Watching CRM dashboards is like monitoring stocks online—it's easy to get mesmerized by the merest up tick or downturn in lead flow. But like savvy investors, savvy marketers need to do the legwork to understand what's really being measured—before getting seduced by graphs and charts.

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Marketers have never been more metric-driven. We obsessively check our CRM dashboard, and we know that the CEO and sales team are doing the same. How do we stay ahead of the numbers in a real-time world?

Case Study: Too Many Dashboards

An executive team I consulted with was disappointed with lead flow and was convinced that their marketing programs were a waste of money. Meanwhile, the Marketing Programs Manager and Inside Sales Manager were blissfully ignorant that their jobs were on the line. Why?

The managers were all looking at lead counts from different dashboards, and the highest lead count was almost 10x greater than the lowest lead count.

Why did the reports differ so widely?

Each manager had worked separately with the CRM administrator to create a lead report. One measured raw lead flow, including duplicate contacts and spam. A second report aggregated leads by state (inadvertently stripping out international leads in the process). A third report aggregated leads assigned to each sales rep—capturing less than 10% of the lead total, because the incoming leads for inside sales, leads in unassigned territories (the sales team was a few reps short), and reseller leads weren't included in the count.

I suspect that there were more lead reports out there—but by the time I saw No. 3, I had all lead reports deleted. With no dashboard to watch, the sales and marketing team worked together to agree on the definition of a "lead" and set consistent measurement criteria before setting up another report.

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Su Doyle is a go-to-market strategist who has served as CMO and GM for high-tech and media companies. She writes on marketing and product strategy at Email her at