When he took the stage of Data Marketing 2017 this week in Toronto, Inbox Marketer exec Matt Anstett decided to do a little A/B testing — but it had nothing to do with e-mail.
Instead, Inbox Marketer’s director of data and analytics showed several pairs of head shots and quizzed the audience on which they recognized. There was astrophysicist Alan Guth and Neil Degrasse Tyson, a popular science commentator on TV. There was Bill James, who pioneered several areas of statistical analysis, and Billy Beane, who applied stats analysis to baseball. There was Steve Wozniak, who created the earliest products at Apple, and Steve Jobs, who is widely heralded as Apple’s master marketer.
“As great as an analysis is, it really needs someone to tell a story and to put it into action to make it valuable at all,” Anstett explained. “Marketers have the skill to tell that story, but we tend to think about it externally — what we’re doing towards customers — and not internally. Dashboards allow us to do that.”
Though the concept of marketing dashboards, whether they’re for e-mail or other aspects of marketing, have been around for years, of course. According to Anstett, however, Inbox Marketer has identified some common areas marketers tend to miss.
“Everyone gets bogged down in the technology and all this data that’s out there, but the fundamentals are important — that things get built property,” he said.
To that end, Inbox Marketer has what Anstett described as a “heuristic” or formula to think about making sure dashboards provide real value:
Dashboard usefulness = insights generated x (+audience appeal, +visual appeal, – time to explain, -data availability barriers)
In terms of “audience appeal,” Anstett recommended no more than four to eight items on a dashboard to eliminate clutter. Each report should also serve to answer the “five Ws,” such as who, what, when, where and why. “Time to explain,” meanwhile, should be as brief as possible, which is why Anstett said marketers should keep operational reports (which explain what happened) and strategic reports (why it happened and what should be done) separate.
“Color, font size, chart types — all the usual report rules you’d hear from Google or elsewhere apply,” he added. And of course, dashboards should be as interactive as possible. One good report with a strong dynamic visualization should generate the value of 10 static reports, he said.
Once you know what you’re aiming for, Inbox Marketer believes the basic process of creating dashboards is fairly intuitive, Anstett said. It would include developing the requirements, looking at the data you have or need, prototyping and then getting feedback from users. The critical thing is to have a real strategy that supports what the dashboard is supposed to deliver, he said.
“A lot of companies have some semblance of a strategy, but sits in IT and doesn’t translate out through the rest of the company,” he said. “It’s not just the chief data officer, it’s not just the CTO. The marketer really needs to take responsibility for some of this.”
Data Marketing Toronto 2017 wrapped up Tuesday.