Why Startups Need to Measure KPIs & How to Get Started with Dashboards and Scorecards

Guest post by Ryan Shelley, Groundswell Mentor and CGO & Founder of Shelley Media Arts.

Do you know if your marketing and growth plan for your startup is actually working? While ‘trusting your gut’ is essential in entrepreneurial success, this alone can be fatal. By defining and tracking KPIs, you can help ensure that you are indeed headed in the right direction and getting the results that matter for your startup’s success.

The What

In a world full of data, it can be very difficult to know what to track. Just because you can track everything, doesn’t always mean you should. Most companies track so much that they lose focus on what matters the most. This is why defining KPIs is so important.

According to Kilpfolio, A Key Performance Indicator is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving their key business objectives.

The key part of the definition above is “business objectives.” Every company has different goals and should have different KPIs. The first step in knowing what to track as a Key Performance Indicator is first to have a clear grasp of your businesses objectives.

For example, if one of your business objectives is to grow the number of users on your platform, “Number of New Users per Month” should be a KPI for your company.

Another important thing to remember is that you should limit the number of KPIs. Aim for no less than 5. No more than 7. If everything is important, nothing is. So, after you know your objectives, start brainstorming what you need to measure. Then organize your thoughts into buckets based on their importance. This will help you narrow down your list and enable you to focus on what matters most.

The Why

Just tracking numbers for the sake of tracking them is going to do you little to no good. You have to embrace data as a pillar of your business. When you have the right KPIs, they can assist you in your decision making process.

While trusting your gut is powerful, when you can back that with data, it makes it much easier for your team to embrace the vision. It’s also helpful when the data shows the opposite of what you are feeling. This gives you a chance to slow down, think a little more about your options and make a smarter decision.

Another reason being data-driven is important is that it helps us reach our goals. Having a “North Star Metric” for our company is great, but the only way of knowing if we are heading in the right direction is with data.

Think of a North Star Metric as your ultimate KPI. Growth Hacker Sean Ellis says “The North Star Metric is the single metric that best captures the core value that your product delivers to customers.”

This North Star Metric should be your top KPI and something everyone on your team knows where you stand on. Using a dashboard, you can share your KPIs with your team in real time. This builds trust, transparency, and helps keep everyone on the same page.

The How

There are a lot of BI tools you can use to create dashboards and scorecards with your KPIs. The problem for many startups is that these tools are extremely expensive and do a lot more than they need to do.

I have found a great tool that you can start using for free. It’s called “DataBox.” Below I’ll show you how to get started with the tool by setting up a dashboard and scorecard.

Step 1: Sign Up @ https://databox.com/

After entering your details, you’ll go to a dashboard. This is your home base for databox and will be where you can see and interact with your databoards once they are set up. The first step is to hook up your data sources.

It’s important to note that your free account includes only 3 data sources and 3 databoards. So, start by adding the connections that matter the most to your business objectives and KPIs.

To add data sources, simply click “data manager.”

As you can see, there are a lot of connections from which to choose. Click “connect now” to get started.

Now, choose the data source you want to connect to and follow the on-screen steps. For the purpose of this post, I am going to use Google Analytics, but feel free to connect to the sources that matter most to you!

After you have connected your data source, you’ll be asked if you want to start from scratch or use a template. Since KPIs are very business specific, choose “Select Metric.” You can always browse the templates later.

Next, you want to select the metrics that you need to add to your KPI databoard. Once you’ve selected your metrics, choose “continue.”

Databox will then configure your data into a databoard for you. Just like that, you now have a KPI dashboard! Hover over the card and click the “edit” button.

This is your KPI databoard. You can edit any of the boxes by clicking on them, or you can add more data by dropping in one of the metrics located on the left-hand slide. Let’s look at editing one of the metrics.

After clicking on a metric, a panel will slide out from the right. Here you can do the following:

  • Change data source
  • Change Metric
  • Add comparison metric
  • Change data ranges
  • Connect a goal

This helps make sure that your board meets your needs and enables you to track your progress. Once you have completed making your basic adjustments, head back to your portal dashboard and set up a scorecard. To do so, click the Databox logo in the top left corner.

To create a scorecard, click “notifications” and then “create my first scorecard.” The goal of a scorecard is to give you a quick snapshot view of your KPIs.

In the box, add your data sources and the metrics you want to track. Then set up where you want to see these scorecards. Databox has an app so you can take your metrics on the go with you. Download it here.

Next, you can set up when and how frequently you want to receive alerts. I recommend checking your KPIs at least weekly. This will help you stay on top of your numbers and keep you focused.

Now that you are set up go back and add a few more data sources and see what else you can create. We use databoards for every area of the business. We track marketing metrics, sales, finance metrics, user data and behavior, team productivity and of course KPIs.

If you have any questions or get stuck, feel free to reach out to me at ryan@smamarketing.net. Using dashboards and scorecards will help your startup track the numbers that matter most and drive your innovation in the right direction.


Ryan Shelley, Mentor at Groundswell Startups and Founder & CGO of Shelley Media Arts, is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His work has also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing solutions.

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