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One of the most critical steps in managing Marketing performance is to identify performance gaps and the measurements that best capture the incremental impact of Marketing. This information is often captured and communicated via a dashboard. Stephen Few in his book, Information Dashboard Design (2006) defined a dashboard as “a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.” One of the most important steps in developing your dashboard is to choose the right metrics.

For your dashboard to be an effective performance management tool it should help determine the impact Marketing is having, provide insight into the value of Marketing to the organization, speed decision making and facilitate alignment. 

It is not uncommon for companies to have too many metrics. You can measure so many things in Marketing. Metrics range from impressions, to click-throughs, to response rates, to cost per lead, to marketing spend, to revenue, to lead conversion ratios, to customer tenure, customer satisfaction, and well, the list goes on. This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

It is normal to want to include everything, but more isn’t necessarily better, so one of the biggest dilemmas is deciding what to keep in and what to throw out. Think about the dashboard in your car, there are just a few gauges and dials and maybe a message center that sends alerts. 

It’s important to select the right metrics for Marketing.

It’s very likely you are measuring many things but not every metric needs to be included on the executive dashboard. Some will be integrated into your operations dashboard, others into your tactical/functional dashboards, and others may not be on a dashboard at all. One of the biggest challenges marketers face when developing their dashboard is choosing the metrics to use. The metrics you select should be relevant to the audience making decisions from them. Quality of metrics is far more important than quantity in your car as well as on your marketing dashboard. 

The bottom line: the right metrics on your dashboard are those that connect Marketing to what matters to the business. Try to keep your dashboard to a few key measures. What should you keep?

Prioritize Your Metrics

There are two important considerations for selecting metrics for any dashboard:

  1. The purpose of the dashboard and who will be seeing and using it.
  2. The decisions that will be made as a result of the information being presented.

For the executive level dashboard you will want to add the following considerations:

  • Are the metrics tied to critical business outcomes Marketing is expected to impact?
  • Do the metrics provide insight into how Marketing is impacting these outcomes?
  • Do the metrics help demonstrate Marketing’s effectiveness, efficiency and financial value?
  • Does the dashboard provide insight into what is and isn’t working?

At the executive level of your dashboard you need 5-10 core metrics and they should fall into these four categories:

  1. How marketing is moving the needle, i.e., whether marketing is being effective or not
  2. Whether you are achieving your customer acquisition, retention, and value performance targets
  3. Efficiency improvements
  4. Marketing’s financial contribution and ROI

By understanding your organization’s critical business outcomes and how marketing is expected to impact these, you will be in a better position to define your metrics. For example if your company is focused on rapid growth and new customers are key, then Marketing metrics that show how it is affecting the rate of customer acquisition and growth compared to the industry will be needed. If growing top line revenue is a critical outcome then Marketing will need metrics related to pipeline contribution, qualified leads, etc. If growth is going to come from new product innovation and adoption, then the metrics will need to tie marketing to these outcomes.

An actionable dashboard requires you to measure what really matter to your company and to connect Marketing to the business. Each metric you choose should be meaningful on its own and not overlap with other metrics. For example, it is somewhat redundant to look at both gross margin and net profit, because net profit is simply gross margin minus fixed costs and a few other expenses. You just need one, the one that will give you the insight you need.

The measures you choose shouldn’t be based on what’s easy to measure or easy to find. While impressions are easy to measure and find, it is hard to use this measure to make a strategic decision. You want your measures to lead to actionable decisions.

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Choose Metrics that Guide Decisions

Sometimes people are afraid to report on certain numbers because of the implications. For example, profits per employee might lead to staff reductions. If you want to be perceived as a strategic player, choose marketing metrics that will bring key issues to the surface for discussion and strategic consideration.

Your dashboard shouldn’t be used to only show past performance, it should also serve as a decision-making tool. That means you need metrics that will help you understand the impact of the change in that measure. Select measures that will help improve your competitive position and your ability to succeed, and that will drive action.

The metrics you report should help serve to monitor accountability on action. First and foremost you want to report on measures that will help you determine whether you are doing the right thing, not whether you are doing things right. The TV show, The Amazing Race, provides some insight into this concept. The concept involves teams getting from point A to point B with various obstacles and tasks in between. If you are measuring efficiency, you might look at miles traveled per day. And while this might be interesting, you could be traveling quickly but in the wrong direction. No matter how fast you are traveling, if you are heading in the wrong direction you will lose.

Consider whether it is time to revisit your dashboard to make sure you are tracking the right metrics and that they are helping you ask the right questions and facilitating strategic decisions. Learn more creating a marketing dashboard.

Select the Right Metrics for your Marketing Dashboard

Choose the Right Metrics for Your Marketing Dashboard

 Do-it-yourselfers can purchase our bookMarketing Metrics in Action.” Or, if this is a strategic initiative, time is of the essence, or you need an objective third party, contact us to discuss your goals and timeline.

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