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KPI Dashboards & How to Use Them in Your Marketing

The life of a business leader is all about juggling your priorities — and a big part of keeping everything moving is making sure that existing initiatives are on-track, while creating space for smart new strategies.

Fortunately, there’s a tool to help you succeed: KPI dashboards. KPI dashboards can help you check-in with various aspects of your business and make sure everything’s running smoothly.

Every department from sales to operations needs a dashboard, and dashboards are especially helpful when it comes to marketing. Between about a dozen online channels to consider (plus offline marketing efforts), there are countless elements that go into creating and sustaining a healthy marketing ecosystem.

A KPI dashboard helps marketers and business executives identify what’s going on with the elements of their marketing strategy that matter most, where to make changes if things start to go awry, and how to identify opportunities for new initiatives that can spur even greater success.

Getting your dashboard right takes time, but the pay-off is immense. Executives who successfully implement an effective dashboard can get better results and create a more rewarding, enjoyable work atmosphere in which the team has more room for creativity and experimentation.

Let’s take a closer look at what KPI dashboards are and what they can do to help your marketing team succeed in 2020 and beyond.

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The KPIs you choose should be related to your strategy and include a mix of forward-looking and backward-looking variables.

While it’s tempting to cram every metric you can think of into these reports, that’s a big mistake. When you’re confronted with a mountain of data, it’s nearly impossible to give the most important numbers the level of scrutiny they deserve.

For that reason, the best dashboards include only five to nine KPIs. These should, after all, be your key performance indicators behind your business playbook.

If you’re not sure which data points to focus on, think of it this way: what handful of things could totally tank your business if they went south? Framing it that way can help you sort the vanity metrics, like the number of monthly social media impressions, from the things that matter, like cost-per-acquisition.

Here are a few examples of KPI dashboards in action. Notice that they’ve honed in on only the most critical metrics and are displaying the information in clear, concise, easy-to-digest visual formats.

1. Subscription Model Dashboard

Subscription-based businesses are cropping up all over the place. From razors to clothes to meal prep kits, just about anything you could want or need in your daily life can be delivered to your doorstep on a regular basis.

The subscription model is great because it guarantees businesses recurring revenue — a subscriber locks into your service for a set period of time, meaning regular monthly income for the term of service.

This leadership team has chosen to focus on metrics that give them a sense of how well they’re doing at attracting new attention (monthly unique visitors and free trial sign-ups), how well they’re doing at converting those newly interested parties (free trial pay-up rate), and how well they’re doing at growing their membership and retaining existing members (paying members and purchases).

The dashboard is only looking at six metrics, but from that handful of data points, leadership can easily identify any potential issues before they become mission-critical.

Say, for example, the leadership team noticed a drop the following month in paid members. That would go against the trend for the first three months of the year, where they experienced month-over-month growth. From there, they could start digging deeper. Are new member sign-ups dropping, or are retention numbers slipping? If retention is the issue, what changes could they make to entice more of their existing customers to renew their membership?

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2. Large Ticket Item Dashboard

This dashboard from DataPine is the kind that could be useful to a marketing team in just about any industry that has a high price point — and, therefore, a high customer acquisition cost. Their focus is on nine of the biggest metrics that give them insight into how successful their strategy is.

Rather than focusing on granular numbers, like Twitter followers gained or number of likes on each piece of content shared on Facebook, they’re measuring numbers that are linked directly to their budget and that tie in with the sales team’s efforts.

Understanding acquisition numbers and cost-per-acquisition provides insight that’s valuable far beyond the reaches of the marketing department. Issues with poor cost-per-acquisition can be indicative of a need to cut ad spend, but they might also be hinting at a need to change the pricing structure for your offerings. Or they might mean that the sales team needs to shorten lead time in order to increase the number of acquisitions per month.

No matter what is ultimately identified as the source of the problem, having a dashboard empowers all of your teams to have informed, collaborative discussions about challenges facing your business that are backed up by actual data and numbers.

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3. Deals Closed Dashboard

Epec Engineered Technologies uses HubSpot’s reporting features to create a sleek KPI dashboard with all the most critical information, including “Form to MQL” and “First Page Seen”.

This is an undeniably useful KPI dashboard to see whether your marketing strategy is on-target with your goals. The “First Page Seen” section shows you which pages your visitors initially interact with — if that page hasn’t been updated in a while, consider optimizing it for higher conversions.

Additionally, the “Marketing qualified lead” vs. “Sales qualified lead” categories, shown in chart-form under “RFQ to MQL”, will help you tailor your strategy and determine which leads convert at the highest percentage, and what you might do to even out any disparities. 

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4. Marketing Leads Template

This dashboard made by Geek Dashboard is a fantastic example of how your marketing team can use a KPI dashboard to measure your team’s performance, particularly through leads and conversions.

It’s clear and concise, focusing on the major factors that matter for marketing — leads, and percent of conversions compared to goal. Additionally, the visuals help your team stay focused on the most important aspects of your strategy to ensure you’re on-track to hit your monthly or yearly goals. 

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KPI Dashboard Excel Templates

If you’re ready to start creating your own KPI dashboard, the good news is that there are tons of resources out there to help you get it done.

1. Smartsheet

Smartsheet provides Excel templates for a variety of marketing dashboards. Whether you’re looking for a broad template for tracking big KPIs, to more specific templates for social media marketing, Smartsheet has you covered. Best of all, the templates are free to download on their website.

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2. Eloquens

Eloquens offers a marketing dashboard template with metrics that they’ve broken down into seven major categories. These categories include sales effectiveness, customer metrics, and budget metrics, and each category has a number of KPIs that you can choose to track.

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3. HubSpot

HubSpot offers dashboard templates that integrate with Excel, Google Drive, and PowerPoint, so you can easily track those all-important metrics within the program that works best for you and your team.

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I Created a Dashboard, Now What?

Once you’ve gotten your first marketing dashboard up and running, the real fun begins! Start pulling the numbers on a regular basis — weekly or monthly, depending on how quickly things move in your business. Review it regularly and start to look for patterns.

When a number crops up that surprises you, it’s time to examine the cause. Having all of your marketing information displayed in this simple dashboard makes it easier to identify the source of the potential issue, and get feedback from the most relevant parties about what could be behind the startling data point.

Once you think you’ve identified the source of the change, it’s time to do some experimenting. If you missed your goal, try a new approach. If your numbers exceeded expectations, tweak things to lean into whichever existing strategies are most responsible for the high numbers.

Make changes slowly, so that you’re able to see how every shift in approach influences your results. Additionally, keep tracking those KPIs on a regular basis so that you can understand the effects of each new tactic.

No matter what, you want to keep returning to your dashboard. This document should become your North Star, guiding your shifts in strategy and providing you with the information you need to understand which strategies drive the best results.

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