New Gleanster research on business intelligence reveals something that we marketers already knew: Marketing organizations are spending a lot of time and effort creating dashboards that tell them everything they need to know – and also what the folks in the executive suite want to know.
No surprise. Only by getting a true read on the extent to which different channels, campaigns and marketing programs are generating buzz, driving traffic and ultimately contributing to revenue growth can marketers make smart decisions about where to place their bets.
In theory, a marketing dashboard should provide a single interface for tracking and measuring marketing performance. Technology is less of a challenge to creating these dashboards than it used to be, thanks to simplified web interfaces that allow business users to integrate operational data from multiple data sources.
The bigger challenge may be simply getting folks to agree on the right metrics. Solving the problem can be transformational.
Of course, in addition to specific campaigns and programs, every company needs to keep a close eye on marketing expenditures, sales revenues and margins. These are typically the first metrics to be integrated into a marketing dashboard. In addition, they generally need to track everything from website activity, social media (including consumer sentiment) activity and sales pipeline activity to customer acquisition, retention and advocacy information. The dashboard might also include metrics related to such things as marketshare and competitive activity.
Agreeing on metrics may be straightforward for small and medium sized companies. But what about major enterprises?
Consider ConAgra Foods, which ranks as North America’s third-largest packaged foods company, with more than 26,000 employees and $13 billion in revenue. ConAgra has dozens of brands – including, believe it or not, five different brands of popcorn.
Such a diversity of brands and channels would seem to present an obvious challenge for any marketing organization that aims to track and measure marketing effectiveness at an enterprise-wide level. For ConAgra Foods, that challenge led to the decision a couple years back to launch the company’s first large-scale marketing dashboard initiative.
In setting out to understand what exactly the marketing dashboard was going to measure, the team conducted a series of interviews with internal stakeholders. The result was a long list of possible marketing activities that then had to be whittled down based on priorities. Ultimately, it was decided that the marketing dashboard should contain only things they were going to measure consistently and on an ongoing basis. The purpose of the dashboard, they reasoned, is to capture and share information that can be tracked reliably over time. Makes perfect sense.
One of the most important parts of ConAgra’s marketing dashboard is the commentary, and more and more BI solution providers are integrating Facebook-like social collaboration capabilities. Let’s face it: Brand marketers have a relatively low understanding of different interactive strategies and tactics. Why do website visits go up at this time? What was the impact of this activity on incremental sales lift? Why is this particular metric important? Giving them an interface to the data sometimes requires explanation.
There is no universal prescription for which, and how many, metrics to track in a marketing dashboard. But one one thing is sure: If you don’t track and measure the relative productivity of all the different channels, campaigns and programs and lay it all out in a disciplined way, then you can lose control of what is driving results and where the next level of performance opportunity is going to be.