The biggest mistakes when it comes to dashboards and how to avoid them
Why does everyone seem to be pushing dashboards right now?
Dashboards seem like the new “it” thing right now in business. Everyone seems to want them if they don’t already have them. But what are the benefits to having dashboards, and what are the most common drawbacks?
We answer these questions, and more, in our guest appearance on the Less Doing Podcast with Ari Meisel, featured here:
What is the biggest mistake that people make with dashboards?
The biggest mistake that people make with dashboards is making the assumption that visualizing the data through a dashboard will magically give them insights. Dashboards help you visualize your data, which can help you to understand your data better, but it’s not going to help you track something new. Many people see beautiful dashboards and they assume that it must be a good dashboard, but the underlying data is much more important than how it’s displayed.
What most people are looking for is not just a data visualization tool, but a business intelligence tool. A business intelligence tool allows you to pull all of your data together in one place, and allows you to see the relationships between what may seem like disparate metrics and systems. By utilizing a business intelligence tool, you can gain new insights from your data and decide how to take action from those new insights.
A lot of businesses use their dashboards only to display what we call “vanity metrics”. They can easily find these metrics elsewhere, and they don’t necessarily deliver insights. Businesses need to use their dashboards to visualize the relationships between different data. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be visualized… We have lots of clients that just want to see their numbers all aggregated together in one place. The most important thing is that you can take action from the data that you see. These systems need to give you new, unique insights into your data, or they have wasted your money.
What is your plan?
Your dashboards need to give you insights. The question that people ask next is “What do I do with those insights?”. You need to have a plan in place so that you know exactly what will happen when something changes, or you realize something new. At Praxis, we don’t build a metric unless there is an action tied to that metric. The visual part of the dashboard doesn’t actually matter that much, what matters is that the person who is in charge of that metric can understand what is happening with that metric, and what needs to happen.
We have had clients come to us asking for metrics, and once we have built it out, the client then asked “What now?”. They had no idea why they needed to track that metric, or what actions they needed to take off it, they had just heard other people talking about it and wanted to be ‘in the know’.
Before you start tracking something, you need to have a plan in place as to what you hope to accomplish with that metric. You need to know exactly who takes responsibility for that metric, and what action steps you will take based off that metric. Once you have a plan in place, you will actually see value delivered from your dashboards and analytics.
What are the core metrics that almost every business should track?
Every business NEEDS to know the lifetime value of their customers. But they need to know more than just the LTV, they need to know what impacts it as well. It’s important for every business to break out their LTV as much as possible and make it as granular as possible. Your LTV can vary based off the first product they purchased, what platform referred them to you, and even what ad they clicked on. The aggregate LTV isn’t enough, you need to know the granular specifics of the things that impact it.
By understanding the specifics of what impacts your LTV, you can fine-tune how you interact with your customers and drive that number higher. The goal of this metric is not to know it, but to drive it higher.
Most businesses know this number, but they also need to know their acquisition cost by channel. This will allow you to see how each channel performs individually and see which channel is worthy of your ad spend.
In order to unlock the full potential of this metric though, you need to overlay your acquisition costs with your cost of goods sold, and customer lifetime value. When you put these metrics side-by-side, that will give you the formula for your allowable acquisition cost. This formula becomes one of the most powerful assets that a business can have if utilized properly. We have had clients grow more than 3000% once they have these numbers figured out.
Month over month/ year over year revenues-
While most businesses track this, few businesses take the time to analyze the effects of seasonality on their customers. Even fewer businesses look at their revenue by source. One of the best things that you can do as a business is figure out which platforms perform the best during different seasonal shifts. Should you spend more on Instagram advertising during the summer, or the winter? These insights can help businesses rapidly scale, and can make the difference between breaking out into success and dying off.
At what point does a business have enough data to start tracking these things?
Everyone thinks that only enterprise-level companies can leverage ‘big data’, or that they haven’t reached a level of sophistication to need that type of granularity; but in today’s marketplace, everyone has ‘big data’. Our phones alone contain unbelievable amounts of data about us, every website tracks a multitude of variables on their visitors. The main difference between an enterprise level company and a start-up is that the enterprise level company recognizes that they need to capitalize on their data in order to succeed, while many start-ups fail to recognize it’s importance.
Small businesses use, on average, 8 different technology platforms. Each of those platforms has their own way of tracking data and keeps a small portion of your data hidden away within their platform. The trick is to get all of those disparate systems to talk to one another, or at very least pass all of that data in to your dashboard so that you can analyze the relationships between them and gain greater insights.
Honestly, the best time to start tracking is as soon as you begin operating as a business. The next best time is right now. Tracking your data properly can transform your business in ways that you would not believe.
No business suffers from a lack of data, generally they just don’t know what data to focus on, and what will actually make a difference for their business.
How can I maximize the net benefit from tracking and dashboards?
The most important lesson that you can gain here is that your output is only as good as your input. The first thing that you can do in order to maximize your results is make sure that you have standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place. Because of the tedious nature of this work, many businesses overlook it or neglect it; but the best businesses don’t.
Many employees drag their feet when it comes to SOPs, they think that it doesn’t add enough value to be worth their time. One of the best ways to help them get past this thinking is to show them what’s possible when they utilize them vs what they lose by not utilizing them properly.
Lots of businesses ask, whether they should start with their tracking and make sure that they have done a good job with their tracking, or if they should start with dashboards and visualization. Either one works. If you start with visualization, that can help you to see exactly where you need to improve your tracking. If you start with tracking, then when you move on to visualization, you can have confidence in your data, knowing that it’s accurate.
What can companies do to prepare themselves to work with dashboards or data analysis?
Every company should know what questions they want answered before they ever start working with dashboards and data analysis. Go beyond buzzwords and jargon and really figure out what questions you have that you need answers to in order to progress your business. So start with your company’s goals, and then ask yourself what you need to know in order to achieve those goals. From there, you can drill down and begin to look at the metrics and numbers that contain the answers to those questions.
Once you know the numbers that you need to be pulling, you need to validate your data and make sure that everything tracks properly. Most companies struggle with their Google Analytics reporting, and their use of UTMs. If you struggle with either of these, we can help. For Google Analytics issues, we have an Analytics audit that will run through your entire Google Analytics account and pinpoint issues for you. You can find more on that service here: https://praxismetrics.com/google-analytics-audit/
If you’re struggling with the use of UTMs, or have no idea what they even are, we can also help. We have a course that will take you from UTM zero to hero in less than a day. You can find more information on that here: https://praxismetrics.com/utm-foundations-course/
Once you have your tracking in order, and you know what questions you’re answering with that tracking, it’s time to organize your objectives by feasibility and value. We like to map the objectives across quadrants: high feasibility, high value; high feasibility, low value; low feasibility, high value; low feasibility, low value. Obviously, we want to work through these from highest feasibility and value to lowest feasibility and value.
How can we better track and prevent customer churn?
The first thing that you want to track with customer churn is by source. You need to know which of your traffic sources produces the lowest value customers (those with the highest churn), so that you can pinpoint the issue. Do you need to better explain your offerings on that platform, do you need better qualifications on clients that come from that source?
We also want to analyze retention rates over time, and by cohort. This allows us to see trends over time that increased or decreased churn rates. This helps tremendously in measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and the actual impact that they have on your overall business.
For subscription based businesses, most of them already track the days to cancellation; but they primarily track the average. The problem is that averages are inherently evil. Averages tell us a line from a story, but we need to know the entire story in order to truly understand. In order to know truly when you need to act, you need to know a lot more than an average. You need to know the days that people are most likely to cancel, so that you can update your nurturing sequences in order to reach those people before they leave.
How can I be more effective?
Too many people isolate departments, data, and communication in their organizations. By democratizing data and decision-making processes, you can take full advantage of the expertise of all of the unique people on your team. The more eyes that you can have on a problem, the more unique perspectives you can gain, and the more solutions you can come up with.
In order to progress your business, you need to be able to pinpoint what worked and didn’t work. If you’re not tracking everything you do, it’s infinitely harder to replicate success and eliminate waste.
Too many people spend too much time doing menial tasks. We’ve seen executives spending all of their time pulling reports and data together, rather than analyzing it for insights. Automation may have a high up-front investment, but it pays massively over time. It saves companies thousands of dollars in man-hours, plus all of the human error that goes into the reporting.
If you find yourself struggling with any of those issues, we can help!
We have a myriad of resources here on the blog, but if you’d like more help with your tracking and getting that set up, visit us here: https://praxismetrics.com/google-analytics-audit/
If you need help with automation or visualization, please visit us here: https://praxismetrics.com/dashboards/ltv-dashboards/
And lastly, if you just want to talk to someone about your needs, drop us a line here: https://praxismetrics.com/talk-to-a-data-expert/