As a business leader, a big part of your responsibilities involves ensuring existing projects and initiatives within your organization are on track while creating space for smart new strategies.
But with a million and one other things fighting for your attention, it can sometimes be challenging to stay up to date.
Fortunately, there's a tool to help you succeed: KPI dashboards.
KPI dashboards can help you check in with various aspects of your business and make sure everything's running smoothly.
Let's take a closer look at what KPI dashboards are and what they can do to help your marketing team succeed in 2022 and beyond.
Every department from sales to operations needs a dashboard, and dashboards are especially helpful for marketing. Between about a dozen online channels to consider (plus offline marketing efforts), numerous elements go into creating and sustaining a healthy marketing ecosystem.
A KPI dashboard helps marketers and business executives identify what's going on with the elements of their marketing strategy that matter most, where to make changes if things start to go awry, and how to identify opportunities for new initiatives that can spur even greater success.
Getting your dashboard right takes time, but the pay-off is immense. Executives who successfully implement an effective dashboard can get better results and create a more rewarding, enjoyable work atmosphere in which the team has more room for creativity and experimentation.
The KPIs you choose should be related to your strategy and include a mix of forward-looking and backward-looking variables.
While it's tempting to cram every metric you can think of into these reports, that's a big mistake. When you're confronted with a mountain of data, it's nearly impossible to give the most critical numbers the level of scrutiny they deserve.
What should a KPI Dashboard include?
The best dashboards include only five to nine KPIs. These should, after all, be the key performance indicators behind your business playbook.
If you're not sure which data points to focus on, think of it this way: what handful of things could totally tank your business if they went south?
Framing it that way can help you sort the vanity metrics, like the number of monthly social media impressions, from the things that matter, like cost-per-acquisition.
Benefits of a KPI Dashboard
KPI dashboards are great because they make it easy to track progress towards goals. Here are some other reasons why you might want to have one.
1. Detailed Overview
KPI dashboards offer viewers a detailed dive into the progress of an organization. Because they are highly visual, it’s possible to organize, analyze, and filter the most important metrics for any business.
Instead of wading through loads of complex data, KPI dashboards break data down in a simple, easy-to-understand form.
2. Better Decision Making
You need the ability to use accurate, up-to-date data if you want to make good business decisions — and KPI dashboards help you with that.
They show the vital operational data of an organization in one place, so KPIs are more visible. By eliminating data silos, this tool increases analytical efficiency and the ability to make the right data-driven decisions.
3. Real-time Analysis
KPI dashboards allow you to monitor the crucial performance metrics in real-time.
With this information available, decision-makers can make proactive moves and drive better business outcomes.
5 Best KPI Dashboard Software to Use
You’ll need a KPI dashboard software before creating a KPI dashboard. Here are 5 of the best around today.
Hubspot has a free KPI software you can use to quickly create visually appealing KPI dashboards that are easy to understand.
With Hubspot’s KPI dashboard software, you can also pull data from different departments to overview your organization’s performance. You’ll also not have to worry about data breaches as you can control who can access your dashboards.
Geckoboard’s KPI dashboard software allows you to focus on the metrics that matter in your business. It’s easy to build and allows you to pull data from different sources like spreadsheets, databases, and even Zapier integrations.
Klipfolio helps business owners visualize their data to understand how well they’re performing and make informed decisions about the future.
Kilpfolio also stores historical data so that business owners can compare performance over different time periods.
Like Geckoboard, Databox also pulls data from different sources to help teams monitor trends, collaborate better, and make more informed decisions that drive business growth.
Even if you have zero coding skills, you can quickly learn how to use Databox to create great KPI dashboards. Thanks to the over 70 integrations Databox has, you can also easily connect it to other platforms to collect more data.
Zoho is another fantastic business intelligence (BI) and analytics platform you can use to create KPI dashboards.
The drag-and-drop dashboard builder makes the platform super intuitive even if you have no prior training. You can also access the report you create on Zoho from your phones and tablets, making it great for mobility.
Once you’ve chosen the software you want, here are some of the best tips and practices to help you create an excellent KPI dashboard.
1. Know your audience
Knowing your audience is essential to any marketing endeavor, and the same is true of creating a KPI dashboard.
Therefore, you must know who’ll work with the KPIs and the kind of information they’ll need to design the KPI dashboard correctly. For example, you can’t expect the same dashboard you create for an executive audience to work for a sales team.
2. Keep it relatively simple
Whether you’re creating a dashboard for busy managers with only minutes to spare or for a team with time to spare to delve into details, your dashboard needs to provide critical information in a simple, easy-to-understand format.
3. Include only what is needed
The heart of any KPI dashboard is brevity and utility. Therefore, stick to including only the most critical and insightful KPIs needed for meeting business and organizational goals.
4. Draft your design
The design of the KPI dashboard will depend on the composition, distribution, comparison, or relationship of the metrics.
For example, a dashboard for analyzing trends will comprise column or line charts. On the other hand, a dashboard for data composition will give the best benefits if you make it with maps or stacked charts.
Here are a few KPI dashboards examples. Notice that they've honed in on only the most critical metrics and display the information in clear, concise, easy-to-digest visual formats.
1. Subscription Model Dashboard
Subscription-based businesses are cropping up all over the place. From razors to clothes to meal prep kits, just about anything you could want or need in your daily life can be delivered to your doorstep regularly.
The subscription model is great because it guarantees businesses recurring revenue — a subscriber locks into your service for a set period, meaning regular monthly income for the term of service.
In this example, the leadership team has chosen to focus on metrics that give them a sense of how much monthly and yearly revenue they expect to make and their churn rate.
With this dashboard, the leadership team can quickly identify any potential issues from that handful of data points before those issues become mission-critical.
For example, let’s say the leadership team notices a steady rise in the churn rate, which isn’t ideal.
From there, they could start digging deeper, asking questions about what changes they could make to entice more of their existing customers to renew their membership.
2. Large Ticket Item Dashboard
This dashboard from DataPine is the kind that could be useful to a marketing team in just about any industry that has a high price point — and, therefore, a high customer acquisition cost. Their focus is on nine of the biggest metrics that give them insight into their strategy’s success.
Rather than focusing on granular numbers, like Twitter followers gained or the number of likes on each piece of content shared on Facebook, they're measuring numbers linked directly to their budget and tie in with the sales team's efforts.
Understanding acquisition numbers and cost-per-acquisition provides valuable insight far beyond the reach of the marketing department.
Issues with poor cost-per-acquisition can indicate a need to cut ad spend, but they might also be hinting at a need to change the pricing structure for your offerings. Or they might mean that the sales team needs to shorten lead time to increase the number of acquisitions per month.
No matter what is ultimately identified as the source of the problem, having a dashboard empowers all of your teams to have informed, collaborative discussions about challenges facing your business that are backed up by actual data and numbers.
3. Deals Closed Dashboard
Epec Engineered Technologies uses HubSpot's reporting features to create a sleek KPI dashboard with all the most critical information, including "Form to MQL" and "First Page Seen.”
This is an undeniably helpful KPI dashboard to see whether your marketing strategy aligns with your goals. The "First Page Seen" section shows you which pages your visitors initially interact with — if that page hasn't been updated in a while, consider optimizing it for higher conversions.
Additionally, the "Marketing qualified lead" vs. "Sales qualified lead" categories, shown in chart-form under "RFQ to MQL,” will help you tailor your strategy and determine which leads convert at the highest percentage and what you might do to even out any disparities.
4. Marketing Leads Dashboard
This dashboard made by Geek Dashboard is a fantastic example of how your marketing team can use a KPI dashboard to measure your team's performance, particularly through leads and conversions.
It's clear and concise, focusing on the significant factors for marketing — leads, and percent of conversions compared to goal. Additionally, the visuals help your team stay focused on the most critical aspects of your strategy to ensure you're on track to hit your monthly or yearly goals.
KPI Dashboard Excel Templates
If you're ready to start creating your own KPI dashboard, the good news is that there are tons of resources out there to help you get it done.
HubSpot offers dashboard templates that integrate with Excel, Google Drive, and PowerPoint, so you can easily track those all-important metrics within the program that works best for you and your team.
Smartsheet provides Excel templates for a variety of marketing dashboards.
So whether you're looking for a broad template for tracking big KPIs to more specific templates for social media marketing, Smartsheet has you covered.
Best of all, the templates are free to download on their website.
Eloquens offers a marketing dashboard template with metrics that they've broken down into seven major categories. These categories include sales effectiveness, customer metrics, and budget metrics, and each category has several KPIs that you can choose to track.
You’ve Created a Dashboard, Now What?
Once you've gotten your first marketing dashboard up and running, the real fun begins! Start pulling the numbers regularly — weekly or monthly, depending on how quickly things move in your business. Then, review it regularly and start to look for patterns.
When a number crops up that surprises you, it's time to examine the cause.
Having all of your marketing information displayed in this simple dashboard makes it easier to identify the source of the potential issue and get feedback from the most relevant parties about what could be behind the startling data point.
Once you think you've identified the source of the change, it's time to do some experimenting. If you missed your goal, try a new approach. If your numbers exceeded expectations, tweak things to lean into whichever existing strategies are most responsible for the high numbers.
Make changes slowly so that you can see how every shift in approach influences your results. Additionally, keep tracking those KPIs regularly so that you can understand the effects of each new tactic.
No matter what, you want to keep returning to your dashboard. This document should become your North Star, guiding your shifts in strategy and providing you with the information you need to understand which strategies drive the best results.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.