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Marketing Dashboards
Gaps Between the Ideal and Reality

by Lyndsay WiseMonday, January 7, 2008

Marketing Dashboards – gaps between the ideal and reality

Much has been written within the world of marketing about dashboard design and how to effectively bridge the gap between metric identification and marketing initiative success. Marketing Analytics and Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) vendors have developed targeted solutions for marketers to manage financial performance and marketing initiatives and to determine the extent of their overlaps. 

Although business intelligence (BI) vendors offer departmental solutions that merge customer analytics with product information and financial performance, there seems to be the feeling among some marketers that BI doesn’t offer the same depth of analysis offered by their marketing analytics counterparts. On the flipside, marketers’ information may not be detailed enough to be presented in a way conducive to BI because of the lack of a full picture of sales, marketing campaign affects on customers, etc. Some of the questions to explore are:

  1. What are the perceived gaps? And are they justified?
  2. What options are available to marketers within (a) pure marketing dashboards, and (b) BI based dashboards or analytics? And finally,
  3. How do organizations choose the right solution for their unique requirements?

Part 1 of this article explores the perceived gaps, with Part 2 looking at the options available and how an organization should evaluate which solution suits their requirements.

The perceived gaps

Marketing dashboards and business intelligence applications designed for marketing initiatives have the same goals in mind.  Both are poised to aid marketers in the planning and execution of marketing initiatives as well as with the evaluation of those campaigns to tie success or failure to overall financial performance.  Due to the fact that the amount of information required to monitor these activities is enormous and not as straightforward as analyzing financial data, the ability to tie in many source of information and infer scenarios based on gaps makes the development of a valid marketing dashboard difficult.

Marketing specific design

Pat LaPointe, managing partner and MarketingNPV, defines a marketing dashboard “as a collection of what are believed to be the most critical diagnostic and predictive metrics, organized in a way to promote the recognition of patterns of performance.” The goals of effective marketing dashboard design might include the identification of proper metrics, metrics alignment with financial performance, marketing campaign success measurement, etc. Generally, the information required within a marketing dashboard might include a cross-section and convergence of customer, product, sales, market trends, pricing, partner channels, etc. This information is more diverse, complicated, and not always as quantifiable in relation to the traditional forms of BI related dashboards, such as sales, project, or employee performance.

The problem with marketing dashboard design is that the rules required to make marketing information actionable and to tie that information to actual corporate performance are different. Traditional metrics don’t always work due to the diversity of the information.  This may be why many marketing software vendors have developed their own marketing dashboards - because of their innate expertise, these vendors have already developed a methodology and can handle the marketing processes of the organizations they support, thereby offering a better overall view when consolidating each separate module.

Marketing analytics or EMM vendors are automatically poised to create metrics based dashboards that take into account campaign, product, customer, and channel partner sales related data.  In addition, the dashboard highlighted below shows the way in which branding can be measured and cross referenced with advertising spending and sales and pricing information.  Brand recognition is one example of soft factor data that should be taken into account when measuring the success of product marketing initiatives.  Although this type of information resides within a marketing application, many BI initiatives have also hit the mark when developing and deploying marketing dashboards.

Market Tracking Digital Dashboard

BI based design

BI works best when the required information resides within the organization.  For example, the identification of sales trends by analyzing sales by region and product over time to identify where successes and failures occur can be a fairly straight forward exercise within a BI framework.  Adding external information sources – such as the addition of Internet based analysis to identify market trends, sales through channel partners, and multiple distributors – makes the information harder to track.  Marketing software solutions may already track this information.  Alternatively, marketers may be using other programs to fulfill these requirements that may be used within a dashboard. BI has the flexibility and the ability to customize dashboards to fit individual business requirements to ensure the type of information managed within a dashboard reflects the exact requirements of the organization. 

The use of external data creates potential gaps in data quality efforts, requiring implementation efforts to target ongoing data cleansing activities more aggressively.  Because the information required to adequately measure marketing initiatives is so diverse, the ability to capture all of the data needed may only occur over time.  As the trend of unstructured data use within BI becomes more pervasive, the ability to track and to analyze soft factor data such as customer perception and competitive positioning will become more innate within dashboard design enabling marketers to take into account these additional features more intuitively.

Justifiable differences

Because BI statistical analysis uses various data models to calculate algorithms and to determine results, its expertise lies in identifying the financial performance or in tracking trends over time.  The addition of unstructured information, such as product or services customer perceptions, what the competition is doing, etc. creates additional complications in terms of simple configurations.  Over time, these additional uses will become commonplace not only within dashboard use for marketers, but also within most BI applications within the organization.  Until that time, dashboard development designed for marketing initiatives may be looked at as a work in progress with a general set of metrics and the goal of adding more information over time.

In many cases, marketing departments are not used to monitoring richly diverse technical information from multiple data sources because of a lack of resources.  This means that although BI offers the capabilities to handle marketing based soft factor data, on the one hand the information required to manage marketing performance adequately is vaster than usually handled within a BI environment.  And on the other hand, marketing vendors may be better able to handle marketing information because that is their only focus – the management of operational and performance based marketing activities.

Part 2 will identify the differences of dashboard design within each category and help organizations identify which solutions are more tailored to their specific requirements.

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