4 slides that every marketing QBR deck needs

Mar 11, 2024

Introduction

As a marketing leader, you always want to create impressive quarterly business review (QBR) presentations. But this year brings more pressure. In a Gartner survey, CMOs reported their marketing budgets were cut from 9.5% of revenue in 2022 to 9.1% in 2023, and 75% said their leadership encouraged MarTech spending cuts. 

Knowing they need to do more with less, marketing leaders are scrambling to wow their executives during their QBR. Some marketers will try to fit as much positive data as possible in their presentation slides to show how campaigns are making an impact. Others will rehaul their typical QBR slide design, hoping that new metrics might reassure leadership. 

Sound familiar? Pause and take a breath. Yes, your QBR is important—but overwhelming your executives with data, positive or not, is going to hurt your cause. They’ll tune out any information that doesn’t seem relevant to the business’ health. 

Don’t expect a miracle after changing your presentation format, either. Unless your slide design is hard on the eyes, chances are the problem isn’t the way you present your marketing data. It’s what marketing data you’re presenting.   

To win over your CEO and CFO, create a QBR presentation that only addresses what they want to know: 

  1. How did marketing contribute to the business in the past quarter? 

  2. How will it contribute to the business in the next quarter?

Use these four slides to answer those two questions as succinctly as possible.

Pro-tip: Focus on just one target metric throughout these slides 

If you feature multiple target metrics in each slide, you’re bound to lose leadership’s attention. Focus each slide around a single target metric, the one your executive team uses to gauge whether marketing is contributing to the business. 

Some C-suites care about more than one target metric. If so, create these four slides for each of the KPIs they use to assess marketing.

Baseline performance vs incremental marketing contribution

This slide is the most important because it tells leadership what they want to know most—how marketing as a whole is contributing to the business. We recommend presenting it first. 

What does this slide show?

This slide shows baseline and incremental performance data over the past quarter. The former is a prediction of how your target metric would perform with zero marketing, while the latter shows your target metric’s performance with marketing activity. Represent this data with a bar graph. 


Imagine your target metric is sales pipeline, like in the example above. For this slide, you would create a bar graph that shows pipeline with and without marketing activity. For consumer businesses, we recommend using new orders or subscriptions as your target metric. 

What reporting tool(s) should I use to collect this slide information?

Calculate your target metric’s baseline and incremental performance with marketing mix modeling (MMM) and incrementality testing.

MMM is a form of statistical analysis that uses correlational data to predict your target metric’s performance with and without marketing activity. It’s a powerful tool because it captures data about all of your channels and calculates marketing’s incremental impact relatively quickly. 

However, MMM insights aren’t definitive because they’re based on correlational data. If available, share experiment (incrementality testing) data in the appendix to show how your marketing causes your target metric to change. The experiment’s control setting reflects baseline performance, while the variant represents your marketing’s impact. 


Pro-tip: Make sure your MMM has sufficient data

Your MMM can’t form valid, reliable predictions if it has a small amount of data. We recommend only using MMM if you have: 

  • 12+ months of target metric data on a daily aggregation OR 5+ months of target metric data on a monthly aggregation

  • A target metric that performs in the hundreds weekly (for example, hundreds of website visitors or meetings per week)

If your team doesn’t have this much data, conduct incrementality testing in the meantime. Experiments alone are invaluable in confirming marketing’s impact. Plus, you can add your incrementality testing results to your MMM, helping it form reliable insights. 

Incremental marketing impact by channel

Your first slide sparks the executive team’s interest in marketing by demonstrating its overall value. From there, leaders will be eager to see supporting points—specifically, which channels are having the most impact so they can invest in those further. Use this second slide to help them understand how each channel affected your target metric over the last quarter. 

What does this slide show?

Include a bar graph in this slide with different colors to signify each channel. Represent your target metric on the y-axis and each month on the x-axis. 

Say you’re a marketer for a D2C brand that measures orders as its target metric. Your bar graph for representing incremental marketing impact by channel would look like this: 


Because this slide can be visually overwhelming, emphasize the most important channel trends during your presentation. For the example above, you could note how PR and Facebook Web increasingly generated orders over this six-month span. And though Google Mobile and Facebook Mobile account for the most orders, their performance was relatively constant during this period.  

What reporting tool should I use to collect this slide information?

Like the first slide, use MMM and incrementality testing to show each channel’s quarterly impact. Estimate how each channel is affecting your target metric with MMM, and check the accuracy of these assumptions with experimentation. 

Pro-tip: Remember to include organic, owned, and earned channels

Some marketers assume they should only report on paid channels because executives are so focused on cost-cutting. However, we recommend showing all channels in this slide—including organic search, social, email, and SMS. Every channel, paid or not, is worth reporting on because all can positively contribute to your business.

Cost of acquisition

Regardless of your target metric, your leadership team wants to know the cost of winning new customers through marketing. Otherwise, they can’t evaluate whether your marketing’s incremental impact is worthwhile. Help them gauge your marketing budget by breaking down cost of acquisition (CAC) fluctuations in this slide. 

What does this slide show?

At a minimum, this slide should show the overall monthly cost of acquisition (CAC) and the CAC for individual marketing channels. Both can be represented with a bar graph, ideally showing multiple quarters to help leadership gauge whether recent acquisition costs are high or low. 

What reporting tool should I use to collect this slide information?

Instead of manually calculating CAC data, automate the process to save time. You could integrate a data cloud platform and a business planning tool with your marketing channels to calculate CAC. An MMM software like Paramark can also automatically generate CAC charts for you. 

Pro-tip: Remind leaders of channels’ incremental impact as you discuss cost

CAC data may scare executives away from channels, even if they have benefits outside of customer acquisition. Help them see the whole picture by reiterating how channels impact your target metric as you discuss CAC. For example, you might emphasize how Facebook ads are a top channel for retention despite having a high CAC. 

Forecasting

End your QBR presentation by getting leadership excited about the future. Share how you expect marketing to impact your target metric over the next quarter with this forecasting slide.  

What does this slide show?

Create a line graph to show marketing’s impact over the last quarter and its predicted impact over the next quarter. Use a solid line to represent the past quarter and a dotted line to represent the future, and include a vertical line over the line to separate the past data and forecast.


Include forecasts for baseline performance as well (like in the image above) to emphasize marketing’s future value. We also recommend sharing best-case, most likely, and worst-case scenario data for the forecast to set reasonable expectations for leadership. 

To understand how this information comes together, imagine sales are your target metric and your most likely forecast scenario is $16M over the next quarter. You would use a dotted line to represent this most likely outcome and a shaded color to show the best-case and worst-case scenarios. 


Leadership will want to know what makes a best-case or worst-case scenario more likely, so be ready to provide context around your forecasting methodology. With MMM, the model generates marketing predictions based on historical trends and your planned spending in the next quarter. 

What reporting tool(s) should I use to collect this slide information?

Create your forecasting data with a combination of marketing mix modeling and experimentation, like the first and second slides. 

MMM identifies leading indicators of your target metric based on your historical data. From there, the model can predict how your future marketing investments will impact the target metric in the next quarter. 

Increase the accuracy of these predictions by including incrementality testing results in your model. The causal data from experiments will help the model correctly identify your target metric’s leading indicators and form reliable predictions. 

Pro-tip: Emphasize that marketing investments don’t scale linearly

Your executive team may be surprised to see that marketing investments have diminishing returns in your forecast. For example, if spending $2 million on one channel led to $4 million in sales during the last quarter, it’s unlikely that spending $4 million next quarter will lead to $8 million in sales. Set expectations by explaining that it’s normal for channels to become saturated over time.

Create all of these slides with Paramark

You know what information each QBR slide should include, but collecting that data is a different matter. This process might seem intimidating, especially if you aren’t already using MMM or incrementality testing. 

Paramark can help. Our platform runs marketing mix modeling and incrementality testing for brands using statistics and machine learning. Companies using Paramark can quickly create QBR slides by copying outputs from our software’s dashboards and pasting them into their deck. 

If you’re struggling to understand your marketing ROI, we’d love to chat. Book a demo to learn how Paramark helps teams measure their marketing with MMM and experimentation. 

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