7 best practice tips for Marketing Dashboards

They’re a beautiful thing aren’t they. The dashboards created for your marketing activity or business as a whole?

“Which dashboards am I talking about?” you may be thinking.

The media ones?

Sales pipeline & conversion?


Campaign performance?

And the list goes on.

Marketing dashboard madness

Well there’s the insight.

Most marketers have too many dashboards, and not enough distilling of data into a few key metrics that will offer potential insight by identifying shifts.

I have worked with a variety of companies over the past 12 months to help them refine their dashboards, so I thought I’d share 7 best practice approaches with you in this post.

Best practice #1 – dashboards aren’t about BI tools and technology

Too many marketers get excited about presentations from IT teams or 3rd party vendors.

Whether it be Oracle, Datorama, Jaspersoft, Tableau, SAP or Microsoft, everyone has a BI tool and dashboard to peddle. And they’ll happily take your $50,000 – $100,000 budget to build them.

Best practice is to first steer away from the tool and be clear about best practice #2 below.

Best practice #2 – dashboards need a strategy

Decide on the purpose of your dashboard. What are you actually wanting to report on? Once you’re clear on what you want to report on, be clear on who it is for.

If it is for senior management then maybe it needs a higher level of visualisation and the top 3 findings and recommended actions.

If it is for day-to-day management, then a deeper level of analysis may be warranted.

Best practice #3 – dashboards must highlight opportunity

Don’t simply display a mass of numbers, charts, graphs and text. Make sure you are unearthing findings and corresponding actions.

We’ve all sat through 100 page research reports with endless charts only to find that there were only 5 real actions.

So when it comes to a dashboard strategy, make sure that you incorporate an area to explain the impacts and opportunities.

Best practice #4 – dashboards aren’t reports

And to be clear, dashboards aren’t reports. A dashboard is not a place to dump a mass of data.

Dashboards should aggregate the mass of data into meaningful metrics that you  can view.

So again, be clear as to the measures that matter, and ensure that they are showing shifts rather than the pure statistics.

Remember, statistics are meaningless unless viewed as a trend.

Best practice #5 – dashboards should be segmented

I’ve had some great discussions about metrics. Yet this one about Net Promoter Score (NPS) almost tops the lot.

One client was adamant that NPS was THE METRIC to look at.

However they changed their view after I explained the following.

Their NPS is really just a measure in time, and is derived from all customers that responded to the question. However by looking at the customer tenure of the responders it was evident that a percentage of them were relatively new customers, a percentage had been on the database for a fair amount of time, and a remaining percentage had been on the customer database for a long period of time.

And hence their scores were dramatically different. On aggregate, they summed to an overall NPS that wasn’t very insightful. However by analysing the scores by customer tenure the insights were clear.

So make sure you build dashboards that report on some level of segmentation. Whether it be your customer segmentation, media journey, attribution, customer lifecycle, or value tiers. The insights may be very different when you drill one or two levels down from an overall number.

Best practice #6 – dashboards should inspire action

Be careful when people are proposing dashboards. Often the designs look great and a little fancy, but end up being rather superficial.

Step back and ask yourself what’s the most obvious way of absorbing this measure and trend? This will help you direct your data scientists, BI/IT managers or partners to the best way to report on it.

Maybe a bar or pie chart will do rather than a fancy visualisation.

But if you’re looking for a nice visualisation, here’s one that I stumbled upon for the Football (Soccer) World Cups.

Best practice #7 – SISO

Yes, the Shit In Shit Out (SISO) Rule applies to dashboards in an era of big data.

Most businesses are simply drowning in data. So a dashboard is really only as good as the quality of data being analysed and therefore presented in the dashboard.

One marketer asked me whether they should sign off on the creation of a series of dashboards before fixing the quality of their data.

I recommended to re-prioritise the data sources, understand the level of data quality, and build momentum by starting with initial activity and wins to report on.

Remember, the worst thing you can do is report to senior management with incorrect numbers!

The culture of numbers

So there you have it, 7 best practice areas to focus on when considering marketing dashboards.

However before you charge off, remember it’s also important to create a culture around measurement.

It’s not about measuring everything. Often it’s about uniting around a common goal. The simpler the better.

Here’s a great example that I came across this year of SumoMe’s one metric dashboard that helped them reach over 1 billion unique users. It’s the same as what Mark Zuckerberg did when building a culture within Facebook. They all watched one number!

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