When implementing a marketing dashboard for clients, I often use the analogy of a car dashboard. While this is useful, it should not be taken as an exact parallel, since a marketing dashboard has to show clearly and briefly four key things: the status of marketing efforts, the progress they have made, the direction of travel and the ETA – expected time of arrival or how long until objectives are reached.
A car dashboard shows
- speed of travel: the marketing equivalent of speed of progress is important to know
- mileage: for marketing, this translates to the progress made
- RPM: how hard the engine is working, or in marketing terms, how much effort we are putting in to get the results
- fuel gauge: just as on a journey it is essential to know how much is left in the tank, so we need to know the resources left for marketing campaigns
- hazard lights: it is vital to know if anything is going wrong or will soon need fixing, whether this is in a car or in marketing activity
Marketing dashboards also need to show the route ahead and the distance or time to reach the destination (goals). This is the equivalent of the GPS screen (and looking through the windscreen) on a car.
You also need to track what is going on all around you – checking on what customers are actually experiencing,what is happening in the market and what your competitors are doing – just as in a car, you would use the rear-view and side mirrors as well as looking ahead to get a picture of what other cars are doing and of changing road conditions.
So the key elements of a marketing dashboard are:
- your goals – the destination you have tapped into your marketing GPS
- progress in the last period: key measurements such a leads, sales, profit which show you how fast you are going
- forecasts: showing your ETA to reach the goals
- recent activities: the marketing RPM, a measure of the effort going in to achieve the results
- planned activities: this together with future resources and available budget,tells you what is in the tank
- where problems are emerging, timelines are slipping and forecasts being missed: your hazard lights
- customer experience: tuning in to the sound of the car, the smoothness of the ride
- major changes in the market, industry or underlying technology: the all-round view
What measures you choose for each of these areas, depends on your organisation and its current position.
The skills lie firstly in identifying the elements that you can change to make the most difference to the results and secondly in designing it so that the key measures are easy to read and warning lights show critical situations.