For nearly two years I ran my marketing team using a dashboard – how I got there is the story of moving from an avalanche of reports to a single performance view to drive decisions.  Despite the social and programmatic technology I had put in place, our challenges remained: awash in CPC, CTR, Open Rate and Conversion Rate, but lacking a full picture.   In this post, I hope you will find supportive and helpful lessons that will help you in your own quest.

Our new agency had technology and staff to help.  In order to be a good client, I knew that some of my biggest hurdles would be building consensus for changes in strategy or new investments, and I wouldn’t have time to do all the analytic work myself (as I might have in my prior agency life).

The insight-action gap

The time lag between insight and action became my main adversary.  I’d receive a new mandate on Monday, schedule a meeting for Tuesday, receive feedback on Wednesday and have a recommendation by Thursday.  If we were lucky. I challenged my agency partners to find helpful analytic tools, especially ones where more of the data would be in my hands 24/7 – to create new charts, modify time selections, and answer obscure questions.

Thus did my dashboard adventure begin.

Deployment of a dashboard will push your comfort zone

Deploying the multi-touch attribution technology across our entire ecosystem required several months of headaches, which stalled when the architect of our in-house e-commerce solution wouldn’t re-tool the product to send transaction level data to the cloud in real time.  After executing more test transactions than I care to remember (likely hundreds if not thousands) in order to monitor tracking tags and conversion pixels, I discovered SOME of the data I wanted was already being stored in a Javascript Data layer array.

Before I new what a marketing technology leader was, I had become one myself.  Uncovering the messy state of our data, marketing analytics capabilities, and the specific roadblocks to improvement, became my mission.  I was up to my eyeballs in Javascript, SQL, and Google Tag manager nearly every day, but this challenge is key to mastery.

Demand Accountability

Our CMO was evaluated on the efficiency of acquiring new customers, and we needed to grow when the rest of the category was not.  As we pushed our retention and cross-sell campaigns to the limit, we saw diminishing marginal returns.  The only solution was new customer acquisition.  But who could help us with that?  Google, Facebook, and our other display and search partners did not care if we paid $1.25 for a previous customer to click, as long as we paid.  If the customer happened to buy, those same partners were more than happy to take credit.

We discovered first hand the limitations on tracking programmatic media execution within channels such as Google and Facebook (Gartner clients should see my note Control Your Marketing Data — or Google, Facebook and Amazon Will) and the lost visibility contributed to an overspend of $50K in a single month.  Without our rigorous approach, we wouldn’t have uncovered the misfire, but waste is still waste.  We began directing all re-targeting to a new vendor.

Error: Storage Full

Without storage your initiative may struggle. When the agency’s data analyst called to say our little Tableau dashboard had exceeded the capacity in-house database hosted internally, I smiled.  I gratefully accepted the recommendation to move to a cloud-based solution.  In little less than a year our Tableau dashboard (not even the underlying DB) was over 500Mb each month.

Initially, I had wanted something more real-time, but I settled for monthly.  Until that point,  senior management wanted more than good news, they wanted proof. My data analyst and I began brainstorming  “Well, if you could flag all the transactions that came from existing customers, we could create a new chart that indexed each channel by customer acquisition.”

So began a monthly ritual that  began with a .csv and ended with an anxiously-awaited performance review.  First at my desk, then with the CMO, and then in front of the entire C- Suite.

Oral History

Eventually we figured out how to close the loop and show how digital activities needed not just revenue but new customer revenue.  Paid search, new landing page strategies, and creative optimization, and a new lead generation approach led to new customer acquisition success story.  A relentless series of meetings, projections, and presentations followed, telling and re-telling our story.  Disparate teams across the business units were anxious to emulate our success, and senior management debated the allocation of more resources.

While the promise of deeper insights and optimizing media spend initially hooked the executive team, the promise of new technology bought us a couple of months.  Success stories and innovation were critical to our executive sponsor – and helped us win friends along the way (see How to Market the Value of Marketing to the Enterprise – Gartner subscription required)

Outside the trenches, I’m pleased to see both better technology and quicker time to value helps many teams win with dashboards, but it is never simple.  Has your experience been similar?  I look forward to discussing with you at Gartner’s Digital Marketing Conference (Creating a Modern Analytics “Marketecture” for Your Marketing Organization).

1 Comment
  1. February 19, 2018 at 7:06 am
    Saneesh Veetil says:

    I have been using tools like Tableau to get more insights on my social media performance and it blows my mind on how simple and effective it is.

    Awesome content! Thanks Benjamin

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