Cover Story: Paradise by the Dashboard Light
Car dashboards tell drivers if their engines are going to explode. Marketing dashboards do the same for companies—letting direct marketers spot the warning signs in their key performance indicators (KPIs) before disaster strikes. But more than that, dashboards can keep marketing strategies finely tuned and working at peak condition, believes Todd Walter, chief executive officer of Stamford, Conn.-based Red Door Spa Holdings. The privately held business composed of Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas and Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas saw significant improvement in its direct marketing campaign results after implementing the tool in February 2008. But perhaps more importantly, Red Door learned spa by spa and customer by customer which consumers drove the most profit, what services kept them coming back and which campaigns worked best—or merely exploded in failure.
According to recent research by Boston-based research firm Aberdeen Group, Red Door is in good company. The Recessionary Marketing: How Best-in-Class Companies are Weathering the Storm report Aberdeen released in January says 37 percent of best-in-class firms have marketing dashboards, and 35 percent of businesses plan on getting them soon.
“The thing that I love so much about [the dashboard] is that it is very quantifiable, and so it does a number of different things for us,” says Walter. “And in addition to helping identify what marketing initiatives and programs we want to follow through on, it also gives us great insight into the underlying health of our business.”
Dash What? What’s Its ROI?
For some direct marketers, the concept of delayed gratification can drive them mad. So the idea that dashboards can lap the competition by helping companies save time and money—by eliminating waste, allowing marketers to reallocate resources in a way that will increase profits or simply by providing an organizational structure that streamlines the marketing process—is just too nebulous a goal to visualize at the beginning of the time- and effort-intensive process.