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Choosing the Right Charts for Your Custom Marketing Dashboard

Choosing the Right Charts for Your Custom Marketing Dashboard

Data Visualization is the creative side of reporting. It’s the pretty charts and graphs that your colleagues “ooo” and “aww” over in your team meetings, and if done right, you can set the standard by which other departments are measured.

However, many marketers are not also data analysts and therefore struggle to develop effective data visualizations for their reports.  Consider this example:

Mary wanted to show the revenue generated from her marketing campaigns with an emphasis on which campaigns had contributed most significantly to accomplishing their companies quarterly revenue goals.

She had tracked and measured the data, but the monochromatic bar chart she used just didn’t seem to tell the story.

After a brief consultation, she realized that since her goal was “to compare the success of campaigns” a visualization highlighting comparison was more appropriate, in this case, a pie chart.  While either would work, the pie chart is more effective and helping others understand the data by representing the relative contribution visually.

So what graph should I use?

There are many, many ways to visualize data and what you should use depends largely on your audience and the meeting context.  Many marketers have had their data challenged due to a lack of granularity, and many have had ignored because it was too specific or jargony.  The most important thing is that your data visualization be effective!

Here are some basic considerations* for determining the type of chart you should use:

Line graph

Line graphs are used to track changes over short and long periods of time. When smaller changes exist, line graphs are better to use than bar graphs. Line graphs can also be used to compare changes over the same period of time for more than one group.

Pie Chart

Pie charts are best to use when you are trying to compare parts of a whole. They do not show changes over time.

Bar Graph

Bar graphs are used to compare things between different groups or to track changes over time. However, when trying to measure change over time, bar graphs are best when the changes are larger.

Area Graph

Area graphs are very similar to line graphs. They can be used to track changes over time for one or more groups. Area graphs are good to use when you are tracking the changes in two or more related groups that make up one whole category (for example public and private groups).

X-Y Plot

X-Y plots are used to determine relationships between the two different things. The x-axis is used to measure one event (or variable) and the y-axis is used to measure the other. If both variables increase at the same time, they have a positive relationship. If one variable decreases while the other increases, they have a negative relationship. Sometimes the variables don’t follow any pattern and have no relationship.


We hope this information has been helpful.  Data Analysis and Visualization are an entire field on their own.  We have not tried to be exhaustive.

As always, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

*Source: https://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/help/user_guide/graph/help_menus.asp

Using Salesforce Campaigns to Create Custom Lead Score Rules in Act-On Marketing Automation

Using Salesforce Campaigns to Create Custom Lead Score Rules in Act-On Marketing Automation



This article is an advanced use case for lead scoring using Act-On Marketing Automation.  Here we will explore the use case where a company is conducting multiple live events every year, and these events are being tracked through Salesforce Campaigns.  Act-On provides an out of the box feature called “Custom Touch Points” that allows a user to upload an event list and apply scoring based on this.  However, for companies that do many events, the manual process of uploading data is a tedious waste of time. In our use case, we want Act-On to apply lead scoring based on event participation without adding steps to the process after every event. This is an excellent use case for Act-On as true Marketing Automation and not just email automation.

A note for those not using lead scoring

Lead scoring is perhaps the most valuable, least used feature of virtually all Marketing Automation Platforms.  According to MarketingSherpa, “Organizations that use lead scoring experience a 77% lift in lead generation ROI…”  If you aren’t using lead scoring yet, this article won’t help you, but Act-On’s Marketing Automation Strategy Guide will!



While Act-On has native functionality that allows users to load event lists and apply scoring, organizations with many offline or untracked activities can find this cumbersome to manage. When using integrated Salesforce CRM, many organizations use the Salesforce Campaign feature to track and manage this activity. The Salesforce Report serves as a data source for any custom scoring model using Act-On Marketing Automation.

These are the types of creative solutions Tactical helps our customers with every day!



Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7

 Step 1 – Create a Salesforce Report

Configure your Salesforce Report to include all relevant Campaigns and the appropriate fields and Campaign Statuses.  Once you are satisfied with the contents of your report, save your work to the Unfiled Public Reports folder.

Additionally, make sure you configure your report to automatically refresh itself using the “Schedule Future Runs” option. (SF Article Here)

In this example, these Campaigns will have three custom Salesforce statuses:

  • Registered
  • Attended
  • Booth Visit

Remember to include the Contact ID and Email Address on these reports or Act-On will not be able to recognize the records!

 Step 2 – Sync the Salesforce Report to Act-On

Act-On’s native integration to Salesforce equips you to Import these reports in the Act-On Marketing Lists dashboard.  When you select “Import,” a complete list of Salesforce Campaigns and all Reports in the Unfiled Public Reports folder will be visible in alphabetical order.  If you have many such objects, the browser find function (Control + F on PC, Command + F on Mac) will help you locate your specific report easily.

 Step 3 – Configure the Recurring Report Sync

Once you have imported the Salesforce Report into Act-On, you need to schedule a recurring sync on the Report so it remains updated.  This sync will typically be scheduled to run once per day, and usually outside of business hours.

 Step 4 – Create Salesforce Fields for Your Custom Scoring Criteria

After you have defined what your custom criteria are, you will need to create fields on the Lead and/or Contact record to store this data.  In this example, we will use three custom Salesforce statuses:

  • Registered
  • Attended
  • Booth Visit

These three criteria will be created as the new Lead and Contact fields “Registered,” “Attended,” and “Booth Visit.”

We will populate these later in our workflow with True or False values.

Remember to add these new fields to your Salesforce Lead and Contact syncs, and to your Standard Field Names!

 Step 5 – Configure Segmentation

Now that you have your Salesforce Report and the appropriate fields, navigate to the synced Report in Act-On.  Configure segments that meet the criteria for your custom scoring requirements. Each criteria should be a subsegment of a general category.  For example:

Top level segment – Event Date is after 90 days ago

3 Subsegments:

  • Status = Registered
  • Status = Attended
  • Status = Booth Visit


This can be done using Act-On’s native “Profile” segmentation and relative date functionality:

 Step 6 – Configure Automation

Now that you have the appropriate segments, create an automated program that will manage updating your Salesforce fields automatically.

The Source List for the Automated Program should be the top level segment you created “Event Date After 90 Days Ago”.  If you would like contacts to reenter the program, Act-On Support will need to enable “program reentry” functionality.

Now add your conditional segments to the program:

Configure the program logic to update the Salesforce Lead or Contact field as True when a contact meets the program criteria. The program should look like this:

 Step 7 – Configure Scoring

At this point, all events are being captured in a Salesforce Report and this data is being synced to Act-On. Using an Automated Program, we have updated relevant Salesforce fields to hold the scored values, and when the scored behavior expires, the scored behavior will be updated as false. All that remains is to apply the Scoring Rule.
In the Scoring Rules section, configure a “Profile” Score Rule based on the value of your Salesforce Field.
In our example, we will score Registered as 5, Attended as 10, and Booth Visit as 40.

The Profile Scoring rules are configured as follows:

If you do not see your custom fields, it is likely you forgot to add these to the Standard Field Names as outlined in Step 4. Otherwise, your scoring should now look like this.

Based on the automated rules we have configured, Contacts will now be scored the given points for 90 days at which time the score will decay like any other behavior.

3 Costly Mistakes When Integrating Salesforce and Act-On

3 Costly Mistakes When Integrating Salesforce and Act-On

A Little Context on Salesforce Integration with Act-On

Act-On is well known for its seamless integration with Salesforce.  Having spent more than 10,000 hours working with Act-On technology, I believe that the ease of setting up a complete, dynamic, and automatic sync to Salesforce truly is industry leading.  A typical Salesforce user with basic admin capabilities can walk through the process in about 45 minutes. It’s a simple yet powerful platform feature that provides maximum flexibility for Salesforce admins. However, if you haven’t defined clear data rules for your organization, the ease of use and flexibility can lead to serious errors in the configuration.  Here are the top 3 mistakes made when integrating Salesforce and Act-On.

“If you haven’t defined clear data rules for your organization, the ease of use and flexibility can lead to serious errors in the configuration.”

Mistake # 1: You’re Pushing Too Much

In Act-On’s Salesforce settings, it gives you the ability to configure the “Push” settings from Act-On to Salesforce. Many Act-On customers will commonly opt to “Add new records to Salesforce” and subsequently select all available fields. This is a mistake.  Consider the following example:

(Above) The correct PUSH settings from Act-On to Salesforce.

1. I submit a form and am pushed to CRM with the following data. This data is synced to Act-On.

 Name: pHIL bOSLEY
Company: Tactical MA
Title: head jelly bean
Email: Phil@Tacticalma.com

2. Sales realizes this is incorrect and updates my record to:

Name: Phil Bosley
Company: Tactical MA
Title: CEO
Email: phil@tacticalma.com

3. Because Act-On pushes before it pulls data, the changes that sales made are now erased, and the record reverts to:

Company: Tactical MA
Title: head jelly bean
Email: Phil@Tacticalma.com

4. If Sales get’s frustrated and just deletes the record.  It won’t help…

If Act-On is configured to “Add new records,” the bad record will get added back to Salesforce on the next sync. So then, we don’t add records in a sync, unless we have a specific reason to do so, and we only push fields that generate Act-On info (e.g. Lead Score).

Mistake # 2:

You’re Not Removing Records

In an extension of the problem discussed in Mistake #1, it is extremely common to see a long list of errors on your Salesforce sync, where Act-On cannot identify the record to update.  This results in the highly annoying “invalid cross reference id” error.

(Above) The correct PULL settings from Act-On to Salesforce.
The solution to this is easy.  Simply check the “Remove records from this list that are not found on this list in Salesforce” option in your Pull settings, and Act-On will know to delete the records that have been removed in Salesforce, and no longer attempt the invalid sync.

Mistake # 3: You forgot the Admin Layer

(Above) This Salesforce Admin Layer in Act-On has not been configured.

This is a relatively new feature in Act-On, and part of their consistant push to improve data management in the platform.  The CRM Admin Layer provides settings for syncing Account and Opportunity information to Act-On, as well as manages syncing Opt Outs and and Hard Bounces to and from CRM.

Additionally, if you intend to segment based on Account or Opportunity information (functionality provided in Act-On’s Account Based Marketing add on), the CRM layer provides the connection to pull this information into the platform!

Next Steps:

Without reliable data, no marketing effort can reach its maximum potential.  These three mistakes are often the difference between success and failure with your Act-On/Salesforce integration, and there are so many more considerations.  For example:

  • How often should I sync Salesforce and Act-On?
  • How should I push forms to Salesforce and Act-On?
  • How do I integrate my lead stages and automated programs?

If you would like to review your Salesforce + Act-On integration, Tactical MA provides a 1 hour free consultation, and we can look at your sync settings and data management practices with you.  Our goal is always to have your sync optimized by the end of our session, and if you feel we can help in other areas, we’re happy to do that as well!

3 Things Act-On Support Can’t Help With (But an Agency Can)

3 Things Act-On Support Can’t Help With (But an Agency Can)

As a former Technical Solutions Engineer at Act-On, I loved how much our customers loved us. It was normal for a TSE to help 20 customers each day, and we always prioritized the customer experience.  My leadership had a very clear directive on the limits of how far we should go, summed up in a single word mission statement: “Help.”

At Act-On Support, I would help with anything a customer needed; but I knew that some requests I was not a good resource for.  Now, being part of Tactical MA, I realize these are things that you would be better served working with an agency on, rather than calling Tech Support.

marketing strategy for all businesses

Planning Campaigns

There are two things that a Support Engineer who just picked up the phone lacks that are vital to strategic consulting: experience and ownership.  I had neither of these, so it was never in your best interest to ask me to guide your strategy.

I was frequently asked to help design strategy or plans for customer campaigns at Act-On.  While I had a lot of experience working with the software, I had little to no experience in developing a strategy.

I was trained in how the software functions and how to solve technical challenges, not how to design campaigns.  At best I could share ideas I had seen, or even refer the marketer to the Strategy Guide, (authored by the CEO of Tactical MA) but that was it.


Why you should contact an agency instead

If you need help planning out a strategy, working with an agency is a far better path to take.  Marketing agencies have experience building out and managing proven strategies.  They take ownership of each client or partner and work to get the best results in the long term.

The best analogy I’ve come across for it is to look at your marketing as a ship setting sail.  Your strategy is the path you plan to take and the navigation along the way.  For that, you want a navigator who has handled plenty of ships and gotten them where they’re going.  You want to save the phone call to tech support for when the boat springs a leak.

Creating and Managing Content and Automation

In a similar vein to the point above, support staff cannot create or maintain your content for or with you.  This includes the building of automation, the design or creation of content, and any follow-ups to make sure things are running properly.

This goes back to experience and ownership.  Without alignment to your company goals, this experience was highly transactional, and I was laser-focused on defining and solving a problem.  Automation requires ongoing monitoring, response, and revision.  I always wanted to help to the best of my ability, but the nature of any support person’s job is to open and close cases; this is not conducive to the type of help you need.

As a technical resource, it was always unwise for you to gamble that I had the marketing experience needed to properly advise this process.

Page Design

Why you should contact an agency instead

The keys to content creation are time and expertise.  The best way to guarantee that someone with expertise is spending the appropriate time on developing your content or automation is to contract with them for it.  Content design and development is one of the key services offered by a good agency, and they have decades of experience that you can leverage to make your content or programs awesome.


Integrated Systems

Due to the connected nature of marketing automation, there are a lot of systems working together that need to be made to “play nice.”  This means that the lines of “who should be supporting what” get blurry, and many times I was asked to help with customizations to systems outside of Act-On.

While I could have helped with native connectivity to Act-On, I had limited exposure to CRM functionality, your WordPress plugins, or any system outside of Act-On.

As Act-On Support, I had thorough training and complete access to your Act-On account, but I was totally blind to the settings, configuration, and use case for any of your other systems.

Why you should contact an agency instead

In this case, there is an issue beyond time and expertise that matters most: liability.  A Support Engineer is limited in what they can personally do by the fact that they represent the company they work for.  This means that they are not able to accept or use your login credentials to work in your other accounts or platforms.

Good agencies specialize in data, integration, and technology. If you provide them with login credentials, they can jump into your systems and do what needs to be done.

One of the most liberating parts of my transition to working with a marketing agency was being able to log into all of the relevant systems for a project and set things up myself.  As a member of Support, I had to provide the information related to our platform and hope that the customer’s team could get things set up properly.  I have since received extensive training in many systems, and I work with experts across multiple platforms.

If there is setup or work that you need to be done in your CRM, website or another third party system that is beyond your team’s current understanding, reaching out to the right marketing agency can be a massive help.

In Closing

I can’t stress enough that Technical Support, especially the team I worked with, is often a highly motivated, talented group of brilliant people who want to help you solve your problem; but they are limited by regulations and experience for their specific product.

Successfully resolving your current situation boils down to the question, “Who is the best person to help with this?”  If the marketing automation software you’re using is not broken, Tech Support is not the right answer.

A specialized marketing agency like Tactical MA is often the answer you’re looking for.  The best part about Tactical MA is they are a premiere Act-On partner, staffed with former Act-On employees, and provide free consultations. Feel free to browse our site and see if we are a good fit.

Helping you is what we’re here for!

Podcast: What Makes an Act-On Customer Successful?

Podcast: What Makes an Act-On Customer Successful?

I had an opportunity to team up with my friends at Act-On Software to discuss the findings of a data study.  In this study, we evaluated Act-On customers and their success or failure relating to various features and found that certain features can result in 90% likelihood of satisfaction with the software.  We also found a few simple mistakes can almost guarantee failure.

An excerpt from the transcript:

“We asked the question, what makes an Act-On customer successful?

A lot of us, myself included, expected to see that it was our users that were doing sophisticated automation or sophisticated segmentation, or using these really advanced aspects of the program. And what we found, …it wasn’t the use of all of the advanced tools, pushing the system to its max, that made customers love Act-On. It was adherence to the Fundamental Three. Those three are simple, they’re in reach of every customer.”

It boils down to three questions:

  • Do you track website visitors with the Act-On Beacon?
  • Have you integrated your web forms with Act-On’s forms?
  • Are you regularly sending email through Act-On?

If you answered “no” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, it’s likely you have a problem waiting to happen.

Curious to know more? Check out the podcast here!

As always, I invite you to get in touch and let’s see how we can help!