3 Steps to an Actionable Marketing Dashboard

Every CEO wants to know how marketing is contributing to the bottom line.

Many business leaders are not clear in their minds and sometimes feel like they are groping around in the dark when it comes to assessing the impact of marketing.  A business dashboard can solve that.actionable marketing dashboardFor example, should more marketing resources be channeled to social media? Setting up a dashboard dedicated for social media will allow you to keep tabs on your ROI in an easy and effective way. Should you spend more on PPC? Use a dashboard to the rescue yet again. Which channel has led to the recent growth in customer numbers? These are all questions business leaders are seeking to answer everyday. They want to know the exact causal relationship so that they can do it over and over again. Having this information at your fingertips means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you know what marketing activities impact your bottom line, you can simply rinse and repeat.

This is the purpose of a marketing dashboard. To provide business leaders with insightful information about the impact of marketing activities on targeted business outcomes in a visual manner that can be digested quickly and relied upon to make smart decisions.

When designed well, a marketing dashboard should provide data in summarized graphs and alert users when they exceed or perform below expectations. More importantly, your marketing dashboard is a decision support and not a reporting tool. While it is good to report on activities such as upcoming events, planned campaigns and so forth, this information is not actionable and therefore should not be on the dashboard. Only information that can be acted upon and make a difference on to key performance indicators should be included on the marketing dashboard.

The following are three guidelines to a more actionable marketing dashboard:

1.     Be Customer-Centric when Planning

The marketing plan must be aligned to specific measurable business outcomes. The plan should indicate how the contribution of marketing and its impact will be measured and also establish a series of targets. This will be the basis of the marketing dashboard.

You need to know which outcomes need to be achieved. A revenue number on its own is insufficient. Express the outcome in customer-centric terms. For example, how many new customers need to be engaged to achieve the intended outcome? What kind of product or service should these customers purchase for the revenue outcome to be achieved? With this information, you can come up with measurable objectives and strategies to drive these outcomes.

An example of a measurable objective is “Increase the number of new leads by ten percent over the next 30 days resulting in 2 percent conversion rate for a minimum 100 new customers”.

Develop performance targets for each objective and only concentrate on the highest priority outcomes and map the relationship between marketing activities and business outcomes. If it isn’t high priority, leave it out. The same goes for information that is useful but can’t be acted upon.

2.     Build Your Metrics Schematic

Once your marketing plan is complete and the metrics that will measure the impact of marketing are defined, you can proceed and build your schematic. This is a diagram that shows the relationships between activities and outcomes. The schematic is effectively the specs used to build the dashboard. Ensure you select metrics from customer, product, positioning and financial categories.

You must have measurable outcomes and objectives in order to move on to the third and final step.

Once the schematic is complete, use it to validate data and identify any bugs before configuring your dashboard or investing in any commercial solutions to build the dashboard. Do not rush to spend any money before you have your schematic mapped out.

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3.     Configure

You are now ready to go into production. Whether you use an in-house solution or a commercial product to build your marketing dashboard, the schematic in step two above will serve as the guide. The only word of caution here is not to use a manual dashboard. Whatever solution you decide to use, it must report the data in real-time.


Clearly, an effective marketing dashboard is about more than simply creating charts in your existing system. If you do decide to set one up, remember it is only worth it if you are ready to go about it a structured manner and with accurate inherent data. It isn’t simply a reporting tool; it is a tool for decision making and making course corrections. It takes time and effort to create an actionable marketing dashboard but the results are worth it. It captures the most critical key performance indicators and presents them visually for easy consumption and, it enables you to see the value or lack thereof of your marketing activities and facilitates decision making.