Marketing dashboards matter: Why marketers must go beyond traditional BI tools

Data is the currency of the modern marketer. The ability to analyse and leverage data from a wide number of sources is crucial when reviewing revenue generation and other key performance indicators tied to greater business goals. With an increasing number of data sources – think social, search, email, events, SMS campaigns and more – and greater demand for interconnectivity, how can marketers best approach data analysis and create the most value beyond the marketing department?

One could make the argument that business intelligence (BI) tools check all the data boxes. They’re effectively designed to retrieve, analyse, transform and report data that measures an organisation’s goals and campaigns, and there will continue to be a place for BI tools in the marketing technology stack. Yet, BI tools can also fall short of modern marketing demands; they lack harmonisation, they are expensive and they eat up resources.

The time has come for a new technology to complement, rather than replace, BI tools in the marketing mix. Enter the marketing dashboard.

Marketing dashboards are different from traditional BI tools in that they specialise in the collection, blending, visualisation and collaboration of marketing data. While dashboards have traditionally made a home in advertising and marketing agencies and on departmental teams inside large enterprises, the technology continues to gain ground with small and medium-sized businesses. Dashboards are so effective that you will even find most BI vendors eyeing their own data displays as areas for expansion, a finding backed by Gartner’s recent Market Guide for Marketing Dashboards.

While not a substitute for BI tools, marketing dashboards are specialised tools built for marketers and address certain pain points in BI tool functionality stemming from data harmonisation, expenses and resource constraints.

Pain point #1: Harmonisation

Today’s marketers want access to on-demand campaign and channel performance data in a single dashboard, the ability to automate tedious data integration tasks, and quick and painless deployments. However, they’re often met with siloed and disjointed data from an overwhelming volume of data sources.

Data harmonisation, the concept of combining data from different sources and providing a comparable view, is possible with a traditional BI tool, but can be a cumbersome process of creating connectors to and maintaining connectors with vendors, while accounting for API integration. There are now more than 7,000 technologies that provide some sort of functionality for marketers, all of which generate data.

A marketing dashboard has the connector capacity to ingest data from thousands of vendors and harmonise it across the pre-created data sources, displaying it all in one place.

Pain point #2: Expense

Traditional BI approaches are expensive to implement and maintain. Many organisations spend six figures just to connect a small handful of data sources together, in addition to the expense of ongoing maintenance and management for those data sources. While BI tools can perform data harmonisation, it can quickly turn into a costly and time-consuming endeavor.

Marketing dashboards are cost-effective in that the data insights are pre-built for the user. The connectors come loaded into the dashboard without the additional time or money spent.

Marketing dashboard adoption has historically been with agencies and large enterprise due to cost. However, with new vendors actively entering the marketing dashboard space, the technology is poised to trickle down to small and mid-sized businesses, allowing an entire new segment of the market access to the powerful technology in an affordable way.

Pain point #3: IT resources

A traditional BI tool requires IT department intervention during the set-up process in order for the tool to effectively grab essential marketing data. If a marketer looks to create and measure a new KPI on a campaign, it often requires a trip to the IT department. A marketing dashboard, by contrast, is pre-created, pre-designed and pre-developed with marketers in mind. The dashboard already has data connections and KPI capabilities to measure against a campaign in real-time.

From an IT perspective, it can be overwhelming to receive a barrage of requests to create individual KPIs from the marketing department. Dashboards alleviate that stress by creating a self-serve data exploration capability, within guardrails, allowing the marketer to adjust the KPI data as necessary. The self-serve component frees up IT to focus on more complex requests and allows them to maintain a more holistic view of the company rather than devoting time and resources exclusively to the marketing department.

Conclusion

Marketing dashboards are not a replacement for business intelligence tools, but they help organisations harmonise marketing data. BI tools are built for reporting and analysing any type of structured business data, while marketing dashboards are purpose-built specifically for marketers to fill the gap that BI tools don’t have the bandwidth to support.

The marketing technology stack environment is shifting, and dashboards are being pushed down to smaller businesses and more casual users as a result. Capabilities that were at one time only for data scientists and the largest organisations are now being simplified – and not from a capability perspective, but the ability for a wider audience to leverage this tool.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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