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Why marketing performance dashboards rely on good data organization

Written by Sean Dougherty,
4-minute read

The best marketing performance dashboards can deliver stunning visualizations that clearly highlight critical insights while also telling a compelling story. 

Those powerful dashboards don’t just build themselves, though. In fact, if the underlying data isn’t managed and organized properly, the outcome can be confusing or misleading graphics. 

So how can marketers ensure that their performance dashboards are using high-quality data? The answer is to identify your mess, tidy it up by categorizing your data, and ensure that your data follows uniform formatting. 

Identify the data journey

You can’t hope to properly organize your data without understanding the pipeline it travels through. Like any road trip, your data’s journey is composed of its source, any marketing data hubs it passes through, the visualization destination, and the final marketing performance dashboard. 

At each of these points, data is being processed either by software or by human hands. 

For example, software may make assumptions about the raw data at the ad platform level by attributing conversion traffic sources as organic versus an ad campaign. However, if you step back and think about it, where exactly is that line being drawn? That conversion may have originally arrived at the site or come into contact with the brand through organic means. This could have happened several times. Then, they may have interacted with an ad, which finally pushed them over the edge into a converted customer. 

Surely, this conversion can be attributed to the ad. That part of the customer journey can be directly followed. However, organic efforts and above-the-line marketing should also be receiving attribution at some point.

ConversionRateBySource_graphic-01It’s important to ensure that you, the marketer, know where this attribution line is in your customer journey. You may want to invest in an attribution tool, or (as we point out in the video below) you could be trying to identify contribution rate on an aggregate level. Otherwise, your marketing performance dashboards may be giving an outsized portion of “credit” to the digital ad spend, when that’s actually just one piece of a much broader picture.

 

 

Transformation with a human touch

'Human users can also have a major impact on your data’s journey to its dashboard destination. Once data is collected from multiple platforms and is sent to a marketing data hub, it likely needs to be transformed or “cleaned”. 

Consider this: if you are running an ad campaign across Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the formatting of certain data points may match up perfectly. Items like currency, numerical values, time zones, and more may each be treated differently across the different platforms. They may also use slightly different names for certain metrics and dimensions (i.e. one platform calls it “spend” and another calls it “amount spent”).

If you want to build an effective marketing performance dashboard, you’ll need to make sure that all of the data is speaking the same language. In the case of numerical formatting, for instance, your visualization tool may not recognize formats from other countries.

To illustrate this, let's compare ad spend in the US and Sweden. On the first line in the table below, you see the raw values for each country in native currency. In line two, the Swedish Kronor has been converted to US dollars. However, if you sent this information to your visualization tool, you would likely be given a broken report. That’s because, in Sweden, a comma is used in place of the decimal point. Plus, Sweden uses a space rather than a comma to delineate factors of 100 (thousand, million, billion, etc.). 

Sweden USA
1 250 000,00 SEK $1,748,500.00
$125 426,00 $1,748,500.00

 

Transforming your data and ensuring your data is organized consistently for all platforms is a critical step in making sure your marketing performance dashboards are stable, reliable, and delivering accurate insights. 

There is still one critical step of our data organization checklist that has a major impact on your overall dashboard. 

Group and categorize your data strategically

As we recently covered, it is crucially important to consider the makeup of your audience when building dashboards and digital marketing reporting. Effective presenters understand that they should curate which content makes it into a given dashboard, and (depending on the story being told) which KPI will be given prominence. 

This leads us perfectly, then, into how we consider the organization of those dashboards. 

Are your visualizations based on time? Are they displaying the performance on different platforms alphabetically or by volume? 

While we cover in our Funnel Tip that it is most ideal to arrange your data in a given graphic in ascending-to-descending order, that may not always be ideal. For example, if you are comparing three metrics for all of your ad platforms in consecutive or side-by-side graphics, then it may make sense to list the platforms alphabetically. This way, the reader can make quick visual comparisons. 

Additionally, your marketing performance dashboard is likely broken down into different sections. That means you need to make decisions about what those sections are and what data sets are relative to that section. Organizing your visualizations into the correct sections will help your dashboard more effectively tell a cohesive story. 

While it can be a bit easy to go deep “into the weeds” when you’re trying to organize your data, it’s important to keep in mind what purpose this organization will serve. Organizing your data at the beginning of the pipeline helps to ensure it’s on a path to successful reporting. Transforming data ensures that your visualizations accurately represent all data collected. And strategically categorizing your data across your reporting and marketing performance dashboards helps ensure you are telling a great story through your data. Combining all three steps ensures that you are presenting insightful visualizations that have the power to positively impact the business. 

For a deeper dive into how data warehouses can play a part in your data pipeline and organization, check out our Funnel Tip.