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An Introduction to Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboards

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You can set up Google Analytics, track your social analytics, and even get fancy and add Google Analytics Events to your website, but if you and your team don’t look at it regularly, the analytics are worthless. You will miss trends, not capitalize on growth, and generally, lose out on opportunities. And I know, Google Analytics can be very overwhelming when trying to quickly look at data, and if you aren’t using a social media tool like Sprout Social or Hootsuite, then you need to sign into each social platform individually. Then any digital marketing platform you use likely has its own dashboard, so at the end of the day, you need to wade through numerous reports across multiple platforms and ultimately draw some kind of conclusion from their collective data. If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is.

Building a dashboard is a much simpler way of visualizing your data, giving you a 10,000-foot view of how everything is humming along at a moment’s notice. What’s best though, is that everyone on your team can also look at this dashboard. This ensures everyone is looking at the same data and has access to it at any time they might need it.

Set up the Dashboard

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Set-up-the-Dashboard1There are TONS of dashboarding tools out there, each with various options on how to import, visualize, and share data. At Marketing in Color, we use Google Data Studio, a free BI (Business Intelligence) tool from Google that allows you to make useful dashboards from a variety of data.

Once you have decided on which tool will work best for you and your data, you will need to determine what data you want to display. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) include every single data point you have collected. Instead, talk with your team to determine the various KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) they will need to reference. KPIs can be anything ranging from online check-outs to form fills to video views. Once you have determined what information you need to collect, you need to figure out how to collect it. Most BI tools have built-in connectors for things like Google Analytics, various social media platforms, even digital marketing platforms like AdRoll and Google AdWords. If your chosen platform doesn’t have the connections you need, you still have options to display it on your dashboard. Most have a connection with Google Sheets, or some other online database like a SQL database, so you can export the data to CSV and import it to the database. Then just connect to the database like you would any other platform.

Lay out the Dashboard

Lay-out-the-DashboardSo you have your data and dashboard connected, its time to lay out some data. You need to make sure you are keeping your data un-cluttered and as clear as possible. Keep similar data together (like social media stats together and website stats together), and use a color scheme that allows for you to differentiate between different data points without being overly “loud.” Here is a great whitepaper on best practices to lay out out dashboards by Tableau. Worth the read if you want to get really in-depth with your next dashboard. Remember to not combine data and infer causation from correlation! Remember, the goal here is context, not clutter. Someone should be able to glance at your chart, understand what they are looking at, and what they are supposed to take away from it.

Engage Your Audience

Enage-Your-AudienceNow you have a tool laid out and ready for your team to consume. Make sure team members are aware of the data, and if needed, make it impossible to ignore. Most companies host their dashboards online where any employee can access them anytime. Some companies go a step further and actually mount TVs in their office and run their dashboards on them all day long. Some even take it a step further and put the dashboards right outside the restroom!

You now have the outline and resources you need to make a BI dashboard for yourself. Go forth and analyze your data!

About The Author

Nicholas Ryan Weber
Nick is the mastermind behind all digital marketing efforts at Marketing In Color, from marketing automation to analytics and everything in-between. A LA native, he actually began his career behind a camera, working on TV shows and films. Now his infinite energy and curiosity serve him well as he revels in the ever-changing opportunities of today’s digital world.
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