laptop showing marketing analytics custom dashboard

Want to Build a Marketing Dashboard? Here’s How.

If you’ve ever looked at marketing analytics in a spreadsheet, you know that it’s not the most intuitive way to browse data. Luckily, marketing dashboards exist. They make it easy to draw conclusions and gain valuable insights. A marketing dashboard is a reporting view that shows metrics and KPIs in a visual way that’s easier to understand than endless spreadsheets. It gives a comprehensive view of overall marketing performance and allows for insight generation and deeper analysis to help shape strategy.

What is a marketing dashboard?

To say that more simply – a marketing dashboard is a direct connection between the underlying data and our understanding of the meaning. Visualizations are what we see, and what we see directly impacts our decision-making and our campaign results.

marketing analytics customized dashboard view

As humans, we’re visual creatures by nature –  we thrive on discovering patterns, identifying trends, and consuming data in a way that leads to actionable insights. That’s why data visualizations are so important.

According to Thermopylae Sciences, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Given that, imagine how powerful and efficient you can be by building out meaningful dashboards.

So, how exactly do you build a marketing dashboard?

No matter what data visualization tool you use, follow our helpful tips and you’ll set yourself up for success. Here are our top five secrets to building the most effective marketing dashboards.

1. Focus on one primary topic.

Build with a purpose – understand why the dashboard needs to be created in the first place.

Prior to every new build, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my audience and who will be reviewing the report regularly?
  • What is the purpose of this report? 
  • What key questions will this dashboard help answer?
  • What are my marketing goals? What are my business goals?
  • What metrics are most important to measuring success?

A common mistake that people often make when developing dashboards is to track too many elements in a single dashboard view. This can lead to information overload and you can get distracted by metrics that simply don’t matter when evaluating performance tied to your goals. Focus on 3-4 key metrics to highlight and let the others become secondary. The metrics should tie directly to the larger purposes. For example, a dashboard tracking quality site traffic lifts after a new website launch would want to focus on sessions, pages/session, bounce rate, and average session duration.

You’ll never be able to build a dashboard that accomplishes everything for everyone. It’s mission-critical that you take the time up front to brainstorm and whiteboard possible solutions that match the purpose. You can always modify later. At Infinity, our most compelling dashboards have been developed from a series of whiteboarding sessions that allowed us to understand how we wanted to visually show the data. Before any dashboard build, our analytics team fills out a dashboard requirements roadmap with stakeholders, which allows us to organize our thoughts and ensure we are meeting expectations.

custom dashboard planning document

Different people have different questions and require different data points and visualizations to communicate the results effectively. Tailoring the dashboard visualizations to the audience is critical.

2. Use the right chart to visualize the data.

Once you land on what you need to measure to demonstrate performance related to your marketing and business goals, you need to determine the best way to visualize it.

The first question to ask is: What chart should I use?

If you choose the wrong chart, the data can potentially be interpreted incorrectly.

Here are two things to keep in mind:

  • What kind of information am I trying to convey?
  • Am I trying to show a data point trending over time? Am I comparing two values? Am I trying to demonstrate pacing to a goal or benchmark?
  • What chart type will be the best visual representation of what I want to convey?

 

3. Make it easy to digest.

The most important attribute of a marketing dashboard is the fact that it should effectively communicate the meaning of the data in an easy-to-digest fashion. Adding a meaningful narrative to your data brings everything together and ensures that viewers of the dashboard won’t be confused or overwhelmed.

The primary question to ask yourself is, “Am I getting my point across?” 

If you’re not sure, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Answer key questions prominently. 
  • Focus on one primary topic for each build.
  • Make it memorable.

When building a dashboard, the Infinity analytics team likes to use more visual elements than large tables. We color code our charts and always have a legend so viewers know exactly what they’re looking at. We also like to add in labels and variances where available. This helps promote understanding when comparing against previous time periods and calculating variances across key variables.

performance overview in custom analytics dashboard

One of Infinity’s valued partners, Alight Analytics, taught us the 5 – 1 – 5 rule when we first began working with them on data automation in 2017. This stuck with us since then and has allowed us to take a step back and think about how the user will actually interact with the dashboard and what their intent might be.

To sum up the 5 – 1 – 5 rule: Within 5 seconds, someone should be able to understand what a visualization is showing. Within 1 minute, they should be able to extract a clear, actionable insight. Within 5 minutes, they should be able to make a decision or take action from that learning.

Pretty cool, right?

4. Provide ample context.

Connecting key marketing metrics to the overall business impact will demonstrate a larger influence to stakeholders. You can have all the clicks on digital ads in the world, but if you can’t effectively prove that you’ve driven new leads or increased product sales year over year, then you can’t possibly get to the ROI number that really matters. Layer in CRM data, Google Analytics data, and data from other sources to track activity by your target audience throughout the whole funnel and identify pockets of optimization that will lead to premium results.

Provide benchmarks and historical performance for reference wherever and whenever you can. You can measure engagement across multiple channels and campaigns and really start to dive deeper into the why

google analytics pacing summary
5. Make it actionable.

Data can be very powerful, but only if you can generate actionable insights and actually make decisions based on it. With marketing and business goals in mind, your marketing dashboard should allow you to identify optimizations to make that will help your campaigns or marketing projects reach optimum performance.

The value of using interactive dashboards vs. static dashboards is that you can slice and dice the data in many ways to view different scenarios. This helps to further understand why certain trends were happening and identify correlations based on multiple values. Typically, operational visualizations and dashboards are going to be what allow us to not only learn, but also to act. 

For example, if we saw that, while display drove most of our click activity and engagement, it also resulted in the highest website bounce rates and the lowest number of conversions, what might that tell you? An actionable dashboard would tell you what you need to do next.

custom marketing analytics dashboard executive summary

No matter what you end up doing from a design or data integration standpoint, it’s important to make sure to ensure your audience is reading, understanding, and valuing the dashboard. Collaborate with key stakeholders, whiteboard potential templates in advance, and be ready to answer major business questions. Do that, and you’ll have an end product that everyone looks forward to engaging with regularly to stay informed and make decisions.

According to the Gartner Marketing Analytics Survey, 80 percent of marketers say most of their decisions will be data-driven by 2020 – don’t be part of the other 20%. Have a marketing analytics strategy that includes meaningful dashboards to drive decision-making and stay ahead of the competition!

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