Analyse, structure, and manage marketing results

On the importance of KPIs and dashboards in managing marketing results

Peter Desmyttere
November 26, 2023
⏱ 12 min. read

Marketing is more measurable than ever thanks to digital tools that make the results of marketing actions measurable. The modern marketer therefore has a basket of data available to quickly and accurately manage marketing results: in Google Analytics, in CRM tools, in e-mail marketing software, in Marketing Automation technology, in dashboards, in Excel sheets … But how do you bring these together within a strategy to sustainably manage marketing results and look at marketing ROI? Those who do, see marketing as an investment that pays off, brings concrete results, and thus rolls out the red carpet for sales and business development.

In this article, you will learn:

Marketing KPIs as the first step toward marketing results

The first important step in managing your marketing results is defining your metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Working with KPIs is the active form of "we do measurable marketing" because it translates that measurable marketing into concrete results. "We have Google Analytics and get reports from Google Ads, Google Search Console, Meta Business, ... Our marketing is perfectly measurable," I often hear marketers say. However, the danger of measurable marketing is that you get overwhelmed by data. Google Analytics, for example, offers marketers an overwhelming number of metrics to analyse website visits. But ... there is a big difference in metrics between those many numbers. Some are ego-stirring (see how many fans we already have!), but with the others, you can actually do something (this many percent of our new visitors actually become customers). In English, they talk about 'vanity metrics' versus 'actionable metrics'.

So start your 'marketing metrics' project by defining your metrics and clearly answering the question "What do we want to measure in marketing?". Perhaps the most important added value of KPIs is focus. Where do you want to go with the company, as a marketing team or as a marketer? By making KPIs concrete, objectives are expressed in numbers. After all, KPIs are not just figures that look back at the past, they also offer perspective for the present and future. In the interim, you can see whether you are on track, or where adjustments need to be made.

Commonly used marketing KPIs

You're probably expecting a laundry list of marketing KPIs by now. However, a long list is not a good starting point. A limited number of KPIs that you divide into logical categories will get you off to a much better start. A commonly used technique for dividing KPIs (and one that we at Husky also use ourselves) is the REAN model, which stands for Reach, Engage, Act and Nurture. That way, you start setting measurement points at all stages of the marketing funnel or customer journey. Your KPIs then indicate sufficient results in terms of brand awareness (Reach), interaction with your community (Engage), leads (Act) and ambassadorship by customers (Nurture). The diagram below shows some commonly used marketing KPIs throughout the marketing funnel.

How many marketing KPIs make sense?

To get started practically with marketing results, about 10 KPIs is more than enough. Are you new to measuring marketing results and can create 5-10 meaningful KPIs? Good job! These are clear targets you can work towards, targets that will guarantee that fat end-of-year bonus. Tip: make sure everyone on your team is well aware of the exact content of the KPIs, but also that everyone understands why they are important. By everyone, we don't just mean marketing colleagues, but also management or key stakeholders in the organisation. Therefore, integrate 'marketing metrics' into strategic meetings or marketing update meetings, so that everyone feels permanently involved. That way, you immediately explain why the objectives were not, almost or did not get achieved.

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Where do you find marketing results?

Perhaps the most important data source for marketing results is Google Analytics. It collects a wide range of data about the traffic and behavior of users on your website, such as user information (who visits your website), traffic sources (via which channels they land on your website), behavioral data (what do they do on your website) or conversion data (are your goals being translated into results?). So Google Analytics is indispensable if you want to get started measuring marketing results.

However, you will quickly realise that website analytics is only part of your results reporting. You may also need to extract information from other data sources such as:

  • META to measure data on Facebook or Instagram
  • Rank trackers (such as MOZ or SEMrush) to measure data on your SEO actions
  • Marketing automation platforms (such as Hubspot) to measure CRM data
  • Email marketing platforms to measure email data

On top of that, there are various applications where marketing data plugs in. For example, external applications that measure the number of visitors to your exhibition stand or portal sites where you can measure the number of quotes requested.

Structuring marketing results: how to do it?

A second important step is to structure your marketing KPIs in a handy overview. KPIs should be made as visible and actionable as possible. Do you tuck them away in a strategic plan or in the report of a meeting for management? Then you might not do anything with them later.

Above, you can see the simplest form of charting marketing KPIs in an orderly fashion. In column A, you list all relevant marketing KPIs, broken down according to the stages in your marketing funnel. In this case, the REAN model has been used, but feel free to use a different format. In the other columns, you will now fill in the results based on data you get from the various digital tools with marketing metrics. Based on this template, you can do a KPI exercise at regular intervals (e.g. quarterly). Do you prefer to do it monthly? You can, but make sure you can maintain that pace and ask yourself whether it adds value compared to quarterly reporting. Also note that in the chart above, quarterly figures are compared with the figures for the same quarter in the previous year. Indeed, it makes more sense to compare equal periods rather than consecutive ones. For example, consider a seasonal business, here it makes little sense to compare figures against the previous or next quarter.

Once your template for marketing results is complete, you can get down to the concrete business of filling in data. The latter is immediately the biggest stumbling block for marketers. "Can't those numbers catch up automatically?" I hear you thinking. Unfortunately, it is not possible to smoothly flow marketing data from different data sources into a spreadsheet with marketing KPIs. There will always be desk research and manual work involved. Another obstacle crops up when you start sharing marketing metrics and results with colleagues, management, customers or stakeholders. Then they might start making suggestions for improvement and corrections, which in turn will lead to time strain and rework of the spreadsheet. In quite a few cases, 'challenging' KPI spreadsheets therefore die a quiet death after a certain time due to too much work. But: to set up basic processes in terms of marketing metrics, they are fine hear.

Are you a fan of the simple structure of Excel, but would still like a digital tool for reporting marketing results? Then try the 'Marketing results' module in Husky. We offer a simple and quick-to-set-up KPI dashboard within which you create KPIs on a monthly basis. This way, we combine the simplicity of an Excel spreadsheet with the flexibility of a digital dashboard tool. Husky also turns your results into a nice graph you can share in presentations with a single click. 

In Husky's marketing results dashboard, you can set up a new marketing KPI with a single click. The system automatically creates a new result line within which you can enter both an objective ('Target' in the example) and a result. If the target is at least achieved, the result figure is green. If the target is not achieved, the figure is red. This way, you have a nice visual timeline with monthly figures. If you click on the name of the KPI, a side window opens where you can enter more information about this KPI. You'll see that a graph is also created automatically. You can quickly and easily copy this to put in a management presentation, for example. 

Our results module is ideal for marketers who need to format and report relatively few KPIs. Manual input is also an advantage here, as it forces you to take a moment to reflect on the results. Reporting to others can be done via an entitlement system (dashboard access) or by pulling a pdf report that neatly organises all results.

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Next-level digital dashboards for marketing results

Perhaps the most professional solution for measuring marketing results is to use a marketing metrics application such as Klipfolio, Google Data Studio, DashThis, Tableau or Cyfe. Below you can see an example of a Google Data Studio dashboard showing marketing results. Impressive, isn't it?

Perhaps the biggest advantage of digital results dashboards is the automatic entry of results. After all, from a Google Data Studio dashboard, you make an automatic connection with marketing data in Google Analytics. So you no longer have to manually extract that data from the system. However, getting non-Google data to run in automatically remains a challenge and in most cases requires the deployment of a basic Excel (which you therefore have to feed manually again) or the use of middle software like Zapier or Supermetrics.

A major disadvantage of such a professional dashboard is that it requires a lot of time and knowledge to get it up and running. In fact, marketers or smaller marketing teams risk getting demotivated when working with such a marketing KPI dashboard. Google Data Studio starts from a white sheet that you have to build all by yourself. So knowledge is required to deliver a professional-looking dashboard. Tools like Klipfolio, on the other hand, offer ready-made templates that you can customise step-by-step.

"Don't measure numbers, but evolutions."

Perhaps the most important consideration when setting up and managing a professional results dashboard is avoiding data overload. After all, charting is so appealing that marketers quickly get lost in data, ignoring the fact that a good dashboard should not show numbers, but trends and evolutions. It is easy to create a KPI dashboard with lots of data, but it is difficult to create one that feeds and underpins strategic decisions for yourself, your colleagues, your management or your stakeholders. So never create a KPI dashboard that displays data, but design one that reflects trends and evolutions.

For me, these are the criteria of a well-designed KPI dashboard:

  • a manageable number of KPIs (no overload)
  • one does not get lost in details
  • the data is readable by those for whom it is intended
  • the designer wants to convey a message
  • the focus is on data visualisation, not data
  • the dashboard contains colour indicators indicating good-moderate-bad 
  • the graphics and colours used are recognisable and limited
  • there is variety in the design (many different types of graphs)
  • the design follows the F-shape in terms of reading direction (the most important data is at the top of the dashboard and to the left in a vertical column)
  • each graph is an answer to a question at the top of the graph

Tip: take a poll with your marketing agency to find out which KPI dashboard they use. It is often easier to make a choice based on a concrete recommendation by people you know and trust. Moreover, you immediately have a coach when setting up your dashboard and you will undoubtedly start sharing data quickly and clearly.

What is the added value of measuring marketing results?

After the above, are you still not completely convinced about the importance of marketing KPIs and measuring, analysing and managing marketing results? Are you dreading the time and energy to visualise your marketing results in a handy overview? Then I will surely convince you with these concrete benefits:

  • setting marketing KPIs forces focus on objectives, metrics and results (you sail less on gut feeling)
  • thanks to a clear dashboard (in whatever tool), you centralise key metrics available in different data sources
  • a KPI dashboard visualises the progress of results so you can keep your finger on the pulse and take proactive action
  • by mapping marketing results, you hold the keys to translate marketing budget and ROI when weighing that budget correctly against relevant results
  • as a marketer, it motivates yourself, your colleagues and your external partners when you work together towards goals and can chart the progress of results 
  • with a results dashboard, you speak the language of management, which relies primarily on figures for decisions, not emotions or gut feelings (they want or demand dashboards, not marketing pitches)

Thanks to a marketing KPI dashboard, marketers get the respect they deserve and are seen as an integral part of the machine that creates leads, sales, profits and growth. Are you a marketer or marketing team leader? Then take your marketing performance to the next level by setting clear goals, mapping marketing results and consistently reporting marketing results within your team and across the organisation.

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Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) help manage marketing results in the future?

US studies expect the market of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in marketing to attract around $2,000 billion by 2030. Without a doubt, artificial intelligence will help marketers gain richer insights about the impact of their marketing campaigns. 

The most common AI and/or machine learning (ML) technologies to manage marketing results may be:

  • intelligent automation that maps conversion rates and optimises them by planning communications based on past results
  • automatic result analysis and visualisation via the impact of different campaigns on various key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • computer vision that interprets images and videos to identify behavioural patterns that can be used to quickly and accurately define future marketing strategies
  • predictive analytics that uses historical data to predict future behaviour in order to anticipate trends, allowing marketers to adjust their strategies accordingly
  • social media monitoring and sentiment analysis where AI tools track and analyse conversations on social media, gather the right insights to make data-driven decisions

Thanks to AI technology, setting up a KPI dashboard with data from multiple sources is likely to be smoother. AI will also help analyse data to give the right insights and it will undoubtedly interpret and explain data faster (than humans). Automating and streamlining marketing metrics through AI will reduce manual work and errors, ensure data quality and consistency, and eliminate biases and inaccuracies.

Because AI can learn from the data it receives, marketers will be able to tap into a new dimension, i.e. get instant predictions based on results that will guide marketing efforts quasi-instantaneously. Today, humans are still mainly responsible for analysing results, but in the future AI will undoubtedly add special value in analysing, structuring and managing marketing results.

 

Start managing your marketing results today through a free trial of Husky Marketing Planner. Schedule campaigns and manage marketing results in a practical results dashboard.

 

"A marketing KPI dashboard process is not a destination, it's a journey."

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