In Part 1 of Reporting vs Dashboards, I pointed out the basic differences between what I called “operators” and “managers”. Now, let’s drill down into a specific example using a racing analogy. You can apply this analogy to any marketing metric you choose and it should, I hope, all become clear.

Drivers: Dashboards

Imagine this driver heading into turn 3 of a Formula 1 course at 91mph. The driver’s speedometer reads “91” and the situation presents plenty of context: location (turn 3), other cars near by, etc. Suppose the driver took a picture of the dashboard at this very moment and after the race simply handed the picture to the racing team leader. The picture is meaningless. Where was the car when this was taken? Is 91 an optimal speed into turn 3? And so on. The picture has no context. Yet this is exactly what is so often done with marketing dashboards.

Drivers are analogous to the agency professionals running marketing campaigns. Dashboards are their lifeblood to running effective campaigns. They are not designed to tell the story that managers need.

Racing Teams: Team Dashboards

Next level up are the racing team dashboards. These teams are monitoring multiple cars on the track at the same time, in real time. The data is the same but the presentation is usually much different. Why? At the team level they have a different mission. It’s directly related to the cars on the track but information is often aggregated and thus represented quite differently. Think “average speed of each car into turn 3” for example.

In marketing, the “racing team” is analogous to the brand client and sometimes the agency execs. This gets messy because the racing team leader also gets reports (see below) but in this case, the brand will occasionally want to view the “race” as it’s happening. Frankly, in marketing, that’s not nearly as useful as in racing but, to be fair, can be helpful keeping track of pacing of spend and progress toward key objectives.

Team Owner: Reports

We finally arrive at reports. Remember, it’s the same underlying data. At the end of the month, the racing team leader’s report is essentially a series of answered questions. For example: “Are all my racers entering turn 3 at an optimal speed?”. Clearly, dashboard snapshots won’t help answer that question. The data almost certainly needs to be represented in a way that helps inform the leader. Specific information is also required ie the speed of each car every time one entered turn 3 as well as what the actual optimal speed for turn 3 is.

Back to Storytelling

As you can see from the example report above, there is a story being told to a racing team leader. The same principal applies to marketing reporting. It is the entire basis for building effective reports. Dashboards or PDFs of dashboards will fail to convey the story almost every time.