Dashboards Place Value On Marketing Department's Contribution To Business

Marketing dashboards--the solution to opaque efforts and results that commonly were described as successful in terms of improved brand awareness or customer satisfaction with nary a number attached--have answered C-suite questions about marketing's value to the organization.

The marketing discipline at many organizations has been under fire in recent years. While other corporate functions including sales, operations, finance and human resources offer the CEO numbers as to their efficiency and effectiveness, marketing has had a harder time. Its creative executions and branding campaigns do not directly translate to higher profitability.

So measures have to be built as campaigns are developed and budgets allocated, not after spending is planned and new marketing communications are about to hit the market.

"Every metric is either proven to be important or hypothetically is important-you're not really sure yet," agrees Pat LaPointe, managing partner of MarketingNPV, a measurement consultancy based in Princeton, N.J. that advocates the use of dashboards. "A dashboard is a reflection of what we believe to be true about our business," he says.



Once marketers have identified the questions they want the dashboard to answer--where sales will be in the coming quarter, for instance--they can aggregate what they know and look for holes in their knowledge.

"We have been and remain a very metrics-driven company," says Bob Kaufman, spokesperson for Dell Inc., Round Rock, Texas. Every marketing effort is measured, he says, to contribute learning to building a better customer experience and to eliminate redundancies that do not increase revenues or profitability.

The dashboard experience has proved positive for Dell. Kaufman explains this by noting Dell's first-ever CMO hire this week. Mark Jarvis joined Dell from Oracle Corp., where he also was CMO. "There is a lot of opportunity for us to continue to evaluate what we do with marketing," Kaufman says--not to mention giving a boost to marketing's impact on sales, hopefully of high-margin goods rather than rock-bottom-priced PCs.

Since implementing its marketing dashboard, Sana Security in San Mateo, Calif. can compare the effectiveness of different components of its integrated marketing campaigns as well as determine who better to partner with for Webcasts or white papers--Yankee Group or Gartner.

That knowledge has turned into power for marketing, says Tim Eades, senior vice president/sales and marketing. It is able to calculate lost opportunity per each recommended budget cut. "Marketing has had to change," he says.

The change reflects organizational interest in customer and prospect behavior. Properly constructed dashboards link behavioral and attitudinal data. But they also employ metrics that are tailored to the company so that they mean something to individual users and disciplinary teams.

Management may view who's learning from the dashboard, as evidenced by correspondence and memos that draw upon dashboard data. "You also can test people's progress toward corporate goals as well as departmental and individual objectives," LaPointe adds.

This top-level view hides the details of marketing campaigns and individual efforts, but they are available under the surface, for managers who want to understand a particular success or failure.

"Having data right down to the granular level is not something the CEO relies on," says Wayne Reuvers, CEO of LiveTechnology, a Purchase, N.Y.-based marketing communications technology provider. "What they do rely on is having the right talent to make decisions about the granular level and give information to the C-level that is relevant on a regional, national, etc. basis."

Marketing arguably drives business growth more than any other function of the company, and in order to do that, it must use insight from current activities to determine where the business should be going. This perspective should no longer rely on gut instinct, as long was the case with marketing decisions, but be informed by data derived from marketing metrics.

"Try and make everything predictive," LaPointe says. "You won't be successful, but clearly the best value is to predict what might happen in the future."

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