This article provides a process for building a marketing dashboard in your firm and 6 recommendations for essential dashboard elements to get you started.
The best professional services marketers want to measure what they’re doing because they’re confident that it’s working. They know if they can prove ROI they have a better chance of getting more budget to do even more impactful work (and more of it). But, how will you pick what to measure and how will you visualize what you’re measuring to make it useful?
In our article on measuring your marketing we outlined the 4 overarching questions you need to be able to answer in order to prove ROI from your marketing investment. In this article, I want to provide some guidance on how to pick the data points underlying those questions for measurement and turn them into a dashboard for your firm.
Unlike some other things I write, this article is not going to provide a definitive answer about what should go into your dashboard (though I’ll give my 6 essentials at the end of the article). In preparing to write this article I pulled all the dashboards we’ve ever created for clients along with the dashboards we use in our agency. And, what struck me was how very different they all were. Yes, there were some dashboard elements that were common across all firms. But, usually the interests of the firm and its marketers shift the focus of the dashboard to one area or another.
Mindmap Everything You Could Measure
To start, I would suggest mindmapping everything you might want to measure in your practice. If you’re a solo marketer, you might do this on your own with mind mapping software. Or, you might do it in a group using sticky notes or a white board. Generally, I recommend listing both activities (perhaps, new articles written) and outcomes (website traffic, for instance). Depending on the purpose of your dashboard you may end up emphasizing one over the other. But, to start it’s helpful to think about measuring both the work you’re doing and the outcome of your efforts. At a high-level, I tend to think there are 4-5 areas of your marketing effort you should be paying attention to:
- Thought leadership — Are you regularly, and consistently publishing high quality perspectives on issues that matter to clients?
- Website — Is your website delivering a healthy flow of quality clients to your practice?
- Leads — Are you converting a reasonable share of those visitors into leads for your marketing efforts? Are you generating high quality leads elsewhere (speaking at events or through referrals)?
- Meetings — Are you creating new conversations for your firm’s leaders and business developers with high quality potential clients?
- Opportunities — Are you generating enough new opportunities to meet your business goals? Are you closing your fair share of the right deals?
Here is an example of a mindmap I created in Coggle that outlines all the things I could think of that could be measured in these 5 areas:
And, here’s a stream of those things in a more readable form:
- Thought Leadership Generated (# Self-Published Articles, # Words, Articles Placed in Prestigious Publications / Speaking Opportunities at Major Events
- Website Traffic (Sessions and/or Users for 12 mos and 30 days with YOY data))
- Content Downloads (Total and Top 5 over 12 mos and 30 days)
- Traffic Channels (12 mos and 30 days)
- Social Media Performance (TW, LI, FB followers over 12 mos)
- Email Marketing Performance (Emails Sent/Open over 12 mos, Open/CTR over 12 mos/30 days, total list size and % change)
- Leads Generated (By Quarter over 8 quarters, this Year by Tier and/or Source, By Month over Last 3-4 Mos)
- 1st Meetings by Source
- Pipeline Value + Deals in Pipeline
- Opportunities Won/Lost — # + $
- Revenue to Targets
Filter Down Your Options
People used to say you can’t measure everything. But, these days that doesn’t seem to be true. In fact, it appears we can measure everything. The bigger questions now tend to be what should you pay attention to? And, how will you present it so it’s useful and actionable?
Once you have your mindmap in place, I suggest doing the following thought exercise. Imagine you’re marooned on an island in the middle of the Caribbean. And, for one reason or another the only information you have available to you about the marketing of your firm will appear on a single sheet of paper that’s handed to you 1-2x month. That single piece of paper can have no more than 5 charts on it representing 5 pieces of information. What information would you need to see to know that your marketing is working? If you’re working in a group, have everyone complete the exercise on their own and then discuss the options as a group. You probably won’t get all the way down to just 5 pieces of information, but if you can get it down to less than 10 you’ve made meaningful progress.
From there, think about each piece of data and how it would best be visualized. Is it more useful to see this information over time or at a moment in time? Does a time series graph of leads generated over 6-12 months provide more value than a break down of leads right now? Do you need both? Is it helpful to know what your pipeline was last year at this time? Or, only what it is today? There are probably no right or wrong answers here. It’s really just what is most useful to you.
The 6 Essential Dashboard Elements
After going through this exercise on my own, and thinking about those things we measure here at Rattleback, I settled in on these 6 essential dashboard elements.
1 – Website Traffic — Specifically, we like to look at YTD traffic compared to the previous YTD (basically, the first dashboard you see when you login to Google Analytics). Ultimately, traffic is a pretty sound indicator of the overall health of your marketing effort. If you’re consistently publishing high quality thought leadership (published onsite or elsewhere) your site traffic should be growing. You might look at a shorter time horizon depending on how frequently you plan to review your dashboard. We like longer time horizons because they remove seasonality from your thinking:
2 – Total List Size — We find this is helpful to see charted over 12 months with a comparison to the previous year. If traffic is growing, then we should be seeing growth in our opt-in list of people we can market to. If we’re not, then we need to do some diagnosis to figure out why.
3 – Leads Generated — We tend to look at this in quarterly slices. How many leads were generated this quarter? How many last quarter? A simple line graph with 8 quarters of data is useful because it helps you see trends both quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year. Here’s a sample I mocked up with dummy data:
4 – Pipeline Value + Deals in Pipeline — Technically, this is 2 dashboard elements but it could function as 1 if you’re looking at a dashboard in Salesforce or some other relational database software. At any point in time, you need to know how much potential opportunity your firm has in front of you to close. Ideal is to break that down into opportunity stages based on where the client is in their buying journey. This is generally presented as a point-in-time. A list of the top deals that are represented in that pipeline is also useful, but this could be something you click through from the pipeline graphic itself. Another example with fake data:
5 – Opportunities Won / Lost – We like to monitor the percentage of opportunities won relative to the total dollar value of all opportunities. We like to look at a comparison from a previous period. Depending on the size of your projects and the length it takes to close them it might make sense to present this as quarterly, annual or multi-year data. A horizontal bar chart will often suffice.
6 – Revenue to Targets — The final essential element is a dial that shows your firm’s progress towards your annual business goals. If yours is a large, diversified firm with separate profit centers, this might be your progress towards divisional goals. Regardless, you’re looking to show your progress towards your objectives. We like simple dials like this one with some dummy data in it:
What Software Should You Use?
Ultimately, that will be a subject of a different post altogether. But, if your firm uses Salesforce you can build 5 of the 6 essential dashboard elements right in Salesforce with your existing data. To add Google Analytics data directly into your Salesforce dashboards you might need to do some custom development or use an existing add-on like the one provided by CloudAmp. Tools like Tableau might be helpful if you’re really looking to ramp up your efforts. But, to start you can do a lot of this stuff right in Excel. In fact, most of the dashboards we build for clients we build in Excel until they have the supporting systems in place (CRM and Marketing Automation) to automate the process.