We’ve not all got tens of thousands of pounds to invest in marketing automation software that comes with a built-in marketing dashboard. But just because you’re not using fancy software, doesn’t mean you can’t create a marketing dashboard to monitor your marketing activity.
There are plenty of freely available tools out there that can help you begin to understand the return on investment (ROI) from your marketing activity. And with a rigorous, methodical reporting processes it’s possible to gather data and monitor your marketing activity through a single dashboard. So, I hear you say, what do you use and how do you do it?
Like most people, we struggle to do our own marketing. We don’t spend much on it and so it’s not a big driver for us to understand whether we get a significant ROI from it (yes, yes, I know). Obviously, we need to know where to spend our time, but generally, we do what we need to and only ‘just enough’. Quite symptomatic of most small businesses.
We do however, monitor ROI closely for our clients. We simply wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t. For some of them we review ROI at the campaign level and then bring the stats together to report on the whole ROI against a given marketing budget. Setting it up from scratch with clients is simple, you just need to be dedicated and report back monthly against intended forecast activity. This usually involves a significant amount of work in Excel, access to their CRM and any marketing tools they’re using such as Google Ads, Google Analytics, Hootsuite (or equivalent), their email dispatch system and any other marketing activity reports.
For other clients, their marketing reporting comes from disparate systems, reporting is fractured, budgets extend into multiple pots and the spend is in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. Then it becomes more complicated. Spend is split across multiple channels, reported in multiple ways and is somewhat complex.
Some of our clients monitor performance based on the number of meetings attended, others on pipeline generated and others on sales revenue. We tend to favour pipeline simply because most of our clients have purchase cycles of between 6 and 24 months, so attributing ROI to a particular period is difficult – you don’t necessarily know what delivered the revenue, nor can you see revenue for that specific period. Pipeline gives us a snapshot at a given time, so we know how we’re doing and can look at activity in aggregate. We can also look at pipeline flow to assess how opportunities are progressing over long time frames.
With that, we then go a bit deeper. We look at channel and type of work. What is delivering and is it against target? Where are we under-performing and what other activity can we up-weight to bolster pipeline where there’s a shortfall?
Using past performance to support future thinking
From our previous analysis, we know what the average conversion rates are on certain types of activity. We also know how long it takes for certain types of activity to convert. We also know the average value of the different types of activity. So if we’re under-performing, we know which levers to pull quickly to drive revenue and when things are going a bit too well, we know which levers to release. We do this through our marketing dashboard, which is currently driven through Microsoft Excel with data from Salesforce.
Then, we start to look at the nitty gritty: the detail at campaign level. What worked, what didn’t, which campaigns performed the highest, which events had better traction and so on and so forth. Taking the two pronged approach where we look holistically at marketing ROI through the marketing dashboard and then at a detailed level gives us different insight and different types of reporting.
Drawing in campaign data for accurate reporting
At the holistic level, you report both on aggregate and top line figures. These figures are suitable for the board, inform budgetary decisions and sales forecasts for management. The accuracy of these reports depends on much more granular information though: campaign information. Without that, the aggregated data can’t be created.
At the campaign level, you report on detailed performance. What activity is driving action and ultimately delivering conversions? (Remember, conversions can be actions as well as purchases). Whilst the campaign might perform well and the conversions were achieved, 12 months on are those opportunities still in the pipeline and what stage are they at? Tracking over time within a CRM system is essential and having that hooked up to your activity is critically important. Otherwise, how will you know if it’s working?