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Episode 23

Can Reporting Dashboards Drive B2B Growth?

Dave Hurt
CEO & Co-Founder of Verb Data

As sophisticated B2B digital marketers, we’re tracking, measuring and making more data-driven decisions than ever before. So how are we doing? Most of us have a reporting dashboard (or several) to visualize KPIs. But are you receiving actionable data?

Dave Hurt, co-founder of the Verb data experience platform, helps us better understand how to get more out of our reporting dashboards. Learn more about what makes a good dashboard and how to receive actionable insights that make the biggest impact on B2B business.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • What problems reporting dashboards solve
  • The role of a dashboard in a B2B organization
  • What makes a good reporting dashboard
  • Examples of how a dashboard can lead to B2B growth
  • Dashboard features that don't provide value

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcripts

Tessa Burg: Hello and welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation brought to you by Tenlo Radio. Today, I am joined by Dave Hurt, the founder at Verb. We’re really excited to jump into this conversation about the role dashboards play in your overall marketing strategy. If you’ve been in marketing for any amount of time, you’ve seen a dashboard, you’ve probably asked for an ad hoc dashboard, and then you’ve probably really quickly never looked at it again. So, today we hear a lot about the role of data, how and when we should be using it, and we wanna hear from Dave. What should the role of dashboards be and how can we make them really useful tools in our marketing strategy and really the overall growth and measurement of the health of our company. So, Dave, thanks for joining us.

Dave Hurt: Awesome. Thank you for having me.

Tessa Burg: So, let’s start with a little bit about you. What’s your background and, you know, where did the inspiration for Verb come from?

Dave Hurt: Yeah, definitely. My background, I’ve been in software product management for most of my career, but I actually started in customer service, customer success. So, I got into product mostly as advocate for the customer. Right when our engineering team was building features that our customers didn’t want or didn’t meet their needs, I had to hear it from the customers then I had to go back to engineering and try to fix it. So, naturally that just turned into product management. So, from there, I’ve started a few SAAS companies. Also, development and design agency as well. And at Verb, I started Verb with one of my longtime business partners. We’ve been working about 10 years now. And while I’m like, I’m actually the CEO of Verb, we have a very, you know, co-leadership kind of approach to this. So, I’d focus on customers, sales, marketing, that kind of stuff. He’s an engineer by trade and we kinda meet at product. So, I like to say that I bring the customer perspective, he brings the engineering perspective, and that’s kind of how we come up with our solutions at Verb. And really, when we came up with Verb, Oleg and I, my business partner, we’re working at Panera, the restaurant chain, on their technology team. And we knew we were leaving, we were kind of just chatting with a bunch of friends, seeing what’s going on out in the ecosystem of SAAS. And one of our good friends who is about to sell his company for a couple hundred million dollars was, was complaining that he couldn’t build a good dashboard. So, we were, you know, we were kind of asking about it. We were just intrigued ’cause we really hadn’t come up with this idea yet, but we knew we were just investigating. And so, he had looked at all the vendors out there for typical business intelligence tools. They try to custom-build their own solutions. He talks to a bunch of other CEOs of SAaS companies. And really, it came down to, like, the ROI of building a dashboard just could not work out for their team, right. The opportunity costs of all the other things that their engineers could do was so high that it just didn’t make sense to build that dashboard. So, that’s kinda where that original kinda nugget came from. And then we started just digging into that. Our experience, all the dashboards that we’ve built over the last 10 years and we realized that, you know, a dashboard has the same core components, but it’s just a lot of heavy lifting. And so, we automate a lot of that heavy lifting for our developer users and for the other folks that use our system. So, that’s kind of, that’s where we started.

Tessa Burg: Yeah. That’s really interesting. So, I love that you referenced your experience building lots of dashboards. I feel like–

Dave Hurt: Yeah.

Tessa Burg: Anytime you’re in the role of product manager, inevitably dashboard comes on to the feature map.

Dave Hurt: Exactly.

Tessa Burg: What problem do you think dashboards are supposed to solve for clients? And what problem are they really solving?

Dave Hurt: Yeah. So, what dashboards are supposed to solve, right? I think it’s really, you know, some people think of it as like a snapshot of data and time, and I think that’s actually kind of a misnomer because when you just say, “Okay, I just need a snapshot of how many orders I had yesterday,” I think you’re missing the next step, the next level. And so, I think the dashboard, the problem is really like, “What do I need to do today?” or “What do I need to focus on?” And I think that’s really what the dashboard should be solving. Not just a snapshot, but what are issues that have come up, what are things that are trending in the wrong way or in a really good way that I need to then go double click into and take some action on. So, I like to think of dashboards as actionable. Right? So, you should be able to do something from it, right? It’s great to know that I had six orders yesterday or whatever your data shows. But like so what, like, what do you do with that information? Do you need to double click into it to see what six orders those were? Who, what sales rep, those orders came from? That kind of stuff. Or do you need to answer the questions, “So what?” Like, “What’s the next level like? So what you got six orders?” Right. Is that good? Is that bad? Right? Compared to our average, we’re normally getting 10 orders. So, we’re below, you know, our average yesterday, so we have to pick up the pace or look into that. Or if we had six orders and we’re trending for this month’s quota, we’re gonna be behind or we’re gonna be ahead, you can start adjusting. So, I think a lot of people should not just think about the snapshot, but what are they gonna do with that data like what’s that process that the dashboard enables. And that’s what we talk to our customers a lot about is how do we build it actionably, how do we instill, like, another step in the process.

Tessa Burg: I really liked that answer because the example is so clear that you see a metric and that you’re able to delve down into what it means for you in that moment and moving forward. Tell me a little bit about that process, like how do you get clients there to sort of describe and share with you what is going to create that actionable data?

Dave Hurt: Yeah.

Dave Hurt: All my experiences as product manager, I would go and just spend time with the end user, right? So, for example, I built a tool where sports ticketing teams like the Indians, or the Guardians, and the Red Sox, and anybody that would use our platform to sell tickets. Right. So, I would go spend time with them and just see what they did on a daily basis. Right. What was the process before the dashboard even existed? Right? So, did they gather data from a bunch of different sources, put it in Excel file, and then like email it to somebody and do something, right? And so, I think really, before you even say, “I want this data, this data, this data.” It’s “What is that end to end process look like? Like where are you trying to get? And so, if you’re trying to get to, I need to understand, like, today, are we on trend or off trend of our monthly quota? Like that’s the thing. And then understanding, okay, well, what would you do if you’re off, you know, off the trend? Right, you think you’re gonna be below, like what are those steps you’re gonna take? How does the data from a dashboard help you kind of like rectify that or fix those issues. And so, that’s where I start usually. Spending time with the customers, look at the process, ignore that there’s potentially even a dashboard. Right. I think that the old saying is like, you know, “Everything looks like a nail if your only tool is a hammer,” right? Like if you’re going into it saying, “I’m gonna build a dashboard,” then that’s all you’re going to think about, right? But if you go in to try to solve the broader problem and maybe dashboard is the solution, you’re going to come up with a better end result.

Tessa Burg: I don’t think a lot of people reference process when they’re thinking about dashboards. I feel like the number one reason I’ve been given for a dashboard is being able to tell a high-level story to executives.

Dave Hurt: Mm-hmm.

Tessa Burg: A lot of our clients or maybe not even our clients, but just in my experience, they wanna make sure they can continue to have buy-in from at highest level, even the board, to continue the marketing, to further a product initiative. Can you design a dashboard to solve multiple problems or kind of meet the needs of even like what would be considered multiple personas within an organization?

Dave Hurt: The way we’ve approached, I mean, I think the answer is yes and no, right. I think the way generally approach it is, dashboards are generally role-specific. They’re process-specific, right? So, if I’m an executive, my process is gonna look different than if I’m an analyst or a manager of a product, right? So, I generally think that you want different dashboards for different types of people. The kicker there is that, you know, if you want three dashboards around the same general concept or same product suite of tools that you’re selling, now your engineering team has three dashboards to build and maintain, so that’s where the difficulty comes in. And you just try to, people just end up trying to cram everything into one because it just makes it a little easier, right? That’s where, like, operationalizing a dashboard becomes very difficult, managing it over time becomes difficult. So, I think people tend to just try to throw it all together to one for ease and just, you know, general maintenance. But I think overall, you’re better off trying to separate that, so that it’s very specific to the different types of users.

Tessa Burg: So, to summarize, it’s really important to start with process. And if you are the person being tasked with creating a dashboard, do some observation of what the users of the dashboard are going to actually do with the data. And it’s okay not to have a silver bullet. We don’t have to smash everything into one dashboard. It’s more important that the dashboard is actual and solves problems for those specific dashboard users. Can you give me some examples of the types of activities or actions that different dashboard users would take? If we think about, we’re separating it apart, what kind of clients is Verb serving right now? And what are some of the things that they’re using the dashboard for?

Dave Hurt: Yeah, definitely. So, most of our clients are in the software space, so they are using our software to build dashboards inside of their platform. So, if you went and bought QuickBooks or some other, you know, enterprise software tool, those developers would use Verb to embed that inside of their product. So, it kind of creates a native dashboarding experience. So, that’s really where we’re focused. And so, you know, thinking about how those customers use our dashboards, right? They wanna show, they’re kind of doing two things, right? They wanna show the value of their platform to their end users. And that’s a very, like, executive-level concept, right? So, if you’re thinking enterprise software, like a Salesforce, ServiceNow. Anything like that. Generally, the person that’s okaying the purchase buying that is executive-level, C-level person, right? And they don’t care about the actions that are taken inside of ServiceNow. They just care about the results that ServiceNow is giving their company. So, that’s a very, like, prove the value of this platform type of dashboard, right? So, you know, these are all the processes we’re enabling, we’re optimizing et cetera. But then you dig down and you’ve got the people who are using ServiceNow or Salesforce every day and those are the ones who need the actual dashboards, right? That’s where you need the dashboard that alerts you to something that’s outside of the norm. And I need to double click into that and go take care of a specific RFP that might be lagging or something like that, or a document that’s behind schedule. Things like that. So, that’s how most of our customers are thinking about it right as we need to show our value, prove the ROI of our system, and that’s very like executive stakeholder. And then the other part is like we need to, you know, operationalize this and turn it into something that people can take action from. So, that’s kind of how we’ve thought about it. And then you see those two different roles, just like we talked about previously, whereas one’s much more of value, benefit-driving and one is more action-oriented like, “What are we gonna do now?” kind of thing.

Tessa Burg: I think it’s interesting that you’re selling into SAAS, but what you just hit on, which is the dashboard, is meant to show the value of your client’s business and products is very quickly coming into the spaces where we work, which is manufacturing, construction, and professional services. And the advent of connected devices. You know, really just overall digital transformation is giving, in automation, in manufacturing, is giving our clients the opportunity to have the data and the measureables to start showing that value in ways they couldn’t have in the past. And I think that, you know, it’s just a really interesting nut to crack. If manufacturers and other businesses who have the opportunity to automate or use connected devices could start showing the value of their product then it will become less commoditized. Is that something that you’ve seen benefit your clients? ‘Cause I know SAAS is always a little head.

Dave Hurt: Mm-hmm.

Tessa Burg: You know, manufacturing and companies like that.

Dave Hurt: Definitely. I think that’s the, you know, you look at SAAS and there’s a world where the commodity SAAS is kind of occurring, right? So, it’s like a race to the bottom on tools that have been around for a while. Right? So, you think CRM, those types of kind of like just quick bite off, get it off the shelf, and kind of get going there. But we’re like, where you can make money at SAAS is really when you have the value add like you’re talking about, right? So. A lot of our customers are viewing these dashboards as the value add or almost like the consultative part of their service, right? So, you might buy our software 50 bucks a month for every user, but we’re gonna give you insights or help, like, give you kind of consultancy around the data that we’re seeing, the trends we’re seeing. And that’s where the dashboards kind of come in as well, right. So, some of our customers are even doing that pre-sales, so they’re actually getting data from prospective customers. So, they’re getting like a download of data from an ERP system. They’re uploading it into Verb and then when they go demo the products to these executives stakeholders, they’re seeing their own data inside the product before they even signed up for the service, right. So, they can start doing some of those insights early on before ever really signing an official contract. It’s just kind of like a quick, really early POC on how the software is gonna show you the insights, what kind of insights can we drive for you. So, that’s really, I think, beneficial. And the other thing that you kind of touched on was like, there’s a lot of data, right? And the data is the thing that people have been talking about. It’s the new oil. Right? That’s been like the term for last 10 years, right? And it’s like, what does that really mean? I think it’s… part of it’s like the complication is, yeah, there’s lots of data, but how do we get it together? And then, how do we take action on it? What’s the “So what?” Right? What’s that question? So, if you’re thinking about it from the perspective where you’ve got suppliers, you’ve got data coming from your suppliers. If you have data early enough in your cycle that can then forecast or show you trends that relate to, you know, monthly quotas or results. You know, a few months down the line, right? That’s actually like very actionable because you can start doing stuff today that that data indicates wrong, right? That you never knew about, that you never had that information about that is gonna make an effect six months in the future, right? So, that’s kind of how I would think about that process is like you can get information earlier on so that you can, you know, take steps now to affect stuff that’s happening in six months.

Tessa Burg: So, dashboards are really much more powerful than sort of the dashboards of old, which is just like, “Tell me how we did. I need to bring everyone along.”

Dave Hurt: Right.

Tessa Burg: We’ve now hit on the role of dashboards really at every stage of the selling and customer engagement process. And I think the key to sort of bring this down to like where people can start is going back to your answer earlier in this conversation, which is understand the process first. So, look at where do we first engage the customer, what’s our process, what do we wanna learn, and how can we show value. It feels really similar, like user experience. You know.

Dave Hurt: Yeah.

Dave Hurt: And I think that kind of makes sense. Like if the data isn’t bringing value to the customer, then maybe that’s not the right kind of data. And it helps serve as a filter that you don’t become overwhelmed like, “Oh my God, I have all this data,” or “Oh my God, we have to set up a dashboard for everyone.” And really, what you’re suggesting is sort of break it down, look at the processes, and where you have the opportunity to create value, and don’t try and create this silver bullet solution.

Tessa Burg: So, what are some of the things, ’cause now that sounds like a lot of work, so it sounds good but now, it sounds like a lot of work. What are some of the things that either Verb has automated or what are, like, shared processes that could be automated so it doesn’t feel like you’re building, like, all these independent standalone dashboards.

Dave Hurt: Yeah. I think that’s one of the big things there is. Somebody I follow on social media has a quote that’s like, “Dashboards is where data goes to die.” Right, like…

Dave Hurt: Yeah. And it’s kinda like, dashboards can be very disheartening for the people who do the work of getting the dashboard built because then if nobody looks at it, right, I spent the last month or two months or three months like doing all this, like, you know, nitty gritty work to get it all together. And so, I think it’s also important for people to understand, like, what goes into building a dashboard and why it’s complex. And you know, part of it is, right, bringing the data together. So, simple example is that lot of people will understand is if you’re looking at advertising data, you might have advertising data on Facebook, or Google, Bing, LinkedIn. There’s all that kind of stuff. Right? So, each one of the, all that data is coming in different formats, it’s coming at different times. Right, so it needs to get centralized into like a repository, right? So, that’s the first step. It’s quite difficult for a lot of people because you know, one, you have to have the skills, but two, LinkedIn is changing their API as frequent. So, now, every time that they change API, all that data that you’re expecting might be broken because you’re not getting it in the right format. Right. So, that’s the first step. It’s painful getting the data into repository, then you gotta start doing the transformations and the preparation of data. That’s also difficult. And that basically means, right, do you need to do math on the data? So, are you looking for specific ratios or things like that? Right? So, it’s not just like data comes in from Facebook and it just goes magically through dashboard. There’s lots of steps in between. And so, well, we’ve helped with, the way we’ve approached this is really, all those things can be automated, right? So, we make it really easy to connect data sources. So, your Facebook data, your product data, whatever that’s coming from, it just gets dumped into a data lake, which is just a repository for you. Then we give a very simple tools that are no-code to kinda set things up. So, that’s where you can transform your data. You can connect across Facebook and LinkedIn, and start making relationships. And then it’s at that point, you’re actually building your dashboard. So, we like to think about the problem as like, it’s an iceberg, right? So, everything above the water is the dashboard and that’s the easy part to build. But everything below the surface is really where it starts getting, like that’s the Herculean effort, right? So, that’s where bringing all that data together, transforming the data, preparing the data to make it fast, and all that stuff is actually the hard part. And that’s where the engineering teams get stuck. And that’s why things break and all that kind of stuff. And so, we’re really focused on automating that whole process. So, everything below the surface, it’s really just a few point and click kind of things. And then the rest is building the dashboard and that’s the fun part, I guess.

Tessa Burg: So, clients really only need to worry about their expertise and sort of ability to clarify the process and the outcomes they want. And then when they hit that stopping point, they can look for partners and solutions like Verb to sort of help automate what’s below the surface so they don’t get caught up. And I’ve seen that so many times is we get the requirements and it’s like, “Well, it’s too big,” or “It’s not possible.” Or, you know, this investment, to your point earlier, “What ROI is this gonna generate?” and then it sort of all starts to fall apart.

Dave Hurt: Exactly.

Tessa Burg: And then that’s why you ended getting, like, the one dashboard.

Dave Hurt: Exactly.

Tessa Burg: It’s like, “Let’s just do one.”

Dave Hurt: That’s when we can– Yes, exactly. I think the other thing that, you know, with all my conversations, there’s a lot of new roles in the data space. You hear data engineering. There’s data scientists, data analysts, right. And so, you think, a lot of people would tend to think like, “Well, you’re a software engineer, you can do all those things.” But it’s really a different skillset. Right? Software engineer is about writing code, not about doing math on the code, discovering insights, those types of things. So, I don’t wanna say it’s unfair to put that onto a software engineer, but it’s something that’s not generally in their wheelhouse. Right? It’s something that a lot of people expect a software engineer to be good at, but that’s not true. So, what we’ve really done is basically say, “Okay, you’re a software engineer. You get the concepts. So, all you need to know is that, like, first tick down to understand what a data model is, how to connect data. But we do all the stuff that’s, like, deeper into the data engineering and that kind of stuff.” So, you don’t need to go hire a whole team of data analysts, data scientists to go do this. You can–Verb is kind of a way to empower software engineers to do a lot of the data engineering that they might not have the skillset to do.

Tessa Burg: That’s awesome. It’s like, it’s a good augmented tool

Dave Hurt: Yeah.

Tessa Burg: To help them focus on what they are good at when it isn’t in their wheelhouse.

Dave Hurt: Exactly.

Tessa Burg: I definitely appreciate that because I feel like when someone finds out you work in “computers,” you get asked a lot of, like, random things to do. It’s like, “No, I can’t set up the AV equipment.”

Dave Hurt: Exactly.

Tessa Burg: “I know nothing about that.”

Dave Hurt: Yeah.

Tessa Burg: So, your tool does a lot. Dashboards, in general, can do a lot. What are some opportunities that you think are untapped or are there things that you wish clients were asking for in regards to features or uses?

Dave Hurt: Yeah, I mean I think some stuff that we’re really interested in, right, so. I don’t wanna go too far into the artificial intelligence. I think what’s interesting is, like, the small steps towards AI and ML kind of thing. So, thinking more about like forecasting and alerting that are very practical to businesses. So, you can think of dashboards, right, you can set up an alert from a dashboard, but it’s basically, you’re sending an alert on data. Right? So, I like to think about like, you know, an executive isn’t gonna go to a dashboard. They’re not gonna set a calendar reminder at 9:00 AM to go to a dashboard every morning at 9:00 AM. But what they need to know is, like, when things are out of, you know, out of our trend lines or out of our standard deviation of what’s acceptable, right? And that’s where we should start alerting them. So, instead of thinking of dashboards, right. Think about this process, right, like when does somebody need to come to a dashboard? When there’s something wrong or there’s something really great, right? And so, instead of just expecting them to go to the dashboard, bring the dashboard to them, right? Bring the alert to them if it’s an email kind of thing, or if it’s a message in Slack, or, you know, if it’s a text message even, right? But it’s like, “Hey. You know, we’re trending very far off of our monthly quota or we did a huge day yesterday” kind of thing, like, that’s what the executives care about. They don’t care about like, “Oh, we’re just coming along. We did the sales we were supposed to do yesterday.” Right? So, thinking about the alerting kind of processing and information you can gather from that, but also think about trends and that’s where kind of AI starts coming in a little bit for us. We can do a lot better forecasting using some of the newer AI tools. So, that’s what we’re looking to do with our customers is really help them build AI forecasting into their products to have that value add for their customers. And so, build that insight in the future based on the current data they have. So, that’s kind of where we’re focused is that, like, bring the dashboard to people via alerts and then also, you know, improve on the forecasting trending kind of information.

Tessa Burg: That’s really powerful especially for our clients A lot in like an average statistic in B2B is like 80% attrition. And it’s because there are so many different routes to market and a lot of them are not owned by the manufacturer or the original service provider. They’re going through distributors, they’re going through e-commerce platforms. And so, I think one area you’re hitting on is you can start to have a more direct relationship with your end users by delivering this added value, by helping them see, know what the product is actually doing for them. And the internet and apps and tools give us the opportunity to provide the added value more directly. They’re either on our website or wherever, you know, an alert can be received. So, I really liked that and I would love to encourage, you know, a lot of our listeners are in the more physical space, is to take that step back and not get overwhelmed by you know, how much data you have, or how little data they have, or what you can and cannot see. But start with what outcomes do you wanna deliver along the journey. And then below that, what type of information would really show value to the end-user? So, Dave, if people wanted some help in this process and engineering all the things that are below the waterline or below the iceberg, no. Part of the bottom.

Dave Hurt: Surface, yeah. The bottom there is for the step.

Tessa Burg: Below the surface. Recording at 9:00 AM, which is early for me. How can people get ahold of you?

Dave Hurt: Yeah. You know, check our website. It’s verbdata.com or email me directly at [email protected]. Those are the two kind of best spots, but you can also absolutely find us on LinkedIn. We share lots of content on that. And… And Twitter but, you know, that’s for the young folks, I guess.

Tessa Burg: Young folks. Yeah. I still don’t know what to do on Twitter.

Dave Hurt: Yeah.

Tessa Burg: Other than I stalk like English Premier League soccer teams and ’cause they just give hilarious updates. But if you, we did get an idea from Dave before we started recording that if you have questions and if you need help on identifying those outcomes or really getting clear on the process and the value, email us at Tenlo. You can reach me at tessa@tenlo, and then you’ll get a free mug. So, anyone who emails, whether it’s an idea for the show, or you want to start exploring how you can better use data to show your customers value, shoot us an email and we will certainly help with that. Well, Dave, thank you so much for joining us today. I think we’ve hit on a lot of universal truths around the challenges of dashboards, standing them up and getting them used in a way that is meaningful. So, we appreciate all your insight.

Dave Hurt: Awesome. Thanks for having me. It’s been great.

Dave Hurt

CEO & Co-Founder of Verb Data

Dave Hurt is the CEO & Co-Founder of Verb Data. Previously, he was an early employee at ONOSYS Online Ordering, a SaaS platform for major restaurant chains. He also co-founded Prototype1, a prototyping and development agency later acquired by a leading customer.

Through these experiences, Dave became keenly aware of the frustrations that teams juggle when building and maintaining customer-facing dashboards and just how valuable they are for sales and customer experience. Today, Dave’s mission is to offer a developer-first data experience platform that is easy to install and maintain.