Creating Marketing Dashboards that Make Business Sense

Makreting Dashboards
Getty Images / Rafe Swan

The thought of dashboards can make a person's eyes glaze over, and can cause a great deal of anxiety and questions about where to start. I understand this -- I've experienced it myself. However, we also know that when it comes to marketing, our job can often depend on metrics and metrics that make sense to someone who is looking at them. Marketing is not the voodoo science that most people would claim it to be.

The numbers tell us if what we are doing is working, or where we could change things to perhaps gain the uptick we are looking for.

So how do you create great dashboards that give visualization with data? And how do you do it without a great deal of work that has to be repeated every time you need to put together dashboard data?

I had that same question not long ago and when on a hunt to find a tool that would help me put together dashboards that made the crucial job easy, but meaningful and something that could be used to determine our marketing efforts.  The hunt was tougher than I thought it would be for a few reasons, including:

  • Multiple tools, but many lacking customizations.
  • Reporting from dashboards was clunky and not automated.
  • Setting up the dashboards took knowledge of database and programming expertise.

The good news is, I think my trial and error will not only help you in finding a tool that works for you, but will save you time in researching a tool that will help you accomplish the tasks that are important to you.

We all have different goals and marketing objectives, so ensuring a tool that can be customized for your needs is vital in creating your dashboards.

Where to Start?

First, you have to identify your key performance indicators (KPIs). What do you want to measure, what's important to your business needs?

Are most of your KPIs from online transactions or are there offline transactions that you need to measure as well?

Here are a few KPIs that most marketers find vitally important:

  • Sales revenue
  • What sales channels drove what revenue?
  • Cost per lead
  • Cost per acquisition
  • What is the lifetime value of your customer?
  • What's your marketing ROI?
  • What's your inbound marketing ROI?
  • What's your outbound marketing ROI?
  • What's your traffic to lead ratio? How many website visits does it take to make a sale?
  • What search terms drive the most conversions?
  • Which marketing campaign drove the most sales?
  • How many sales or leads were captured via social media marketing efforts?
  • Which commercial drove the most telephone calls?

As you can see, we could go on and on regarding KPIs and determine what is most important to your business. Before you get started, you have to drill down into what key performance indicators are most important for you to measure. Creating your first dashboard can be the most difficult, after that the creation is a bit easier.  If you are not sure where to start, you can also identify what types of dashboards you want to create. A few popular dashboards include:

  • Marketing Performance Dashboard – Used to view an in-depth view of your conversion funnel to learn what marketing channels are working.
  • Digital Marketing Dashboard – Used to track key metrics in all of your digital channels like lead generation, social media, advertising, website traffic, and email campaigns.
  • Ecommerce Marketing Dashboard – Used to track campaigns that drive sales into your website. Which e-commerce channels drive traffic and sales.
  • Search Engine Marketing Dashboard – Used to track search engine rankings and what rankings drive visitors as well as conversions. What search engine rankings can you not afford to lose?
  • Web Analytics Dashboard – Used to track your website visitors, where do they come from, how many pages do they visit, what pages do they bounce off of, perhaps not getting the answers that they need.
  • CMO Marketing Dashboard – Used to track all marketing metric pulling them in from different sources, so that you can see the big picture and gauge your marketing efforts at a glance.
  • Online Paid Advertising Dashboard – Used to track your online advertising campaigns to determine ROI and identify any tweaks that need to be better.
  • Email Marketing Dashboard – Used to track your email marketing efforts, what's your open rate, how many people click a link in your email and what email drove sales and/or leads.
  • Social Media Marketing Dashboard - Used to track all of your social media marketing efforts, which posts drove the most engagement, and how did those social media relationships impact your bottom line?
  • Web and Social Analytics Dashboard – Used to track the correlation between search, social media accounts, and your website performance.

So where do you start in building your dashboards? Of course, you could build dashboards in a spreadsheet program, but that solution is not exactly the most efficient, and it means a lot of data entry and a lot of room for error.  Let me share with you a few programs that I explored while building my own dashboards, and I’ll even give you my recommendation on a solution that will help you build dashboards that are dynamic, shareable, and provide you with the exact views that you need.

In my journey to create dashboards that were useful, made business sense and gave me the different view that I needed, I tried the following programs:

I loved the look of Measureful, and the promise of automated reports snagged me. There were also many promises of flexibility and easy setup, but I did not find this to be the case. I was also disappointed that it took hours to get questions answered; in their defense, I was creating dashboards over the weekend, but sending in an inquiry on a Friday and not getting an answer until Monday just wasn’t good enough for me. My experience was frustrating, and even deleting my account required an inquiry, which seemed a bit outdated. Their reports and dashboards do look professional and promise to pull out data that isn’t evident, but they’ll need to do some work on tutorials and support. That being said, if you have a little more patience than I do give them a try, they do offer promise I just didn’t have the time to invest. Service plans range from $49.00 and up per month.

When it comes to gaining the holistic view of marketing and sales within your organization, Klipfolio is the way to go. It gives you a real-time view in very professional-looking dashboards. They have several prebuilt Klipstarts that can get you started, but my challenge came when trying to set up the dashboards with custom data. The editor can be a bit clumsy and takes some time to get used to, but the real-time metrics provide a reason to invest the time to figure it out. It’s also very reasonably priced, starting at $24 per month.

DashThis offered a variety of templates and was fairly easy when it came to pulling in digital marketing data. It was easy to tap into Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Most data that it aggregates is from Google Analytics, and then you can customize with social channels and upload spreadsheet data. It’s a bit more manual labor than I like, but with the time crunch I found myself in, it was a system that worked.  It’s currently my dashboard solution of choice, at least for now.

Note that DashThis will give daily, weekly and monthly metrics, but it does not give real-time data. Finally, their support was solid: When I had a question, they didn’t just send me an email reply, but created a screencast specifically for me to solve my issue. Pricing starts at $39 per month.

Cyfe is the most reasonably priced software that helps with creating dashboards, starting out at $19 per month to upgrade as a premium member and offering an unlimited number of dashboards. They tout clients like ABC, AT&T, and Whole Foods. Their platform can support the small business as well as the enterprise level, offering a lot of flexibility. It’s easy to setup and easy to use. In my opinion, it’s the most simplified way of pulling all of your data into one spot for that at-a-glance view, and they won’t nickel and dime you or limit you on what data you pull in. If you need a recommendation on where to start, my recommendation is to start here.