How to create a marketing dashboard for executives

This is a guest post from our friends at Wonderist Agency in San Diego. Wonderist is a dental marketing agency focused on helping practices increase new patient numbers and implement cohesive dental marketing strategies.

As an executive, having your finger on the pulse of your business’s marketing is imperative. Knowing how your customers are finding you, which campaigns are getting the most bang for their buck, and which campaigns are wasting precious resources is essential for making the most important marketing decisions that determine the success of your business. When even the simplest campaigns can generate millions of data points, oftentimes the challenge becomes channeling the signal through the noise. That’s where marketing dashboards come in. If you’re looking for a way to simplify the abundance of data coming from numerous, individual sources, a marketing dashboard could be the solution!

What is a marketing dashboard?

A marketing dashboard is a top level view of your business’s marketing that pulls in the most important pieces of data, or key performance indicators (KPI’s), that need to be monitored within any given time frame. Pulling data from various sources such as Google Ads and other PPC channels, social media metrics, sales numbers, and any number of possible sources, a marketing dashboard should be able to quickly tell the story of your marketing’s success or failure. Ideally, your marketing dashboard should answer these basic questions:

  • “How’s our marketing doing today (or this week, or this year)?”
  • “Where are we headed and where do we need to see improvements?”
  • “Which marketing initiatives should we invest more in?”

Creating marketing dashboards

Step 1: Select your data sources

When creating a marketing dashboard, the first step is determining the data sources that are most important to the marketing of your business. Consider your marketing expenditures. Where are your marketing resources and dollars are being spent? For example, if your business invests heavily in pay-per-click advertising, this could be one of the major sources of data in your marketing dashboard accounting for that high level of expenditure. Likewise, if you have members of your team dedicated to search engine optimization, though typically not a marketing initiative that would be considered paid media, you’ll still want to track the performance data relating to this channel on account of it being resource-intensive. Take inventory of where your dollars and resources are being spent, and select the data sources that reflect the performance of these initiatives.

Step 2: Choose a dashboard platform

Now that you’ve determined which data sources are most important you can begin searching for the right platform to manage and import them. There are several different Marketing Dashboard platforms available, but they often share many common features: real-time data feeds, source tracking, custom widgets, and scalable integrations.

Real-time data feeds

Using a marketing dashboard that feeds real-time data means you get to see data without delays that are sometimes required to import large amounts of data. This can make it possible to immediately see when problems arise and quickly put solutions into action!

Source tracking

Being able to segment data by source enables a more granular understanding of which channels your marketing excels in and which need improvement. Some sources your dashboard is likely to track are organic search, paid media, site referral, social, email, etc.

Custom widgets

Custom widgets display combinations of various data sources to quickly and easily compare and contrast them.

Scalable integrations

Your marketing efforts are dynamic, so it’s important that your marketing dashboard is too! The best marketing dashboards are scalable so that you can easily add or subtract data sources as your marketing efforts grow and change.

Step 3: Determine your KPIs

After you’ve considered where your marketing expenditures are going and which data sources to track in your marketing dashboard, the next step is to determine which metrics are most important to track for each data source. Focus on a few key metrics for each data source and make sure they directly reflect the goals of your business. For example, if your goal is to increase the number of leads calling your office, one of the most advantageous metrics across all your marketing campaigns will be the cost per lead. Whenever possible choose metrics that reflect this goal directly by tracking the cost of each marketing campaign divided by the number of leads generated.

In addition to KPI’s that directly reflect your marketing goals, consider your lagging indicators: which metrics reflect positive or negative performance after it is already occurring? For example, if you’re an e-commerce business that sells goods online, an important metric to track will be the growth of your online sales. You may want to see your online sales this month compared to your online sales last month, and potentially how this has compared to the same month in the previous year. Then consider your leading indicators: which metrics reflected positive or negative performance before it later manifested? If the majority of your online sales come from one or two paid campaigns, determine which PPC metrics forecast the performance of those campaigns, and that could give you a leading indication of whether you’re on track toward your long-term sales goal.

Step 4: Set benchmarks

Now that you know which KPI’s to track, an important next step that’s often overlooked is setting benchmarks. Don’t know where to start? Take inventory of previous performance. Where were your metrics during periods of peak profitability? By how much did your leading indicator KPI’s change during or before periods of declining profitability? If a solid amount of previous performance data to compare from is missing, monitor those KPI’s closely to develop a sense of where these benchmarks could be set, and keep in mind that seasonal changes mean this could take more than a year. Ultimately, building your marketing dashboard can be a great first step toward setting the benchmarks that will shape your marketing decisions for years to come!

Step 5: Monitor, adjust, and scale

After setting up your marketing dashboard, make it a habit to check in on your KPI’s and monitor whether you’re meeting your pre-determined benchmarks. As circumstances change, if you’re consistently under or over performing compared to benchmarks, it may be necessary to evolve benchmarks to align with a realistic expectation of what is possible. For example, during a significant growth phase of a company or product, a benchmark of 20% growth for monthly organic traffic is much more realistic than it may be several years down the line, when the number of organic sessions is much higher than it was previously.

As you continue to change strategies and tactics, it’s important to scale your marketing dashboard to include these new initiatives to get the most accurate picture of the state of your current marketing. By framing the potential impact of a new marketing initiative in the context of your previous campaigns’ performance metrics, your marketing dashboard can provide unparalleled value when reviewing a new marketing expenditure. Likewise, a well-built marketing dashboard can make it possible to confidently cease a marketing campaign that clearly isn’t generating positive ROI. Make sure that your dashboard is flexible enough to evolve, shrink and scale when needed!