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Make Decisions Faster with Executive Dashboards: Strategies, Examples & How-Tos

A great executive dashboard tells compelling stories about your data and propels fast decision-making. Find out how to build one step-by-step in this article.
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Make Decisions Faster with Executive Dashboards: Strategies, Examples & How-Tos

A great executive dashboard tells compelling stories about your data and propels fast decision-making. Find out how to build one step-by-step in this article.

Think about it. If you’re a busy executive, you’d want to quickly see the returns on your marketing investments on an executive dashboard and make decisions in a snap.

But, more often than not, executives look at a marketing report and immediately get overwhelmed by the numbers and symbols staring back at them. They don't know where to focus their attention, how these numbers contribute to business growth, and which decisions to make. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to effective reporting, numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. An overload of vanity metrics can not only overwhelm readers but also negatively impact decision-making.

What an impactful executive dashboard looks like - visuals, data stories, and real-time data - Adriel
Visuals are the tip of the iceberg – you need real-time data and compelling stories

What you need is an executive dashboard that tells compelling stories about your data while quickly pointing out areas that deserve attention. If you're an executive running an e-commerce business, for example, you can see the context behind each metric and how it contributes to business growth. This allows you to make better decisions, faster. 

Read on to find out what makes an effective dashboard and 3 easy strategies to build one with frameworks from industry experts. Then, learn how to use an automation tool to create customized dashboards with real-time data from all your marketing channels. 

Let’s dig in. 

What is an executive dashboard and what makes a “good” one?

An overview of Adriel’s executive dashboard - Adriel
An overview of Adriel’s executive dashboard

An executive dashboard is a data visualization and reporting tool that aggregates real-time data from multiple sources and displays key metrics on a user interface. Various stakeholders in an organization, from CEOs to CFOs, will be able to quickly see an overview of key performance indicators and make data-driven decisions.

With multi-channel marketing on the rise, executive dashboards make it easier to get the data you need, process it, and present it in a way that’s insightful to executives. 

So, what makes a good dashboard?

An effective business intelligence tool is both a strategic dashboard and an operational dashboard at the same time. 

Top-level executives should be able to see a high-level view of marketing KPIs right off the bat, but also be able to drill down to granular data and uncover which channels or advertisements are driving sales or engagement. 

Having the option to invite different members of the executive team with different access rights and views would also help greatly. For instance, a CFO should have access to a particular set of performance metrics, while a CMO should have access to another. 

In terms of user experience, a simple, clear, and easy-to-read user interface would lead to better analysis and informed discussions across the executive team. 

But the work of dashboard software doesn’t end at visualization. You should be able to export this data into a PDF or a CSV report and share it with different stakeholders through unique links. 

This is especially helpful if you’re a marketing agency that needs to report to your clients regularly so they can stay informed on the performance of your initiatives. 

When done right, digital marketing reporting dashboards provide valuable insights for the C-suite team and fuel fast data-driven decision making. So, how do you get it “right”?

How do you build a business dashboard for executives?

A meme on vanity metrics on business dashboards - Adriel
Photo credit: Steffen Hedebrandt

A common mistake that marketers make when building dashboard designs is to focus on the “vanity” metrics–the bright green numbers that look good on paper (or on the screen in this case).

A CEO might be impressed at first but once they start digging, they’re going to realize that these numbers don’t contribute to business success at all. 

The key to building an effective executive dashboard is to strategically connect the dots between business, value, and data. In other words: show exactly how much value is being generated from a particular marketing campaign, in terms of revenue, conversions, or engagement. 

Here are three easy steps to do this: 

1. Establish a KPI framework

From the very get-go, pick three to five KPIs to display on your analytics dashboard that are simple to explain and understand. If you can’t explain each of these KPIs with a short title, they’re already too complex for others in the organization. 

Most KPI dashboards let you drag-and-drop widgets to display KPIs in various ways. For instance, on Adriel’s customizable marketing dashboard, you can create widgets for single KPIs or compare them against one period to another to visualize trends. 

Executive summary of KPIs on Adriel’s executive dashboard - Adriel
Executive summary of KPIs

In addition, you’ll also be able to pit one KPI against another (e.g. ad spend against link clicks) and visualize relationships between KPIs in any graph type on Adriel. 

Combo charts comparing KPIs on Adriel’s executive dashboard - Adriel
Compare KPIs with combo chart

2. Create data stories

Once you’ve decided on the KPIs, add a few sentences at the top of the dashboard describing key insights with the metric name, numbers, and percent changes in brackets. These are called data stories. 

For example:

  • [YouTube Ads] garnered [#link clicks] leading to [#signups] for the waitlist.  
  • [Ad spend] fell by [% change] this month due to [reason].
  • [%] of users returned to our website this month. Our goal was [%]. 

You can use this same format for every report you create and just fill in the brackets or change up the metrics according to your marketing goals. 

Data stories add a great deal of context to bare-bone metrics, allowing executives to grasp the important details in one glance and make data-driven decisions. 

Different executives and teams will be reading these data stories so they should be straight-to-the-point and self-explanatory. Anticipate their questions and include short and concise methodology descriptions when necessary.

On Adriel’s dashboard, you can simply drag and drop a “Notepad” widget to write data stories.

Data stories describing key metrics - Adriel
Add data stories on Adriel’s dashboard

3. Organize your data intuitively

You should structure your executive dashboards the way you write stories—with a clear beginning, middle, and end. 

Divide your dashboard into three levels: top, middle, and bottom.

At the top, include:

  • Your brand / client’s visuals (name, logo, taglines)
  • Data stories
  • An overview of KPIs for the month or compared with a specific time period

The middle section should analyze these KPIs in more detail: 

  • Performance trends visualized in different types of graphs 
  • Relationships between one KPI and another
  • Causes and effects 

Finally, wrap up the dashboard with granular data: 

  • Marketing mix
  • Details of ad campaigns
  • Ad creative insights (e.g. ad copy, photos, videos)
  • Analysis of creative intelligence (e.g. keywords, colors, emojis)

Now, let’s see how all of this strategy works in real-life with some examples. 

Executive dashboard examples

Below are three dashboard examples for each C-suite member: 

CEO dashboard example

An overview of KPIs on Adriel’s CEO dashboard - Adriel
CEO dashboard example - Overview of KPIs

When creating a dashboard for a CEO, opt for a simpler and more comprehensive KPI like “revenue” rather than “click-through rate (CTR)”. CEOs want to have a bird-eye’s view of marketing effectiveness and they won’t be able to tell immediately how CTRs contribute to business value. Give them the most relevant information so they can quickly skim it in the least amount of time. 

CFO dashboard example

Detailed ad spend breakdown on Adriel’s CFO dashboard - Adriel
CFO dashboard example - Detailed ad spend breakdown

A CFO’s job is to make sure that every dollar invested in marketing is generating a return of some sort. Having this financial data is critical for CFOs to approve marketing budgets in the future.

In addition to the high-level view of KPIs, they’d want to dive a little deeper into ad spend and see exactly the total ad spend throughout the years, how it’s distributed across different channels, and what are the results of that ad spend. 

CMO dashboard example

See granular data down to ad creatives on Adriel’s CMO dashboard - Adriel
CMO dashboard example - Granular data down to ad creatives 

A CMO would be more concerned about the granular metrics of each touchpoint along the sales pipeline, such as click-through rates, impressions, and link clicks. They’d also want to drill down further to the ad creative-level insights and analyze the effectiveness of each advertisement for future strategies.  

Which automation tool should you use to create these CMO dashboards and how would it work? Find out below.

Use Adriel for effective executive dashboards

The easiest and fastest way to build executive dashboards is to use a marketing automation tool, like Adriel. You just need to do three things: 

#1 Connect to your data sources.

Adriel’s no-code marketing dashboard connects to all your ad accounts, analytics platforms, social media, and CRM tools automatically, as well as your custom data from databases, warehouses, Google sheets, and more.  Then, it centralizes all your data onto one easy-to-read user interface. 

Simply choose your data source from a drop-down menu and let Adriel handle the rest. 

Connect to your data sources in minutes on Adriel’s marketing dashboard - Adriel
Connect to your data sources in minutes

#2 Customize tables and widgets. 

We know you’re busy and need reports quickly and conveniently. With Adriel, you can easily build a streamlined dashboard and organize it based on your needs – it’s a dashboard that tells you what you want to know. 

The best part? The data on your dashboard is also all streamlined in real-time.

Once you’ve successfully connected your channels, create pivot tables and widgets to display any KPIs you want. 

Customize your dashboard with widgets on Adriel - Adriel
Customize your dashboard with widgets 

You can also customize the data inside tables by using the “Edit” panel. Browse the list of all metrics in the box under the search bar.

How to edit table settings according to breakdowns or metrics on Adriel - Adriel
Edit table settings according to breakdowns or metrics

By default, the data in a table appears as [Channels > Campaign > Ad set]. But you can dive deeper into your data and group it according to “channels”, “daily breakdown”, or “country”.

How to group data according to different breakdowns on Adriel - Adriel
Group data according to different breakdowns

#3 Create different views for campaigns and executives.

Want to narrow down to a specific campaign or KPI, or create different views for each executive? We’ve got your back. 

Adriel’s dashboard offers advanced filtering options that allow you to compare the performance of each and every campaign you’ve ever run—even up to 2 years of historical data (depending on the data source connected). This is especially helpful if you want to see historical trends to make new strategic decisions.  

You can filter your campaigns across multiple ad platforms or combine filters to get into specifics, for example:

  • US Facebook Campaigns
  • Singapore Promotion
How to filter by any metric in tables, regardless of channels on Adriel - Adriel
Filter by any metric in tables, regardless of channels

Once your filter is applied, name and save the dashboard as a new view to access it later. You can create an unlimited amount of dashboards.

You can also create different views or folders for each executive with only the KPIs and data stories they’ll care about.

How to create separate folders and views by role on Adriel - Adriel
Create separate folders and views by role

Bonus: Download your data as Excel / PDF reports in seconds. 

All done with designing your dashboard? Export your data in Excel or PDF reports in customized formats on Adriel. These ready-made reports allow executives to easily view and analyze data, regardless of the number of campaigns and channels.

Users can also create a unique shareable URL that links back to a live dashboard that updates insights in real-time. 

Simply select the desired time range for your report, filter your data by campaign titles, status, ID channels, or ad account if you want to narrow your results, and click “Download”. Or click on the “Share” button for URLs.

How to download your data in csv or pdf formats on Adriel - Adriel
Download your data in csv or pdf formats

You’ll also be able to white label your reports with your brand name, logo, and colors.

How to define your branding visuals and use it across all reports you create on Adriel - Adriel
Define your branding visuals and use it across all reports you create

Wrapping up

How you design and organize your executive dashboard is directly related to how easy it is for executives to make the right decisions. We hope this article has been helpful in creating impactful executive dashboards beyond vanity metrics.  

Design compelling reports, fuel strategic decision making, and drive business growth with Adriel’s dashboard reporting tool

Sign up for a 14-day free trial or talk to one of our product specialists to learn more.

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