ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — As marketing strategies span multiple media channels and tactics, there is an abundance of data driving the need to integrate, visualize, and analyze results quickly and efficiently. Marketing dashboards provide an effective vehicle for tracking actual versus planned marketing campaign performance metrics. Additionally, they provide a foundation for communicating goals, objectives and results across the organization.
Success lies in understanding the relationship between data
Advertising success lies in understanding the relationship between media channels and how the advertising engages consumers or prospects. Somewhere in your media ad serving, Google reports, Web site-tracking tools and customer transactional databases you have all the data points you need. But how do you unlock the knowledge in this data? The answer: find the right marketing campaign dashboarding and analytics partner.
Dashboards have recently seen an increased resurgence in the market, especially from a corporate marketers and agencies perspective. As advertising strategies span multiple channels and tactics, there is an abundance of data driving the need to integrate and visualize quickly and efficiently.
Selecting, implementing and managing a marketing dashboard partner for tracking, reporting and then analyzing all these data points can seem a daunting task for even the most experienced advertisers and marketers. However, when done well it can make all the difference to get the most out of your marketing dollars. If you plan on embarking on a vendor search, here are 10 tips to keep in mind when choosing your dashboarding partner:
1. Determine your dashboarding, reporting, & analytics needs
Dashboarding providers range from free services provided by publishers to enterprise solutions with five-figure monthly fees. A robust free service which provides decent functionality and detailed reporting is Google Analytics. There are numerous online communities of Google Analytics users that help one another set up and troubleshoot tracking codes. What is presumably the biggest advantage of Google Analytics compared to other free services is its seamless integration with Google AdWords. However, users need to remember that like many free Web services, it is subject to spotty reliability, delays in reporting, lower numbers reported compared to other site measurement tools due to its tracking methodology, and as reported in the online communities, losses of historical data. Even with these drawbacks, Google Analytics remains a popular and widely used digital media and Web analytics tool for small to medium size marketers and ad agencies. When the need arises for a more accountable, reliable and customizable enterprise solution, if you can handle the monetary and learning curve expense, there are a number of available options providing substantially more control over the presentation of your data and depth and breadth of tracking. The analytics marketplace is in a frenzied race to provide turn-key interfaces and solutions for corporate marketers of all sizes and functionalities.
2. Internal end-user business intelligence requirements
As you select a dashboarding partner, it’s important to consider what type of business intelligence features are going to be needed by your team before making your selection. One step in the vendor selection process is defining–as a team–what types of reports, graphs, and analysis your business users will need to make them successful. You will also need to consider the number of users that will be accessing the dashboarding system, their skill sets, and their specific technological needs. For instance, will analysts on your team be able to use the dashboard to slice and dice the data in ways that make sense to them.
3. External end-user business intelligence requirements
In addition to considering your internal team, it’s important to consider the needs of your external agencies and partners. Be sure to gain your agencies and partners feedback in terms of their reporting needs. This will help the vendor scope the best solution for you and help you to understand the vendors ability to provide dashboards and insights across your organization and partners as well.
As you invest time and energy into your selection process you can easily weed out many potential partners if they don’t meet your security requirements. This is a good point to lead with. Be sure to ask the vendor to provide detailed information related to the products security, password protection, audit trail, and quality assurance processes. Find out where the data physically resides and if there are redundancy systems in place if their system is breached or parts of it fail.
5. Dashboard user interface (UI)
The UI is probably one of the most important drivers of adoption for any dashboarding system. If the UI is hard to understand, it isn’t likely the system will be used. Things to look for are features that allow end users to easily manipulate data with filters, drag and drop capabilities, and whether the dashboard provides a clear visual representation of the data that allows for actionable insights.
In the same vein as the UI, the reports your dashboarding partner runs must be approachable and easily understood. Without meaningful and user-friendly reports the likelihood that the dashboard will be used and widely adopted are slim. The ability to provide both standard and adhoc reports is also very important as business users have different needs for the different marketing data types at different times. If reports are too strict some necessary reports may not be possible if a certain amount of flexibility isn’t possible. Some questions to consider: Can you do actual vs. buy vs. plan reports? Is trending analysis possible? Can you set-up email alerts for reporting anomalies? Another thing to consider is if the reports work with standards already adopted by your organization like Excel and PowerPoint.
7. Professional services support
Once you’ve determined the UI works, and the reports are going to meet the needs of your organization, the next big consideration is if you will be provided the support you will need to navigate your dashboard selection and grow it over time. Whether you go the free or paid route for your dashboarding partner you need to make sure technical support is figured into your equation of selection, especially if your dreams of widespread adoption are answered. There is nothing worse than having a piece of technology that is widely adopted that breaks with all your hard work and data trapped inside. If you handle support internally it will still cost time and money, and sometimes even more than outsourced options given the complexity of some situations. By seeking a vendor with a strong solution, and strong professional services in place, while it may cost more up-front you could save money in the long run. The major points to consider are if your prospective dashboarding partners has professional services group to help implement the dashboarding system, consult on best practices, and provide insight over time. If they don’t, take into consideration if immediate savings outweigh the potential long-term downside
8. Advanced analytics capabilities
Aside from dashboards and collaboration, be sure the vendor solution has advanced analytical capabilities and features such as the ability to accomplish cookie-based attribution analysis of multiple media channels (example – display and search marketing). Ensure you can store all historical media and customer data in the product. Lastly, ask about how sophisticated are the analytics capabilities that come out-of-the-box. These analysis solutions and advanced product features will be important down the road as you become more sophisticated with your marketing reporting and analytics. Many lower end dashboarding products do not have these core capabilities and the vendor will either charge a lot of money for these ‘extra’ capabilities or will not have this functionality in their product.
9. Data collection capabilities
The most compelling dashboard data is a sum of all the parts of marketing, including data from all campaigns, partners, and tracking solutions. Your dashboarding partner must work with all these moving parts to provide the best insights possible. First you must determine if the dashboard partner currently works with all of your most important third party services. If they don’t you should make sure they have an open API that you can plug-in to your mission critical systems. Of course the time and effort it will take for bridging these gaps should play an integral part in the decision making process. Once you have reviewed your mission critical third party services you must consider services you will be adding in the near future to make sure your dashboarding partner can grow as your arsenal of technology grows. From a high level you want to make sure it can collect data from outside services such as third-party ad servers (DoubleClick), search data (Google, Yahoo) and data from traditional media efforts (print, DRTV). It should also be able to interact with backend website analytics tools. Be sure to ask the vendor for a list of all the types of digital and offline data sources they have integrated. Example data sources to ask about include ability to accept emails, FTP site collection, manual log files, screen scrapes, or other more manually-oriented data collection mechanisms. Lastly, be sure to inquire about the QA and exception reporting process.
10. Product demo
Above all, when speaking with the vendor, ask for a demo of the product you can interact with. Never rely on the vendors word that it will be easy to use and be sure to ask detailed questions during the demo. Ask to see how things work as opposed to viewing a ppt presentation on the dashboarding solution.
This just scratches the surface of a more comprehensive list, but hopefully will set you on your way to critically thinking about your own marketing dashboarding needs assessment and vendor selection.