Achieving Marketing Dashboard Nirvana

Stephen McDaniel, Co-founder - Freakalytics,

Are you buried under a pile of reports that yield few marketing insights? Need help in taking the plunge to build simple but intuitive dashboards that update easily? Avoid common pitfalls and learn time-saving tips from experts who have been down the dashboard road. Soon you'll be on your way to marketing dashboard nirvana.

These tips will help you:

  • quickly find patterns and key insights in your marketing data powered by visual analytics
  • turn those insights into actions
  • discover what challenges can be addressed with advanced visualization
  • easily build marketing dashboards regardless of technical or analytic ability
  • seamlessly update your dashboards as often as your marketing programs change

We've also pulled out the first several pages of the whitepaper for you to read. Download the PDF on the right to read the rest.

What is a dashboard?

It’s simple really. In the words of one of the leading educators about business dashboards, a dashboard is a...

“A visual display of the most important information needed to understand and manage one or more areas of an organization which fits on a single computer screen so it can be monitored at a glance.”

—Stephen Few, Perceptual Edge

There’s no doubt that Stephen Few chose his words wisely. Let’s dissect his choices.

  • “visual display” Like a car’s dashboard, the information dashboard must be displayed visually. People need to see patterns, trends and changes without reading text or numbers.
  • “most important information needed” The information included should be selected carefully. While there is certainly a wide range and depth of useful information, only a select subset of information is presented.
  • “to understand and manage one or more areas of an organization” It’s critical that a dashboard be focused on a key objective or management need. A dashboard should not be expected to enlighten the user on every aspect of all the organization’s issues. Instead, a dashboard is intended to help the user understand and manage one or more distinct areas.
  • “fits on a single computer screen” Dashboards are intended to be used on computer screens – where their target audience can quickly review and engage with them.
  • “monitored at a glance” Finally, the dashboard must be able to be monitored with a glance. What does that mean? That the dashboard is clean and free of extraneous graphics or information. Graphs, their trends and patterns, are obvious and clear for the intended audience. Changes in metrics are easy to identify and unexpected outcomes are easy to spot.

Why a dashboard?

Now that we have a clear picture of what a dashboard should deliver technically, it may be useful to consider why are dashboards so important? Because well designed dashboards will enlighten and empower the business on a periodic basis. Truly great dashboards will enable better decisions and inspire new, unforeseen questions in the business that can deliver transformational results in long-term success.

Real-world dashboard challenges

While dashboards can deliver great value in your organization, there are many common challenges in successfully creating, deploying, and supporting them.

  • Finding, cleaning, analyzing and incorporating the right data sources can consume much of your dashboard project’s development time. In fact, data management often consumes 50-70% of project time. Many teams hit this roadblock unexpectedly and may abandon the project in frustration.
  • Dashboards will go unused if the targeted user base is not considered, consulted and used to validate the final product. If the dashboard is lacking useful information, confusing or overloaded with extraneous information, users will not adopt them in their every day work. Examples of audience quotes about unfulfilled dashboard project might include, “We thought it was cool, but it doesn’t quite tell us what we truly need to see if the program is on target.”
  • Many commonly touted dashboard tools can require weeks of expert programming. Even worse, the developers required of some of these dashboards are not business analysts, but rather expert developers that can be hard to secure. This issue can be avoided by selecting the right dashboard platform, one that requires no programming knowledge but rather uses analysis results and simple menus to enable dashboard development.
  • The skills and knowledge of good data presentation and dashboard design principles are rare. Regardless of the chosen tool and access to good data, poor presentation of results can prevent the audience from seeing and understanding the outcomes hidden in the data.
  • There are marketing-specific challenges as well. For example, many marketers have inadequate metrics to shed insight into and across their programs. Often, critical data is locked up in program and vendor-centric data “silos”. Or, multiple cloud data sources used by SaaS (software as a service) marketing platforms are overly simplistic and difficult to pull meaningful data from.
  • So, how can you overcome some of these challenges? Let’s tackle these issues by sharing advice regarding making the data available to your dashboard and creating great dashboards.

    Want to read more? Download the rest of the whitepaper!

About the author

Stephen McDaniel, Co-founder - Freakalytics