Almost every project I have worked on in the past few years has had either started with or added on a data visualization component. Even those that did not start with one eventually added marketing dashboards to the project at some point.

In short, dashboards are “all the rage” right now. The question is: are they really worth anything?

Do marketing dashboards need to be terrible?
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In a recent meeting, a college consultant expressed doubts about whether marketing dashboards were useful at all. He imitated that there were no real insights to be gained or time saved from the reporting visuals that marketing agencies had provided him in the past.

And frankly, he has a point. There are a LOT of bad data visualizations and reporting dashboards out there.For every report that improves team efficiency, there are ten that look nice but serve no real purpose.

Marketing Dashboards Don’t Have to Suck

So what makes a reporting dashboard… not terrible? I believe there are three major functions that a good marketing dashboard should serve. Doing at least one of these three will make using it worthwhile. And doing ALL three will make it invaluable.

1. The Dashboard Saves Your Team Time

Saving time is vital for marketing teams because they are usually overtasked and understaffed. For a marketing dashboard to increase your team’s efficiency, it needs to aggregate disparate data from one or more data sources. If done well, this can make comparisons and high-level performance evaluations much faster to compile. Instead of having to cross-reference data from multiple sections, it’s far easier to see them together at a glance.

Marketing dashboards should accelerate your team's pace.
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It could be as simple as combining data points from multiple sections of Google Analytics, or as complex as placing together digital ad performance with website outcomes. Either way, this is the #1 thing a dashboard has to do well to be useful.

Most reporting tools such as Google Data Studio have the ability to combine data from multiple sources out of the box, or with a service integration such as SuperMetrics. Make sure your reporting platform can bring in all (or as close as possible) of the different digital advertising and analytics sources you need to see together.

2. The Marketing Dashboard Serves Multiple Audiences

Every team has multiple stakeholders with different needs and levels of sophistication. A good dashboard helps with reporting to at least one of these audiences.

At minimum, a report should help answer the “how are things going?” questions that marketing teams are often bombarded with. If exporting that report (or better yet, automating it) and sending it off to stakeholders makes those inquiries fast and easy to answer, that’s a huge win in many marketing departments!

Examples of this include creating dashboard reports that provide high level performance reporting for executives, or segment out a specific campaign or website area for another department.

3. The Dashboard Identifies Areas for Further Data Exploration

A marketing dashboard will not solve all of your reporting problems by itself. And it shouldn’t attempt to. Having a reporting dashboard, even a great one, is not a substitute for deep analysis.

marketing dashboards help point your marketing team in the right direction.
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However, what a good dashboard can do is identify where performance is above or below expectations. It should also provide clarity on potential avenues for exploring why. This can increase the focus of deeper analysis. Getting to the real “why” faster saves marketing analyst time and decreases the turnaround from gathering and reporting to taking action.

For example, if a dashboard can identify that visitors coming into your website from a social advertising campaign are leaving at a certain point, this provides an avenue for exploring what user interface changes might improve performance and decrease those exits.

Make Your Marketing Dashboards Better

Need assistance with your organization’s data visualizations, dashboards, or audits and marketing reports? Set up a free consultation and let’s discuss your needs.