People are visual creatures by nature. We respond much better to visual cues like shape, color and form, whereas numbers and words are abstract notions that we have to acquire by learning. That’s why when it comes to data it’s much easier to identify patterns and trends through charts and dashboards, rather than reading tables full of data. Visualization tools like Tableau, Google Data Studio, Power BI and others can help transform your data into stunning charts and reports that can be easily used across your organization.
Visualization tools components
A data visualization tool consists of two main parts: the data source and the visualization. The data source can be a file such as a .csv or Excel file, or a connection through a server. Data visualization tools usually support integrations with most major analytics tools.
As soon as you have your data in the tool, you can start creating reports or dashboards. A report is a collection of charts and other elements, such as images and text. The types of visualizations that are available in most tools include tables, time series, bar charts, pie charts, geo maps, scatter plots and others. After you create your report you can upload it on a server so that it’s accessible online by people in your company.
How to connect your data to a visualization tool
Let’s take Google Data Studio as an example on how to import your data to a visualization tool, so you can start working with it.
As you can see in the picture below Google Data Studio, as expected, offers connectors with other Google tools like Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google Sheets and Google Ads Manager.
You can also upload a file but that means that your dashboards will not be updated automatically but you have to upload a new file every time you have new data.
So a connector with a tool or an SQL database is preferred, since a data pipeline will be created that will update the data automatically. You have options such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and Google BigQuery to import your data from a data warehouse.
In order to import data in that way you usually need to provide some info such as the Host Name or IP and your Database name.
You could also use an ETL tool with automatic integrations, such as Improvado, which helps you connect to Google Data Studio and other visualization tools hassle-free. This will really save you time, since you already should have all your marketing data connected to such an ETL tool.
Define your goals and audience before building dashboards
Your dashboards should be tools that help your marketing team make decisions. Think about what different stakeholders care about or what their day-to-day job is before you make a dashboard for them.
For example, a CMO would like to see the big picture, such as the overall marketing ROI and the performance of each channel in order to make decisions about budget allocation. A Performance Marketer, on the other hand, would probably need access to campaign and ad-level data with a lot more metrics, including click-through-rate, conversion rate, cost per 1000 impressions, so that they can optimize their campaigns and find out what is working.
When you define the needs of each team or stakeholder, try to translate them into metrics. For example, if a Paid Search Manager tells you that they’d like to see the performance of their PPC campaigns, think about what that means in terms of metrics. Probably, they should be able to see the click-through-rate and conversion rate of each keyword and campaign.
A good idea for all dashboards is to have a timeline for all the important metrics, as well as a comparison with the previous period, such as last month or last week, so that your team can have a benchmark on how their marketing activities are performing over time.
How to build a dashboard with a visualization tool
After you connect your data to the visualization tool, it’s time to start building your dashboards. The first thing you need to do is select a data source from the ones you’ve already linked via a connector, a file or a data pipeline.
We’ll take Google Data Studio as an example on how to create a dashboard. You’ve probably outlined the charts you’d like to include based on the discussions you had with your marketing team. A good idea is to also sketch your dashboard on a piece of paper before actually creating it to get a feel of what it would look like.
Start by selecting the chart you’d like, e.g. a timeline with your daily revenue. This is probably important for your team and company to monitor on a daily basis to keep track of sales. Make sure to select the appropriate metrics and dimensions for the chart, in this case Date and Revenue.
If you want more granularity you can add an extra dimension to break down the chart, let’s say, by channel, to see how much revenue each marketing channel contributes to the overall result.
Move on by adding more charts that provide useful information to your team. In the example below, I’ve added a bar chart that shows the Conversion Rate by Country. This would be useful for your team if they want to evaluate the individual performance of each country they operate in. If a country is too costly and has really low volume, you might want to reevaluate your strategy for that market. On the other hand, if a specific market has a very good conversion rate it probably pays off to scale your efforts there.
Note that I’ve also added a title above the chart. It’s a good practice to add clear, explanatory titles for each chart so that it’s easy to understand even for someone seeing the dashboard for the first time. You’ve seen these charts thousands of times, so you might not find that important, but try to think like the average employee of your company who might use this dashboard only a handful of times. A title and even some documentation will go a long way to help anyone in the company use this dashboard.
Moreover, don’t forget to add selectors and filters to make the dashboard easy to break down or select specific views. The dashboard users will often want to focus on a specific date range or just a handful of values, e.g. just one market or a marketing channel. Make their lives easier by providing all the necessary filters.
Finish your dashboard by styling it in a consistent way so it’s easy to read. You might consider using the color scheme of your company to keep it in brand.
Don’t forget to share the dashboard with the rest of the company. Usually, you can generate a link on a server that you can share with the users that you choose. For example, Google Data Studio gives you the options seen in the image below.