If you’re working in marketing or sales, dashboards are a regular part of your day: dashboards for visitor data, email data, conversion rates and sales performance, to name a few.
Square 2, the revenue growth agency responsible for bringing MAXG to market, produces dashboards for each stage of the Cyclonic Buyer Journey. That’s eight separate dashboards, each with a wide variety of data points, to tell our clients the story of how their marketing is performing.
Our research on our own clients shows that each has, on average, 6.4 active dashboards that we review with them regularly. Some people might find this progressive – we find it complex, and in an effort to improve the performance of our clients’ programs, we’re skipping the dashboard.
The Challenges With Data, Analytics And Dashboards
It seems like the major marketing and sales tech companies are measuring their own performance based on the number of dashboards they provide their customers and amount of data they sort. But more is not always better, and in this case, more is definitely not better.
The more dashboards you have, the more time you spend sifting through them; the more reports you generate, the more time looking at them trying to uncover insights.
But the end game should not be the reports, dashboards or data – the end game should be insights that drive action.
Therein lies the major problem with all these dashboards and analytics: They are devoid of insights, and all of them fail to provide recommendations.
As an analogy, think about the plumber who comes to your house to fix your clogged drain. She brings a hammer, screwdriver, plunger and snake. Those tools don’t tell her how to unclog your drain. Yes, she needs them to do her work, but her skills, experience and training provide the direction, and the tools make the job easier and more efficient.
This is exactly what’s going on in marketing today. You have tools such as HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce, SEMrush, Seventh Sense, Drift and Conversica. These are your tools. Not one of them tells you how to generate more and better leads, or how to close more leads more quickly.
They especially don’t work magic on their own. We get a lot of calls from people using these tools who are unable to get sustainable business results from them.
Not All Numbers Are Created Equal
How do you know if you’re doing well? How do you know if your website, which gets 10,000 visits a month, is doing well or badly? How does your site compare to those of your competitors or other companies of your size? How do you know if your landing page optimization plans are working? Even if they’re generating improvements, are you missing the chance to do even more?
When you read blog articles, watch videos, attend conferences or download content from the web, you’re generally getting a ton of generic recommendations, as well as best practices that are even more generic.
An article with a title like 10 Ways To Improve Landing Page Performance has nothing to do with your company, your industry, your website, your visitors, your prospects or your landing pages.
All numbers are not created equal, and the key to improving marketing performance is knowing your numbers and making changes that are specific to your goals.
Generating Dashboards Is Just The First Step
Getting access to the data was a challenge for a long time, but it no longer is. Today, software makes creating dashboards easy. All the marketing automation, sales tools and add-on tech stack products provide their own dashboards and analytical tools.
Which means marketers can move onto the next challenge: understanding what the data is telling you and what you need to do, based on that data.
Think about the presentations you’ve sat through where people stood up and read you the numbers from their graphs or dashboards. Leads are up 10%, visitors are down 10%, conversion rate is up 10%, sales opportunities are down 10%. How is that helpful?
Every wonder why leads are up 10% or why visitors are down 10%? Ever ask that question – and ever wonder why the answer sounded like a hedge or a guess?
Marketers have to rise to the occasion; they have to get smarter about what they’re doing. The only way they will is to get better at insights and creating action plans associated with specific insights.
Where Marketing Meets Results
The secret of success is extracting insights and recommendations from the sea of data. You must be wondering, “How do I do that?”
The major challenge here is that you need roughly 10,000 hours of experience sifting through data, uncovering insights, acting on those insights and seeing results.
And it often takes months to know if your action plan produced better results. If you manage marketing for one company, you might only get 10 to 15 chances each year to run an enhanced program based on your insights. So it will take years to get enough experience to be considered an expert.
Agencies, on the other hand, have the benefit of working with multiple clients. If the agency is big enough, it might have 40 to 50 active clients at a time, all generating data that can serve as the basis of insights and recommendations. The agency’s mission is to create action plans, execute them and prove their ROI.
It’s hard to replicate this experience in an in-house scenario. And for smaller agencies (those with five or six accounts), it might take years to gain the same level of experience a bigger agency gets in a single year.
You can see how this applies to many underperforming programs. The marketers just don’t have enough people with enough experience to quickly analyze data, derive insights, create recommendations and watch over an action plan to create positive results.
Instead, you see underperforming programs, high agency client turnover, high CMO turnover and a huge number of companies missing their revenue goals – month over month.
You Need A Process For Creating Action Plans
You can fix the situation by creating a process around uncovering insights and turning them into action.
Consider this process:
Analyze – Take you dashboards, then create a process for analyzing the data regularly. This would be daily for some data points (such as leads or blog views), weekly for others (such as email, conversion rates or site visitor sources) and monthly for longer-term trend data (such as leads, sales ops and new customer revenue numbers).
Often it’s only when you look at a series of data points or a collection of different data together that insights appear. For example, low homepage conversion rates might be related to messaging, page flow, UI/UX design, content strategy or other variables that only heat-mapping data would uncover.
By knowing what to look at, experienced revenue scientists can highlight what’s interesting or what could be changed to produce better results.
Review – The review stage is important because it includes creating additional views and sharing findings with a larger group. The review process at Square 2 involves brainstorming, sharing and coming up with testable ideas.
For example, looking at longer trends within the data almost always produces interesting insights. You can look at three months’ worth of website traffic data and see flat performance, then look at 13 months’ worth of data and realize that you’re doing better this year than you were doing the same month last year.
What does that tell you? What are you doing this year that you weren’t doing last year? What might be causing this year’s visitor data to plateau, when it was increasing last year at this time?
Respond – Once you’ve reviewed the data and identified what’s going on (or what you think is going on), you have to create a plan. This is where the recommendations come into play.
What upgrades do you want to install? What programs do you want to shut down, and what marketing tactics do you want to ramp up? You won’t be able to do everything because of the limits of your time and resources: You’ll have to prioritize.
Prioritize based on what will have the biggest impact for the least amount of effort. This is going to force you to pick the best recommendations first and then fill in around them. You’ll get the best lift by taking this approach.
Action – Create your action plan. What tests do you need to run? When will they start? Who needs to be involved? How long will they run? What results do you expect? Ideally, your action plan should include 30 days’ worth of tests, upgrades, launches and adjustments to whatever tactics are currently in play. It should also include stopping anything that is underperforming or not performing as expected.
The faster you can run this Analyze, Review, Respond and Act cycle, the better your results.
The End Game Is Business Results And Outcomes
Leveraging AI is finally a real option for enabling business results and outcomes. Instead of creating analytics dashboards, start getting access to insights and recommendations based on your program data, goals, company, industry and execution.
One AI-based tool is MAXG. It can be set up in seconds to give you access to your data by connecting to open APIs in software such as Google Analytics and HubSpot. It looks at your data every day and provides insights and recommendations for improving the performance of your website, emails, landing pages, blogs, content offers, social posts and more.
And every day, it gives you a prioritized list of action items that will drive better performance from your marketing programs. This list is based on a methodology that prioritizes tasks that will produce bigger results in less time.
But it gets better. Because MAXG is based on AI, it learns from the performance of the recommendations you execute. As your marketing program improves, MAXG knows what to recommend and it gets smarter.
The more people who use the software, the smarter it gets. It’s the future of marketing and it’s the future of how you’ll interact with marketing technology.
The entire Square 2 client base is already using MAXG, and the results are impressive. Clients are getting better results, so they’re continuing their engagements and providing references. We’re planning to publish a comprehensive research study later this year to document the improvement in results.