Why a Pretty Dashboard Won’t Help You Succeed in 2020

Adorable african american kid drawing with felt pens at home

2019 was a foundational year for many marketers. While some invested time and resources into new growth opportunities, many focused on securing their foundation in tech, operations, and strategy.

A focus meant to give marketers the stability to tackle those bolder, more audacious growth-focused goals in 2020. So, how can marketers reach for those goals without insights into what has worked, what hasn’t, and what’s needed to reach those goals? 

Picture It: Your Office, November 2019.

Golden Girls Sophia gif


You are sitting at your desk, mapping out your remaining campaigns for the year to ensure you meet those goals you committed to in Q1. Your CEO stops by your desk to ask about marketing’s performance for the year. They pose questions like:

  • Did we reach our lead gen goals?
  • Which campaigns have proven most effective for us?
  • How many qualified leads has marketing passed to sales this quarter?
  • Are you on track to meet your revenue goal?

Maybe your team is prepared to answer questions like this on the fly. Many teams, however, are not.

Marketing Is Growing Up, and so Are Expectations.

As marketing continues to mature, so do expectations. The above scenario has and will become more and more common. Marketers must be able to report on impact and growth, with little to no notice from stakeholders. So, how can marketers keep marketing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) at their fingertips to demonstrate success to stakeholders without delay? A marketing dashboard.


I think it’s safe to assume that many of you reading this post know what a marketing dashboard is. But in case anyone needs some clarity or a refresher, Gartner gives a great definition:

“a reporting mechanism that aggregate and display metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), enabling them to be examined at a glance by all manner of users before further exploration via additional business analytics (BA) tools. Dashboards help improve decision making by revealing and communicating in-context insight into business performance, displaying KPIs or business metrics using intuitive visualization, including charts, dials, gauges and “traffic lights” that indicate the progress of KPIs toward defined targets.”

That’s a mouthful. In simpler terms, a marketing dashboard is a way to visualize marketing metrics and KPIs to prove marketing’s success and effectiveness. I like to think of it as a:

  • Pulse check for marketers to assess the health of their efforts,
  • A validation tool that replaces “gut feelings” with cold, hard numbers that can validate marketing effectiveness, and most importantly
  • A decision-making tool.

It’s not a place for vanity metrics or an overabundance of metrics and KPIs. And it’s not just a place for pretty charts and graphs. While the visualization part of your dashboard is important, it’s not the graphs and charts that make a dashboard effective. It’s the data.

Marketoonist KPI overload cartoon

When metrics and KPIs do more harm than good… via Marketoonist

So, with the preliminaries out of the way, let’s get to the nitty-gritty––building a marketing dashboard.

Building an Effective Marketing Dashboard

There are many types of dashboards out there. Email marketing, lead gen, SEO, email, social, lead gen, email marketing… you name it. For this post, we’re going to focus on building a general KPI dashboard. If you are new to dashboards or ready to upgrade your beginner dashboard, this is great to begin with because it helps you clearly illustrate how marketing is impacting business and revenue growth.


No matter what you’re doing in marketing, always start with your goal(s). Plus, it’s planning and budget season for many marketers which means your goals should be top of mind.

If your team has already developed, validated, and finalized your goals, congratulations! We’ll meet you down in step 2. If not, let’s start by reviewing your company goals.

  • Where is your company headed?
  • What goals have been set by the higher-ups?
  • What does marketing need to do to help your company reach those goals?

Your marketing goals should directly tie into your corporate goals, which means they should be growth and revenue-focused. For example, if your company wants to increase its YOY revenue by 10%, your marketing goal may be to drive 40% of the revenue growth. Whatever the goal, it should not be developed in a bubble. Consider your audience (aka your team and stakeholders) and review it with everyone involved before they are etched in stone.

Whatever the goal, it should not be developed in a bubble. Consider your audience (aka your team and stakeholders) and review it with everyone involved before they are etched in stone.


With your goal(s) confirmed and endorsed by stakeholders, the next step is to determine the KPIs you’ll use to track measure your goals. Let’s go back to the example we used above: your company wants to increase its YOY revenue by 10%, and marketing commits to driving 40% of that revenue growth. What metrics does your team need to influence? What should you be tracking?

There are a few key metrics your team may want to track like:

  • Revenue
  • Lead Generation
  • Engagement
  • Cost Per Lead
  • Website Conversion Rates
  • MQL to SAL Conversion Rate

What’s key is selecting KPIs that will truly demonstrate whether your team is headed in the right direction – towards meeting goals. If a metric does not give you this insight, it may not have a place within your dashboard. This doesn’t mean that said metric is not worth tracking, just that it might better fit on a different dashboard or report.

If steps 1 and 2 are tripping you up, our Change Agents resource set includes some great, simple templates to help guide your thinking.


It’s no secret that marketers are managing an abundance of tools and platforms. Depending on the height of your martech stack, there are lots of different sources to pull data from. Map out what needs to be tracked within your marketing and sales tools like your marketing automation platform (MAP), CRM, and web analytics tools. Each source serves as a different source of truth for specific information.

For instance, your Marketo instance might be your go-to source for all things lead generation and engagement metrics, while your CRM has the most accurate revenue data. Be sure that whatever sources you use provide complete and accurate data.


Goals established ✓

KPIs selected ✓

Data sources confirmed ✓

Now, it’s time to build your reports. Just like there are loads of platforms that exist in our stacks, there are plenty of dashboard vendors out there. When you’re getting started, it’s good to start with the tools already in the toolbox.

Our team uses Salesforce which serves as an excellent reporting tool. It goes beyond the platform-centric reporting that exists within some engagement platforms and allows companies to pull reports that show company-wide impact. Whatever you tool, ensure that it enables you to build reports that measure the KPIs you’ve determined above.


Here’s where you can have some fun. This is the step where you turn those reports into pretty charts and graphs. I caution you not to go overboard here. The graphs and charts on your dashboard need to clearly communicate metrics and KPIs. Your marketing team and stakeholders should be able to glance at your dashboard and understand what’s going on.

Salesforce marketing KPI dashboard

With Salesforce serving as our reporting mechanism, this is where some of our dashboards live.

It’s a Roadmap, Not the Destination.

Your marketing dashboard will help you and your stakeholders make decisions, but it won’t make you successful. Know how to gather, visualize, and interpret the data that lives on your dashboard in order to make decisions that will ultimately drive success.

I hope this post helped you understand the why, what, and how of building your marketing dashboard. And most importantly, put you on track to start 2020 off stronger than ever. If you’re having trouble building your own dashboard, our team can help. And I definitely recommend downloading our Change Agents resource set especially as we close out the year.

About the Author

Kiyana Neil

Kiyana is DemandLab's Marketing and Sales Coordinator. She brings seven years of experience to her role in supporting DemandLab's sales and marketing efforts, leading brand management and corporate communication efforts, and helping to ensure a seamless sales cycle and a better experience for the company's prospects and clients.

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