Dashboards and Reports are Not the Same Thing
Marketing agencies of all kinds (full service, social, SEM, media buying, etc.) all have one thing in common; the clients that give them money to do numerous marketing activities regularly demand to know four things:
1. What did you do with my money?
2. What happened?
3. How did we perform/did we meet our objectives?
4. What do we do next?
Those answers are given to the client in the form of a story commonly referred to as a “report”. The proliferation of marketing technology and the dizzying array of possible channels for use on a campaign have turned the reporting process into a nightmare of multi-platform data collection, processing and visual representation.
Marketing technology has come a long way to help the agency manage complex campaigns but done very little to help explain the answers to those four very important questions.
Dashboards vs Reports
A dashboard, like the eponymous technology in actual race cars, effectively starts with the data and represents that data so that the operator (or driver in the case of the race car) can optimally perform a task. In a race car, speed is shown on an analog dial. The racing team in the van during the race is looking at the same data (live speed) but is not looking at a speedometer. They may instead be looking at average speed in turns vs straightaways represented by a table or chart. The lesson is that the data needs to be presented in a way that bests meets the needs of the user. And therefore, it may be two different representations looking at the same thing.
A report, on the other hand, flips this process on its head. It starts with the question (see the four above) and finds the data to answer the question. The question drives the representation, not the data.
Dashboards are built for the folks running the campaigns. They are not built to tell stories. They show the world as it is right now, usually with live data. Imagine if the driver took a picture of the car’s dashboard going around turn 3, printed and handed it to the team owner a month later. The picture would not answer the owner’s questions.
A report flows something like this: “We spent some money, created some content, ran some ads… which led to some results, which achieved some objectives. Here’s why. Here’s what we should do next.”
What’s an Agency to do?
Using a dashboard to tell that story gets into proverbial “round peg, square hole” territory. As a result, the majority of marketing agency client reports are built in PowerPoint and Keynote. Despite that it ends up taking hours or days to produce, it still looks like a patchwork quilt.
Panamplify, a Dallas-based technology company is offering relief. They have created what can be described as an “agency client reporting easy button.” Starting with the questions agency clients need answered, Panamplify builds the reports that agencies send to their brand clients, automatically and takes care of the data collection, processing, representation and layout. Agencies add color and commentary and the reporting process has been reduced to mere minutes freeing up valuable time and providing significant cost savings. Panamplify charges by the report so there are no limits on data sources, users or reporting frequency. Learn more at panamplify.com.