The Marketing Strategist:

Research Highlight: Making Marketing Dashboards Meaningful

August 27, 2015

ITSMA’s recent survey on measuring and communicating marketing impact revealed that nearly two-thirds of marketers produce marketing dashboards. Unfortunately, very few marketers say that their dashboards are effective. Few marketers are able to use their dashboards to communicate marketing’s contribution to senior leadership or even compare the ROI of marketing campaigns to optimize the marketing mix.

Why are marketing dashboards so ineffective? There are a number of reasons:

  • Activity- and output-based metrics, not business outcomes. While 97% of marketers include output-based metrics on their dashboards, only 64% also include business impact metrics. The percentage drops to 39% and 21% for leading indicators and predictive metrics, respectively.
  • PowerPoint or Excel reports, not true dashboards. PowerPoint and Excel files are not really dashboards; they’re static reports created manually on an as-needed basis for a periodic business review. Why? Because the data exists in a maze of overlapping systems, data silos, and point solutions. Data isn’t accessible in a timely manner, and accuracy is questionable.
  • Marketing automation stats, not comprehensive reporting. Many marketers have implemented marketing automation software and have access to data that they never had before. The software solutions conveniently print reports displaying that data, often times in a dashboard format. However, reports generated by marketing automation platforms are not marketing dashboards. They are demand-generation/lead-nurturing dashboards providing a narrow slice of the marketing story.

To solve the dashboard dilemma, marketers need to come up with a plan.

Step 1: Create a business outcomes metrics framework and define the required data. Talk to your internal stakeholders and ask them the three magic questions:

  • What is the business strategy?
  • How do you want marketing to contribute to that strategy?
  • How will you evaluate marketing’s contribution?

Step 2: Measure everything, but report what matters. Set performance targets for every marketing program and campaign. Measure against them, but save the details for the marketing managers. Focus on the high-level outcomes to communicate to the business. Think about your dashboard in layers, with drill-down capability for any business leader who wants more detail.

Step 3: Purchase or build dashboard software. Business intelligence or dashboard software that grabs data from multiple sources, transforms it, and displays it not only helps automate dashboard creation but also gets marketing closer to tracking performance in real time.

To learn more, check out our recent survey on the subject, ITSMA Online Survey: Communicating Marketing’s Impact and ROI to the C-Suite.

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