Your fancy marketing dashboard is useless without unified marketing data
Marketing dashboards are wonderful things. Particularly colorful and flashy ones make marketers feel like F-16 fighter pilots or nuclear power station technicians: powerful, in control, at the center of it all. Imagine the feeling: all that data at your fingertips … along with a (false) sense of security.
Yup. We said it.
False sense of security.
Because unless you’ve invested the time and energy to unify your marketing data and bring it all together to be properly analyzed, you’re only working with a quarter, or half, or two-thirds of the picture. You have a reports dashboard that might look awesome but is incomplete.
That can be helpful … but it certainly isn’t optimal.
And, as we’ll see, it can also be highly dangerous.
In a world of exploding data, a marketing dashboard is great
Look, we get it. A great marketing dashboard is a wonderful thing.
The exploding data in the world of a modern digital marketer is challenging and difficult, and analytics dashboards can help, bigtime. I mean, in just a few years we’re going to have 6 billion mobile subscribers. Four and a half billion of us already access the web. Global shipments of smart wearables will be at 200 million next year. Google, Facebook, and Baidu are selling almost 100 million smart speakers a year, and we haven’t even talked about new things like augmented reality and virtual reality that are on the cusp of going mainstream.
And don’t forget social marketing.
In 2012 there was just one platform that connected over a billion people. Today there are six with more than a billion users: YouTube, WeChat, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. (In fact, it’s seven if you count iMessage.)
Tiktok is almost there too, with 800 million downloads globally.
And that doesn’t even count LinkedIn — which is also closing in on a billion users. Or Snapchat, Twitter (resurgent and more important than ever), and Reddit, QQ, Viber, Pinterest, and Qzone, each of which have hundreds of millions of users. The good news for marketers is that each of these is an aggregation point for potential customers. The bad news: each has its own methodologies for marketing, interfaces for advertising, and different tactics that work (or don’t work) for connecting with potential customers.
So modern marketers have it tough. And they need something to simplify their worlds.
Marketing tools are also exploding
It’s even tougher when you consider the tool explosion.
While many of these are analytics solutions for marketing reports, or offer a digital marketing dashboard, there are now almost 7,000 marketing technology companies in an astonishing 48 categories available, according to Scott Brinker, the Chief MarTech.
That number is up from under a thousand just five years ago.
All of these new tools are capturing marketing data: organic marketing data such as social signals, mobile app usage, web traffic, email opens, and more. And that organic data is joining paid marketing signals such as impressions, engagements, and conversions, and it’s part of what needs to have visibility in your dashboard analytics
In addition, new marketing technology tools are increasingly capturing location data from mobile devices and biometric data from wearable devices. Many of them also enrich first-party data with third-party demographic, habit, and consumer data.
Add it all up and it’s no easy task to be a digital marketer today.
So an analytics dashboard makes sense
In fact, it’s a complete necessity. You have too many platforms, too many channels, too many marketing reports. Bringing them together helps.
When you’re building or buying your marketing dashboard, make sure that you’re unifying your marketing data as well. And, preferentially, first.
Start by unifying your data
Unifying marketing data starts with data governance. No, it’s not nearly as exciting or sexy as a marketing dashboard, and it may not even visibly impact your marketing reports, but without governance, you’re hooped. Campaign names, creative names, link structures: they all matter when you want to measure results effectively. Keeping them consistent enables you to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges later on in your dashboard analytics.
You also need a data ingestion plan.
A modern scaled-up digital marketer might be running hundreds of campaigns with dozens of partners in a number of different channels. How are you getting all that data? You need your front-end data: your campaigns and spend.
But you also need it on the back-end: conversion data.
When you’re ingesting both — and when you (or your tools, like Singular) are normalizing and standardizing the data) — you have the ability to combine the two. That gives you full visibility into your results. Most marketers primarily look for the conversion data. But doing so robs you of the ability to understand exactly what on the front-end resulted in those back-end results.
Just one example: creative optimization.
Getting both spend/campaign data as well as attribution/conversion data lets you see which creative generates the best results … and thanks to the way Singular does that, you can see that across all your media sources, not just within each.
Now you’re starting to be ready for visualization
Everyone wants dashboard analytics immediately. The sooner you can get your marketing dashboards and marketing reports in the hands of marketing and sales executives, the better.
The problem is that running to the desired goal without taking these needed steps to unify, normalize, and standardize your data reduces the quality of your analytic dashboard. And it ensures that what execs see in their digital marketing dashboards is a partial picture at best: the low-hanging fruit that you can bring in immediately.
At worst, it’s a misleading picture that can lead to poor decisions with bad outcomes.
A marketing dashboard is a steering wheel for optimum marketer performance. It simply has to be accurate to ensure optimal decision-making. But accuracy is not enough. Accurate but incomplete dashboards will provide a skewed perspective of marketing data. And a marketing analytics dashboard that doesn’t show you a complete picture can therefore also easily result in misallocated funds and unintended sabotage of existing positive results.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is a phrase often attributed to W. Edwards Deming, the quality-control expert, or Peter Drucker, the management guru.
That may or may not be true.
However, what is true is that it’s very important to be careful what you measure. Sometimes we measure what’s easy, and because we measure it, it suddenly becomes important: a KPI, a benchmark, a standard. Measuring — and therefore valuing — the wrong things will lead to poor results as often as not measuring anything.
Remember: the goal isn’t the chart
Finally, remember what the goal is. It’s not having a marketing dashboard, and easy-to-access marketing reports. Those are both nice. They’re great. And they might even be prerequisites to outsized growth. But they’re not, ultimately, what you’re aiming for.
Rather, your goal is to uncover actionable insight for ROI-positive growth.
A dashboard that combines unified input and output data in a single view unlocks better ROI and realistic Cost Acquisition Cost across all your marketing activities. And that’s how you can hunt, find, and farm profitable pockets of growth.
Why? Because now you understand which activities will get the best results. And, you have it simply and easily visualized.
That might include benchmarking against your own past performance, comparing to current broader market conditions, doing a full trend analysis, or supporting in-depth forecasting of key performance indicators like ROI, LTV, budgets, and CAC. And it probably includes both first and third-party data.
Finally: think about automation
A static marketing dashboard is of limited value. One that auto-updates from its sources is better.
But one that helps you automate tedious processes of data aggregation, analysis, enriching, combining, and insight generation is best.
Modern scientific marketing is not yet a set-it-and-forget-it activity. And it may never get fully there; marketers will also likely be necessary for creativity, for goal-setting, for intuitive and data-driven decision-making.
But, it’s clear that marketers increasingly need to be able to automate actions within set parameters.
Next steps: what to do
Learn what Singular can do for you, and what your marketing dashboard should look like, as well as what it should contain.