Person analyzing marketing dashboard data on a computer screen, making informed decisions for strategic planning.

How to Master the Art of Building a Dashboard

Written by Francis Liming on February 29, 2024

In a world where data is the lifeblood of good decision making, building and leveraging effective marketing dashboards is not just a trend but a necessity.  

In this blog, we delve into key insights and strategies gleaned from discussions between product and marketing about dashboard development, shedding light on the nuances that can make or break this process.

Define a Clear Specification to Set Your Boundaries

Constructing a marketing dashboard is not a creative free-for-all; it’s a structured process. It’s not about having all possible metrics available at your fingertips; it is about having a clear idea of what data-driven decisions you need to make and, therefore, what data you need to make them. This deliberate approach ensures that the dashboard can avoid the common pitfalls of information overload and scope creep. 

The MVP Approach: Tangibility and Direction

Adopting the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach is an essential strategy in dashboard development. Rather than investing extensive hours in a project, the focus is on delivering a usable version quickly. This tangible prototype narrows the core elements, providing a clear direction and preventing the project from veering off course. People can quickly get ‘hands on’ with the MVP, adding clarity to the improvements and refinements for versions 2 and beyond.

Dashboard Robustness

The landscape of marketing dashboards is challenging. In the same way that minor changes to a couple of cells in a spreadsheet can cause other areas of the report to display errors, not keeping up with platform API developments can make a previously functioning dashboard unusable. The emphasis is on meticulous attention to detail and regular maintenance for a robust dashboard. 

Automating Multichannel Complexity

As marketing transcends platforms, the concept of “omnichannel” has taken center stage. The dashboard will be as complex as your marketing. It will have to be connected to each piece of your marketing tech stack and all the channels used in your strategy. Managing data across diverse channels increases the demand for dashboards to assist this process but makes their development and maintenance more complex. The dashboard is connected with proprietary APIs developed by each channel and technology provider. Gaining ‘deep expertise’ in the common foundation of platform infrastructure enables APIs to be demystified and simplifies the dashboard development process. By building a robust framework for your dashboard, introducing new platforms, channels, or data sources becomes more streamlined.

Streamlining Efficiency: A Shift from Spreadsheets

Efficiency is a driving force in modern marketing, and dashboards are pivotal in achieving it. A common challenge in reporting is that more time is spent ‘doing’ reporting instead of ‘using’ it. This is a result of having an inefficient process for generating reports. Somebody has to go to each system, download the data as a CSV file, copy the data into a reporting spreadsheet, normalize the data from each system, check that formulas are correct, and on and on – so if an hour is set aside each day for completing campaign reporting, then 55 minutes may be spent manually getting the data into the spreadsheets, leaving the final 5 minutes using the report to make decisions.

This inefficiency results in a lack of effectiveness in reporting as little, if any time ends up being spent on actual analysis of the reporting and making data-driven decisions on the reports. Shifting from manually produced spreadsheets to automated dashboards means that the same hour can instead be spent analyzing the data presented instead – extracting much more value from stakeholders’ time spent on reporting work.

The Internal Challenges of Building a Dashboard

Not all marketing teams have the internal expertise needed for dashboard development. Traditional spreadsheet-based reporting typically depends on one or two people in the business considered to be ‘spreadsheet gurus`. A desire to embrace dashboards means that the business can move away from this dependency, democratizing the control over reporting.  

However, maintenance of dashboards typically relies on Tech Ops and Engineering teams, which shifts the dependence to another resource that is typically scarce in most businesses. 

Challenges and Business Priorities

This points to the direct benefits of outsourcing the maintenance of dashboards – when your chosen partner can provide adequate support, the benefits of having dedicated external resources far outweigh any perceived negatives of loss of direct control over management. Dashboards often sit behind platform/CRM maintenance and marketing launches in internal priority lists. In contrast, dedicated external resources will be able to provide a focused pipeline for the development and refinement of dashboards, ensuring that they are kept fit for purpose as business demands develop. 

Conclusion

As we conclude this exploration, it’s clear that the journey of creating effective marketing dashboards is multifaceted. Key components include strategic thinking, clear specifications, an MVP approach, and leveraging the right expertise. In an era where data drives decisions, marketing dashboards emerge as powerful tools, empowering professionals to make informed choices and stay ahead in the dynamic landscape of digital marketing. 

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