Marketing Dashboards: Don’t Decorate a Cake with a Chainsaw

Use the right dashboard for your job -- either decision or optimization. Otherwise, it's like decorating a cake with a chainsaw.

I’m betting you would never try to paint your house with a broom. 

You’d never cut your grass with a blender. Or decorate a cake with a chainsaw. (Though if you do, be sure to record some video, and send it my way.) 

But that’s essentially what a lot of marketers do every day. They’re using the wrong type of marketing dashboard for their particular job. 

You might be thinking: Wait, there’s more than one type of dashboard? There is! I find that most fall into one of two categories:

  • Top-down decision dashboards
  • Bottom-up optimization dashboards

And it’s very important to choose the right model for your role.

Top-Down Decision Dashboards for Marketing Strategy

Decision dashboards give you a high-level view of your business, so you can create the most effective marketing strategy for your organization. An example would be a dashboard that shows your pipeline and breaks out numbers for important KPIs like awareness, leads, deals and so on. 

A decision dashboard allows you to understand the state of your overall business, uncover larger trends and make decisions about budgets. It’s a classic top-down view.

Bottom-Up Optimization Dashboards for Marketing Tactics

The other type of dashboard is the optimization dashboard, and it’s the flip side of the decision dashboard. It’s a bottom-up view of your marketing performance. 

This type of report shows you how individual campaigns, platforms, ad networks, creative and keywords are performing, so you can “adjust the dials” to get better ROI for your money. A dashboard dedicated to your paid social — or even focusing on a specific platform like Facebook — is a good example of an optimization dashboard. 

Your CEO Doesn’t Care About Keywords! 

Your company should use both kinds of marketing dashboards, so you can answer questions at the macro and micro level. But be careful. Marketers get into trouble when they use the wrong dashboard for their role. 

If you need to justify your marketing budget to your CEO, don’t show them an optimization dashboard, even if you’re getting amazing results from your last Twitter campaign. The CEO wants to see the bigger picture. How is Marketing as a whole helping the company generate more revenue this quarter? Are we creating enough leads to keep the pipeline full? 

BLOG: Which dashboard software is better for marketers — Tableau or Power BI?

CMOs Don’t Have to Know Everything 

Likewise, if you’re a CMO, you shouldn’t be spending a ton of time with optimization dashboards. Those are for your media buyers, strategists and analysts so they can find golden nuggets of insight and make better decisions about specific platforms, keywords or creative. 

A lot of marketing leaders think they need to know everything, down to the most micro-level details, but guess what? You don’t.

All you need is to look at the mix of channels and strategies and determine if they’re producing the right results in terms of leads, sales or however you measure success. 

I’m not saying that you can never look at optimization dashboards. As a former strategist / media buyer / what-have-you, you definitely have useful advice to share. 

But you shouldn’t be spending hours and hours every week looking at what keywords perform best with retired farmers in Ohio on Tuesday afternoons. That’s your team’s job. You’ve got other things to worry about.

Schedule a Solution Consultation with Alight

Alight Analytics gives you everything you need to produce game-changing insights and reporting, and that includes a suite of turnkey dashboards that are built for decision-making and optimization. Tap into our expertise — set up a time to talk!