Cover Your Ads
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Cover Your Ads

Understanding Our Audience

An open letter to MarTech vendors

Dear MarTech vendors, quick question: Were we all stock brokers in a previous life?

No? Yeah, me either, then why do all of our tools look like Bloomberg terminals? Really nice looking and well designed Bloomberg terminals to be sure, but we sure put a lot of data, and charts, and graphs in our dashboards don’t we? Who do we think our users are and why do we assume this is the best format for delivering insight and value?

Marketing analyst or stock broker?

Why do we design dashboards that look like they should be on Wall Street? I’ll wager a guess:

Because they sell!

Nothing wins more deals than a bakeoff to see who can paint the best dashboard. I’ve been there. I’ve built the dashboards, I’ve sold the deals, and I’ve lost deals to the vendor that had the bigger better badder dashboard. They are impressive, I get it, I understand. I was (and still am) very proud of the dashboards I helped build.

But did we ever really talk to our users? Sure, we asked the marketing team what they wanted on their dashboard, but did we ever really ask if they wanted a dashboard?

I think we figured that since Google and Facebook had dashboards that we needed to build our own dashboards. Back in 2011 when I first got into marketing technology the dashboards and data offered by Google and Facebook were decidedly bad, so it seemed logical to build better versions. A better mouse trap right? But was that the right answer? Were we even asking the right question? Were we even catching mice? If not, was a better mouse trap needed?

Before we go any further, let me just say, dashboards aren’t all bad. In fact, I think some are amazing, but they are only a piece of a larger solution, they are only one way to deliver insight and value. I have found that dashboards and reports are an excellent way to explain behavior, but they do a horrible job, at least in marketing, of changing behavior.

Are we explaining behavior or changing behavior?

Have you ever stopped to look at how the marketing team used the dashboard? After spending some time with analysts and customers I have found that, more often than not, the dashboard was being used as a report. An image that was used for retrospective analysis. Let me know if you ever took a screenshot of a dashboard and pasted it into a PowerPoint for the client (it’s ok, I do it all of the time too).

So what’s the problem? Well first, there are 4 concepts that I think require some definition. These are my definitions, so take them with a grain salt.

  1. Value: The Result. The goal of your product, your algorithm, your secret sauce, your data science, your app, it is what your customer is buying.
  2. Report: The What. It doesn’t have to be in graph or chart form, but a report is the organized data that helps the company perform some analysis.
  3. Analytics: The Why. Analysis is the process of exploring the data, interpreting the report, so you can better understand what it will take to improve your business.
  4. Action: The Now What. The change. Action is how data, reporting, analysis, and your our special value come together to improve results for our customer.

So let’s go back to our audience and ask the question: Do our tools help them improve results or are our tools helping them merely explain results?

Let’s examine this using a car analogy. Cars have dashboards. They have pretty great dashboards. In fact, car dashboards have been relatively unchanged for 100 years. They are designed to let you know, what you need to know, right now, so that you can perform the task at hand. You need to know your speed, the fuel, the time, the RPMs (do we really need the RPMs any more??), so you can drive better and arrive at your destination safely and on time.

In the case of marketing dashboards, the task is managing complicated multi-channel marketing campaigns so you can make the best use of your available media spend and maximize results for your clients (or yourself).

But how are marketing teams using their dashboards? Are they using them to improve results or just to explain results? Imagine driving to an important meeting and running out of gas on your way. You are now extremely late to your appointment. So you take a photo of the dashboard and show it to your now frustrated audience and explain “You see, the problem is right here, we ran out of gas.”

Further, you are so confident in your analysis, that you brought the AAA mechanic to come with you to confirm the analysis. “You see, expert analysis agrees with the photo, we really did run out of gas. So, the reason for our lateness was lack of gas. It’s not our fault, it was the gas. It just ran out. Now let’s talk about next month, here is the plan to improve the gas.”

It’s not my fault, it was the gas.

Sounds stupid, right? But is this our approach to marketing technology? The value is clear, the report is correct, the analysis is accurate, but without action we are still late, results don’t improve.

In our car analogy, do we really need a more accurate fuel gauge? Is the fuel gauge ever really wrong? Did we need a better dashboard?

Side note: If anyone wants to redo this analogy using an electric car dashboard, feel free. It still works.

We rarely, if ever, run out of gas (or charge). So if a dashboard works for a car shouldn’t we assume it works for marketing teams? Well that would assume that driving a car, or trading stocks, is the same as running a marketing campaign. (hint: it’s not) Sound obvious? We don’t think so, there is a lot to unpack here, but I hope this analogy helps.

This is our first blog post talking about what we’ve learned from our beta users and hundreds of marketing professionals. We are asking: How are your teams different? How do they work? How do they work best? Where do they work? What tools do they love? Are there new ways to deliver marketing insight? We learned a lot this year, so we want to introduce some new ideas.

Here at Eletype we believe we should shift the emphasis:

  1. From explaining behavior to changing behavior
  2. From precision to action
  3. From the individual to the team

We have a saying around here: Let’s focus on the doers, not the viewers. Everyone has a good explanation for results, what we need now is action. Stay tuned for more posts talking about MarTech, dashboards, analytics and collaborative and conversational platforms (like Slack).

In the meantime, check our what we are working on here in the Slack App Directory and subscribe to our product launch on Product Hunt here.

…focus on the doers, not the viewers.


Michael Sengbusch




Because marketing needs a little CYA. @Eletype #CoverYourAds

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Michael Sengbusch

Michael Sengbusch

Entrepreneur, Founder, Engineer @eletype, @atdc, @gatech

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