Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Marketing Dashboards

The old adage of “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” is as true in marketing as in any other discipline, but in marketing there is often a challenge of defining what one wants to measure. Especially in B2B marketing, the length of the buying process leads to challenges in defining metrics that make sense for a marketing dashboard. Some metrics may seem too transient, being only relevant to a particular campaign. Some metrics may seem too tactical, not strategic enough to the business. Still further, some metrics may seem too difficult to achieve, requiring a broad change in processes before the metrics are possible.

This challenge leaves many CMOs, VPs, and Directors of Marketing without the same level of dashboard metrics that their peers in other functions rely up on to run their businesses.

However, there are a number of key areas of B2B marketing that can be greatly enhanced with dashboards with today’s capabilities. Here are a few key areas to think about as you build critical management metrics for your marketing organization:

Funnel Management:

As we adapt to today’s buying processes where the buyers are in control, we need to adapt our thinking on how we look at a marketing funnel. Buyers progress through their own buying process at a pace that is controlled by them, and the best way to measure it is to use a top-down marketing analysis structure. First, an understanding of digital body language allows us to determine where in their buying process each person is. From there, we can measure the marketing funnel using a balance sheet and income statement metaphor.

The balance sheet view gives us a snapshot of the current state of the marketing funnel. How many suspects, inquiries, and MQLs, are in the marketing funnel at that moment in time. The income statement view gives us an understanding of how the funnel has changed in the last quarter as leads move up, down, into, or out of the funnel.

These top-down views of the performance of a marketing organization allow a high level understanding of what the health of the overall organization looks like. If there are too few leads in one part of the funnel, it indicates a future challenge in revenue generation. A strong motion in the funnel in one quarter can indicate a highly successful marketing push to move buyers through certain stages of their buying process. As these views do not change with time, they are excellent high level dashboards for a CMO or VP of Marketing.

Communication and Response

Communication of messages is a key role of any marketing organization, and most do so with the goal of generating a response. As an executive in charge of a marketing organization, it is important to remain aware of the pulse of messaging and response with your marketing organization. First, a high level view of your email campaign history is key; how many campaigns have been sent and how many recipients were communicated with. Seeing this communication pattern over time allows you to understand if there are spikes or lulls in your communication pattern. Another key view of your outbound communications would show your email frequency – how many times you are communicating to each person in your database – to indicate if you are having any over or under-communication challenges.

Response, is also critical to measure. In terms of web traffic, new and repeat visitors are important to understand as they give you a view into trends of potential buyers visiting your website. Likewise, inquiry counts (submission of web forms), give you an understanding of the number of individuals engaged with your marketing offers. If you are making any search or social media investments, a measurement of the raw traffic being generated by source is also critical to understanding the success in each of these areas.

The patterns in your outbound communication and response patterns are ideal for dashboarding, as they are each views that do not change over time, but provide very valuable insight into the trends, challenges, and successes you are facing.

Database Growth and Data Quality

A marketing organization focused on demand generation is only as good as the marketing database it is nurturing. To do this successfully, the database growth and quality must be carefully managed. That means that dashboards of database growth and data quality are key in understanding trends, problems, and opportunities.

There are a few factors involved in database growth, each of which can be easily monitored and managed through dashboards. Raw growth through net new names, and tempered by unsubscribes and hard bounce-backs is a key component of any marketing dashboard. On top of that, however, monitoring the growth and relative size of your inactive segment gives you an understanding of those who are on the path to being emotionally unsubscribed, essentially becoming an inaccessible part of your database.

Data quality has many aspects that are deeper than a top-level dashboard allows, but a few key aspects of data quality can still be measured effectively. Data completeness is one such aspect. For the 10 or 20 fields in your database that you are most concerned about, a dashboard showing data completeness allows you to quickly understand your progress towards ensuring that these fields are completed by the majority of your marketing audience.

Sales Alignment and Adoption

A successful B2B marketing organization needs to focus as much on enabling the sales team they serve as on their own marketing activities. Even more so in this case than in others, the use of marketing dashboards is crucial in understanding how successful they are being with enabling the sales team. As content is provided to the sales team to use in their communications, a dashboard should be set up to provide insight into which content assets are being used, and which members of the sales team are most active. Similarly as lead nurturing programs are provided to sales as disposition options, a marketing dashboard should show which nurture programs are being used.

Similarly, when leads are passed to sales, if a service level agreement has been reached with sales beforehand, a dashboard can be very useful in monitoring and measuring how quickly qualified leads are followed up on, and whether these timelines are sufficient.

Dashboards on Marketing Assets

So far, we’ve mainly discussed top-level marketing dashboards that provide a glimpse into the performance of an overall B2B marketing organization. However, of equal importance are the dashboards on individual marketing assets. For example, when an email campaign is launched, a landing page is posted, a web form created, or a search campaign initiated, being able to quickly run a dashboard of critical metrics on that marketing initiative is important to building a culture of marketing analytics.

With dashboards on individual assets available quickly and easily, each tactic that is used can be analyzed, understood, and compared against similar assets to understand its performance in context. This culture of analysis quickly weeds out underperforming campaigns by focusing management attention on the metrics that determine their success.

Dashboards as a B2B Marketing Tool

Whereas other functions have leveraged dashboards successfully for many years, marketing has historically been without the ability to devise effective, relevant dashboards that allowed CMOs, VPs, and Directors of Marketing to understand and manage their businesses. Now, with the transition in today’s buyer to be more in control of their own buying process, while also being much more online, marketing dashboards are both possible and necessary.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar


Shawn Burst said...

Great article: We agree at Dukky. We have tied social influence ratings, purchase intent and market feedback and research into our e-mail and direct mail campaigns that give marketers unprecedented insight to activities throughout the sales funnel. Check it out.