I don't know how marketing dashboards got this reputation, but they seldom live up to it. And I don't think they ever will. In order to make well informed decisions you need more than a snapshot. Drill down reports are required. Distilled analysis plays a large part. Balancing options, understanding variables, fuzzy forecasting, and internal politics are the real ways decisions are made and priorities set. Most everyone wants to be making "data driven decisions", but usually data is only one component in decision stew.
Seeing this for what it is, I have had an on again-off again relationship with marketing dashboards. There was a time when I thought they were wonderful and tried to make them for everything. Then I was struck by their limitations and turned away from them. But now I'm finding some room for them again.
It is the understanding of what a marketing dashboard is that is important. In client services, we call this "managing expectations". When dashboards are involved, there are a lot of expectations that need to be managed. This can be difficult. Romantic dashboard daydreams are not easily dispelled. But, it is possible.
What a Marketing Dashboard Is Good For
What a marketing dashboard is good for is finding problems and successes. Like key performance indicators (KPIs), the dashboard is really just a temperature gage. You'll not get any complete answer from a dashboard, but you will get some idea of what the landscape looks like and where to go hunting if there are problems.
Your marketing dashboard is only the starting point. It is a summary. It is a paraphrase. It is the elevator pitch. It is a news brief. It is a 10,000 foot view. It is shallow and superficial. Most importantly, it is a short-cut.
When you see things moving in a positive way on your marketing dashboard, celebrate. Then provide additional information on what worked.
When you see things moving in a negative way on your marketing dashboard, cringe. Then provide additional information on what went wrong.
It is the additional information that is the real stuff to help decision-makers. The marketing dashboard simply gives some help to decide what to talk about.
A Marketing Dashboard Example
Here is a screen shot of the general traffic section of a dashboard I recently created for a client.
You can see that the information is by no means complete. However, in one view you get a very good feel of where their traffic comes from, what the value of that traffic is, what the 6 month trend is, and what the successes and opportunities are. From here we talk about specifics.
- How to get more traffic from social.
- How to improve organic topical search.
- How to get all traffic to convert better.
- How to get campaign traffic to bounce less.
Now I have formed a new, more mature relationship with dashboards. And I think this one will last.