Two companies - ClickFuel and Taponix - have taken the lead in combining analytics from multiple products into a single dashboard. Local media sales forces can use these dashboards to create post campaign recaps more easily (see the report on How to create a great post-campaign recap" here), or allow advertisers to track all their digital initiatives - including banner ads, reputation management, mobile, Facebook, their own web site and SEM buys - in one place.
Why is this such a neccesity today? The more products media sells - and merchants use - the more reports there are for the rep to take back, and for the client to review. The universal dashboard allows sales reps and merchants to look at entire digital strategy, not pieces, in a visual format, such as pie-charts by results and other visual aids. Here is a summary of why these dashboards what these dashboards allow reps to do (and why they are on LMI's list of key recommendations):
* Easily measure results against merchant objectives (ClickFuel measures "Leads" which incoporate a variety of post-click actions, such as calls, emails, fanning, filling out a form and so on).
* See which kinds of digital marketing work best, and make better recommendations for future marketing campaigns
* Spotlight areas that lead to upsells - such as listing distribution - that the merchant may not otherwise look at
* Avoid the mad dash to collect data needed prior to visiting the client; present it in an organized, visually appealing format
* Makes meetings more interpretative and focused on next action
*Provides a competitive advantage against media who don't use a univeral dashboard
"If advertisers don’t know about the results, they don’t value (the campaign). Churning our customer base is not a good idea. The base is finite. It's not like you can hop "over-the-hill" and find a new one," says Jeff Herr, former digital specialist at Digital First Media who now works directly with Taponix.
"It's the biggest challenge. (Sales reps) take seven different reports, stack them up and run out and hand them over."
"We need to help (local businesses) compete and help them grow. If not they can’t compete with Best Buy or In And Out Burger. They don’t have the marketing team."
Taponix pulls in feeds from about 20 digital platforms and creates a quality score for each part of the digital strategy, from listing distribution, through ad campaigns, mobile, Facebook, and so on. Digital First Media has been using Taponix for almost a year with good results. In fact, the Taponix was a local start-up that Bay Area News Group (now Digital First Media) incubated inside its building, so the sales side could provide feedback as it was built.
Another entry into the universal dashboard space is ClickFuel, which has also integrated a long list of companies, from reputation management, to Facebook, e-mail and banner ads. Its dashboard focuses on total leads and cost per lead from all the programs, as well as CTR's and traffic.
Leads (typically calls and forms filled out) are broken out in pie-charts and color blocks to show gains and losses in a simple, eye-catching report. See first chart on this page (top right) and click to enlarge; included in this mock-campaign report are e-blasts from Exact Target, and real estate leads from Gabriel's Technology, as well as mobile, Yahoo display and SEM.
ClickFuel's platform also calculates Cost per Lead (CPL), CPL trends, a breakdown of leads by products and, of course, CTR's and traffic. The CPL calculation lets reps get into a conversation about revenue per lead, revenue per customer, and conversionstrategies.
The look and feel of the dashboard (Clickfuel's is simpler to read) and the focus on leads versus quality scores is a significant difference between the two platforms. Quality scores are useful in comparing banner ad performance, by providing a basis of valuation besides CTR's, and don't have to include a lead capture to prove performance.
Pricing models of the two dashboard platforms are also different. ClickFuel pricing is either flat rate or variable, starting at $10 per month per advertiser, reduced as the number of merchants increases. However, the company may charge for new integrations, and sometimes has a backlog.
Since partners already integrated is key; here's a list of all the products built into the platform, or which require limited customization:
Taponix has as many existing integrations, and new integrations are free. They claim - and LMI has verified with clients - that new integrations only take about two weeks. However, the company charges a negotiated flat rate of $1000 to $5000 per month depending on the size of the media group. The merchants do not have direct access; to resell access to merchants is another variable charge.
Taponix also has only one client full launched (Digital First), with several hundred companies on the dashboard, but says it has five more who are testing the platform prior to launch. ClickFuel says it now has 25 companies launched with 50,000 dashboards live, according to Colby West, Founder and Business Development for the company.
The most unique aspect of the Taponix system is the "quality score" given to each campaign, against a secret algorythm of average success rates for that kind of advertising. So, for example, if average click through for banner ads are .1%, a banner ad is compared against that average.
Additionally campaigns are also weighted against other factors, including branding. So for example, a branding banner ad campaign at may weight click-through at only 75% of the value in the quality score. In practice, scores "shoot up when remarketing is used."
While the scoring system is difficult ot penetrate, it allows businesses see how well their campaigns are doing on a more realistic basis. There is also a useful area for A/b test comparison.
In a large marketplace such as Northern California, Herr says the platform could be used to benchmark results for various industries as well as campaign types.
"We can say, a lawyer typically sees 'this kind of response'. If we can show those benchmarks, we now have an industry specific, real world metric," Herr said.
Taponix CEO Babak Hedayti says the company now also provides a "solomo" suite of services (some created, some third party) baked into the platform, and included in the monthly charges.
In general, we found the ClickFuel dashboard simpler and easier to use and understand, though which products are integrated and the cost and timing of integrating the media's own services is a key competitive factor. ClickFuel has picked up some large media accounts with multiple properties in the last six months.
Is either company perfect? Not yet, but this is still a top recommendation of LMI.
In reality, many local merchants will not use dashboards - some will not even check their own Google Analytics. This places the sales rep and digital specialist team squarely in the role of a consultative agency, reviewing results and making recommendations. For merchants who are more active in growing their own digital brand and assets, the dashboards provide valuable efficiencies. So in both cases it's a win.
It also creates a powerful competitive advanatage in reporting results from campaigns and making the next recommendation (see "How to create a great post-campaign recap" here.)
Sales reps who are digital native reps were drawn to the data, "They’ve always been hunting and pecking for this information. They sent and email and waited for the numbers. It was crazy," Herr says.
We hope to see more local media companies using these dashboards. For small companies, we recommend ClickFuel; the variable pricing works better and we also like the focus on leads where there is less scoring data available. Either way, this would be also be a great initiative for media associations to take on, that is contracting with one of these groups to roll-out programs at a discounted group rate.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.