Is your marketing dashboard lying to you?

Metrics tracking systems provide instant access to dozens of different data sources, but your marketing efforts may be relying on misleading and inaccurate information.

You’ve been told that your company needs a dashboard to measure the efficacy of your marketing efforts, so you found a system that lets you track a variety of metrics. Now you have access to dozens of different metrics and can quickly get an overview of what’s happening beneath the surface.

But did you know it’s possible that your marketing dashboard is actually lying to you? This has become a dangerous problem for many companies and you need to ensure your marketing efforts aren’t suffering as a result of inaccurate information.

At first, it may seem strange that something like a marketing dashboard could be misleading. But when you really begin to study all of the different variables that come into play, it becomes clear that issues are actually quite common.

Here are a few ways your dashboard may be lying to you.

Ambiguous or poorly captured metrics: There’s nothing more dangerous than a dashboard that does a poor job of collecting data. Data integrity is the key to dashboard success and ambiguous inputs can send an entire company into a tailspin.

What’s most dangerous is the fact that ambiguous data can easily pass for accurate insights. However, over time, these slight inaccuracies can prove to be extremely costly. Even if you think your data is accurate, it’s important to occasionally verify the information your dashboard is providing.

Oversimplification of data: There’s something to be said for simplifying data so it’s easy to digest, but there’s immense danger in oversimplifying the information that matriculates through the dashboard. In most cases, this is the result of a lack of context.

Data, in and of itself, doesn’t provide a ton of value to the end user. It’s like a piece of steak. While the meat may be the main dish, a five-star restaurant isn’t going to serve the steak without red wine, vegetables, and other sides. In the same way that the value of a steak is maximized when combined with other elements, data is enhanced when delivered in context. Make sure you aren’t oversimplifying, or you may be stripping some of the value from your dashboard.

Hidden biases in the design: Humans design dashboards and the algorithms that cause them to function. And, as you’re well aware, humans make mistakes all the time. This occasionally leads to hidden biases in the way dashboard systems are designed. The result is skewed data that causes you to act in a certain way. It could be argued that these lies are the most dangerous since it’s hard to ever spot them.

The only way to ensure you aren’t dealing with hidden biases and faulty algorithms is to do your due diligence and spend a lot of time studying different platforms before selecting one. As Leanne Terpak, analytics director at Godfrey, admits to her clients, "There is a lot of heavy lifting up front with evaluating platforms and getting things set up, but once you have everything integrated, you’ll see a significant amount of efficiency and it will ultimately get you closer to your goal of being a data-driven marketer."

Delayed insights: The last issue deals with delayed insights. Since the purpose of a dashboard is to generate insightful reports that lead to relevant action, a dashboard that’s pulling information from last week’s results isn’t going to do you much good. If it isn’t timeless, it’s essentially useless.

While you could argue that delayed insights don’t necessarily mean your dashboard is providing inaccurate information, don’t get caught up in technicalities. Late insights are basically wrong insights. You need a dashboard solution that’s providing real-time information.

Is it time to move on? If you found out that your significant other was lying to you, what would your response be? If the lies were frequent and detrimental in nature, you’d probably contemplate a breakup. Well, that’s something you have to think about if you discover that your marketing dashboard has been deceitful all this time.

There are a variety of dashboard technologies on the market and you deserve one that’s honest and accurate. Think through your options and see what you can find.

—Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business and entrepreneurship.

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