’s going up or down matters more than the absolute number,” Miller says, and simple arrows will draw the eye to key performance indicators.

Use speedometer-style graphics to show progress, says Scott Benzie, vice president of client enablement at Toronto-based dashboard consultancy and design firm Dundas Data Visualization. The C-suite won’t have time to worry about “green” metrics after reviewing the dashboard, he says, so highlight numbers that need further action in red.

Show the ‘Before and After’

“What the C-suite wants to see is the things that have changed, things that are better or worse compared to the last period,” Schillewaert says. “Provide benchmarking and focus on the things that show the biggest gaps: brands compared to competition, clients to non-clients, promoters to detractors, one period to the other. Time, target group and competitor benchmarks are what trigger most people because those are the extremes of the distribution and that’s where the biggest leverage is.”

Benzie agrees. “What executives want to see on a dashboard is what’s actionable,” he says. “They want to see the metrics that they can have an impact on. The real power of a dashboard is that it allows you to be proactive instead of reactive.”

Add Context

Most importantly, don’t report numbers in isolation, Benzie says. “None of the data without context is relevant to executives.” That second layer of information, he says, “is the difference between a picture and a dashboard.”

This blog post was originally published on the AMA Headquarters website and was written by AMA Contributor Molly Soat.

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