Commentary

The Future Of The Marketing Dashboard

If conversations with clients are a good indication of the future, then 2010 will be the Year of the Dashboard. Based on my company's survey of senior marketing executives, it's clear that the use of dashboards to measure and manage marketing is going mainstream. Fully 60 % of the marketers we polled currently use three or more dashboards to track outcomes like advertising effectiveness, Web site activity and sales/sales leads (in order of importance).

And while nearly one-half of marketers reported updating their dashboards on a daily or weekly basis, their biggest complaints remain: 1) getting timely data from vendors' systems; and 2) receiving too much data to glean useful insights. So in order to fulfill my prophecy, it's apparent that dashboards need to become both faster and leaner tools for marketers.

From my vantage point, the single biggest constraint to wholesale adoption of marketing dashboards is the lack of a central organizing principle for the data itself. All too often, we've seen marketers put technology ahead of strategy, resulting in a sizable investment to create data that will largely go ignored (I've learned my lesson from an ill-fated Business Objects implementation in our company a few years ago).

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Choosing which dashboard software to use is the easy part. Choosing which metrics to focus on -- and how to present them in a useful fashion -- is the primary challenge. Web analytics, campaign performance, brand metrics, customer satisfaction, social media, lead generation, public relations, budget tracking: the list of what we can now measure goes on and on. How do we combine all of these metrics into a cohesive data display that we can use as a navigational guide for our marketing investments? More specifically, how can we be more comprehensive in what we measure and more economic in what we report?

One way to solve this problem is by changing how we think of dashboards, namely, using a single dashboard that is organized by consumer outcomes rather than separate portals for every marketing input (i.e., Web site analytics). This approach works well because it breaks down the silos between different data sets, simultaneously quantifying the influence and interplay of marketing programs on overall campaign performance. In this manner we can measure discrete metrics, such as TRPs or social media share of voice, without sacrificing a more holistic understanding of how all of the marketing activities are working together. Consolidating dashboards may mean some metrics hit the cutting room floor -- just because they can be measured doesn't mean they belong in a dashboard.

We've had success working with marketers to organize their dashboard metrics into a modified version of the traditional purchase funnel. We've augmented the funnel to be more tornado-like to better incorporate social media, and to reflect that consumer decision-making is not always as linear as the traditional version suggests. Using this modernized funnel as an organizing principle enables marketers to analyze performance across the following four areas:

Category

Example metrics / questions answered

Reach

-    How many people were exposed to messages about my brand?

-    What portion was in my target market(s)?

-    What is my share of voice?

-    How does my marketing spend compare to rivals?

Brand

-    What impact is advertising having on awareness, familiarity, favorability, consideration and purchase intent?

-    How satisfied are customers?

Behavior

-    How many people are in-market for my category?

-    What other products are they cross-shopping?

-    What information sources/Web sites are they using?

-    What portion of in-market shoppers purchase and where?

-    What portion of customers are considering rivals?

Momentum

-    What is my social media share of voice?

-    What sites/blogs/forums are the most active for my category?

-    What % of posts are positive vs. negative sentiment?

 

These are just examples of the metrics needed to answer the question "How are we doing?"  By organizing these metrics into discrete but dependent categories, marketers can both isolate shortcomings in any one metric while simultaneously gaining a more comprehensive picture of their overall performance. This accomplishes the ultimate objective of a dashboard: to more regularly report performance to senior management (increasing accountability) and to more nimbly navigate the different opportunities and challenges in the market (improving resource allocation). With the right organizing principle, dashboards can become faster, leaner, more comprehensive and more economic -- and can be a tool of choice for increasing marketing ROI.

2 comments about "The Future Of The Marketing Dashboard".
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  1. Rich Reader from WOMbuzz, December 11, 2009 at 1:44 p.m.

    Thanks for the reminder that selecting one's metrics and tools ahead of agreeing upon goals is a failed marketing analytics strategy. Nobody wants to own failed expeditions, particularly when the prognosis for success can't be measured. This is guaranteed when you step out the door without a clear, unequivocal definition of how success will be scored.

    We need to "begin with an objective in mind" before we start digging, extracting, filtering, and refining. Like planning a fishing expedition, we want to know more about what we're hoping to catch before we choose, enable, outfit, and deploy our working plan.

  2. Craig Macdonald from Covario, December 14, 2009 at 11:34 a.m.

    Stephen,

    I will make one addition to this thread. "Dashboards" are a catch-all of a series of underlying activities necessary for an organization to measure the effectiveness of their adveritsing funnel. Certainly understanding the "what do we want to measure" issue is the starting point. This is complicated by the fact that each channel has different metrics by which its effectivness is measured -- however, I have seen that many companies at least measure at the level of campaign, and at the level of impression counts (then go into more specificity based on the channel). However, the other mistake people make when thinking about this question is they ignore that there is not one answer. Different users have different questions they have to answers, different competitors to benchmark.

    The other major issue is "tracking codes." Ugh. Though incredibly unsexy, this is the little engine that drives the whole machine, and organizations that get this have a lot more success in creating trackable data, that can be easily organized, than organizations that do not. Without a strategy toward data integration based on coding standards --that have to be enforced across agencies, across platforms, across creative, across channels -- then advertisers free themselves from having to funnel end users into a finite set of questions to answer (which they never agree to anyway).

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