Just 45 minutes before a client meeting, a colleague asked me for help with a dashboard they were presenting about lead generation performance. When done well, it should take five seconds to understand the story a dashboard is telling – it took me five minutes to decipher this dashboard. I couldn’t imagine it was going to be any easier for those in the meeting! The best dashboards empower our B2B clients to ask and answer questions about their marketing performance and make data-driven business decisions. Dynamic, interactive dashboards uplevel static spreadsheets or reports and make data approachable and intuitive to clients. This is the story of the principles I used, under a tight timeline, to effectively visualize data for our clients.

Original dashboard

Marketing Analytics dashboard1

Understand the audience and why the data matters to them

The right way to design a dashboard all depends on who is going to use it and the insights they need. Before I could help my colleague with the redesign, they had to explain to me that the main user of the report was the client’s marketing manager who needed to have a 360-degree view of the leads that we had helped generate thus far. The main questions the marketing manager needed answered were:

  • In what channel was the lead’s initial touchpoint?
  • What stage are they in the buyer journey?
  • How have they engaged with the client since becoming a lead?
  • What campaigns did they come from?

Once I was able to understand the audience and the questions that needed to be answered with the dashboard, I was able to begin the redesign.

The approach

My approach to redesigning this dashboard was to make sure our client could not only answer existing questions they had about lead generation performance, but that they could ask new questions based on the data.

Interactive dashboards enable users to ask questions of the data based on what they see, which allows them to explore beyond the prebaked questions that they have. They allow users to stay in the flow of analysis without needing to use dropdown filters. They are most effective when a user can drill into row-level data based on what they are seeing in the aggregated data.

I focused on three principles to ensure that our client was able to dynamically understand the lead generation performance based on the strategy that we were helping them implement – simplify, situate, and clarify.

Simplify

The goal here is to make sure that every visual in the dashboard is intentional and not repetitive.

I repurposed the four visuals below so that each one provided a different perspective on our lead generation activity. I condensed the two leads by stage (# and %) into one. The Leads by UTM Campaign table is the most granular in the dashboard, so we weren’t doing the client any favors by having additional attributes in there. I removed UTM Source from the Leads by UTM Campaign table and created a separate visual for UTM Source.

Step 1

Marketing Analytics dashboard 2

Now that we had our visuals simplified, the next step was to situate the visuals so that our client would be able to drill easily into campaign information.

Situate

The positioning of the visuals is a crucial aspect to our client’s ability to stay in the flow of analysis while drilling into specific campaign information. People engage with dashboards in the same way they read books: left to right, top to bottom. As such, the highest aggregation should be in the top left, and each visual should incrementally lead to the most granular information in the bottom right-hand corner. I positioned the cards across the top so that the client would be able to get a pulse on the lead generation performance with a quick glance. I then reordered the four visuals to reflect the sequence in which our clients asked the questions that I stated in the introduction:

  • In what channel was the lead’s initial touchpoint?
  • What stage are they in the buyer journey?
  • How have they engaged with the client since becoming a lead?
  • What campaigns did they come from?
Step 2

Marketing Analytics dashboard 3

Clarify

My philosophy behind creating an interactive dashboard was useless if our client did not know what they were viewing. As such, my last step was to make sure the client would be able to understand and interact with the data.

I wanted to make sure the dashboard reflected how our client understood their lead generation strategy. I translated the titles and database nomenclature within the report into marketing terms that they would easily understand. I changed the Leads by Stage visualization to resemble a funnel. We had helped our client implement those stages to help them understand where their leads were in the sales funnel – so I wanted the visualization to be consistent with the methodology that we had helped them adopt.

In order to make sure our client understood how the dashboard works, I added a with instructions in the top left corner and added instructions in red under the titles of the four visuals.

Given that the primary metric in this dashboard is lead count, I wanted to make sure that the colors were consistent in each of the visuals so that the client could easily understand that the metric being aggregated was lead count.

Final result

Marketing Analytics dashboard 4

Conclusion

In just 45 minutes, these three principles helped transform this report from seemingly disparate charts on a page to an intuitive, interactive dashboard that our client could use to understand and further explore lead generation performance.

As an agency, dashboards are not just an opportunity for us to help our clients understand their marketing performance. They are a tool to empower both the client and us at the agency to ask new questions and uncover insights that together help us run more effective marketing strategies.