Part of human nature is a need to compare ourselves to others. For marketers, benchmarking your company’s performance against peers and top performers has been popular for decades. More importantly, however, the process of benchmarking can provide significant and valuable insights into performance improvement opportunities.
But many marketers actually use benchmark reports incorrectly and don’t take advantage of their greatest value. At its core, benchmark data helps answer the question: “How are our marketing programs performing relative to other similar companies?” An even better question to ask yourself is: “How can we do better and become a top performing marketing organization?”
In the Acoustic 2019 Marketing Benchmark Report our metrics go beyond the average (mean) and also reports data by 20 industries, 9 global geographic regions, and median, top and bottom quartile. This helps marketers benchmark against the top performers in their industry and region and seek ways to achieve significant improvements in results rather than simply comparing to the average and moving on. (See how you compare to selected metrics using our interactive benchmark tool.)
Translate benchmark data into action and performance improvement
Following are 7 tips to best leverage benchmark data and reports to drive performance improvement and obtain increased budget and resources.
1. Go beyond average: Typical benchmark reports focus on “average” marketing metrics — in other words, mean (or median) figures. As we like to say, however, “average” is the new bottom. If you want to create a world-class email or mobile marketing program, we encourage you to compare your results to the best performers, as indicated by top quartile numbers where available.
2. Benchmark against multiple industries. Many companies have multiple types of business lines and/or types of marketing programs and don’t fit neatly into a single industry category. Identify additional industries that may use email and mobile marketing in ways similar to some of your programs and use that data to compare performance separately from your overall program.
3. Use “activity” metrics as a starting point. The Acoustic benchmark report and most similar reports primarily examine “process” or “activity” metrics, which measure message-centric activity, such as open and click-through rates. Understanding how your email and mobile programs compare to these activity metrics is an important part of benchmarking — but should be just the beginning.
“Output” metrics — such as leads generated, number of downloads and conversion rates, and “impact” metrics such as revenue, revenue per message and lifetime customer value — measure how well your marketing campaigns and programs deliver against your company’s business goals. It is important to understand and analyze all three types of metrics to improve overall program performance.
4. Benchmark against your own program: After benchmarking against peers be sure to benchmark against your own program — by previous time periods, types of emails and mobile messages, regions, segments, sister brands and more — so that you’re performing true apples-to-apples comparisons for your business and marketing activities.
5. Educate executives and peers: One of the greatest values of benchmark reports is the opportunity to use objective third-party data to educate executives, other departments and even members of your own team. Unless you are an experienced email marketer, for example, metrics such as a 25% open rate or 5% click-through rate might not sound very good. And executives in particular always want to understand how their company’s marketing programs compare to competitors.
More nuanced metrics such as the click-to-open rate and engagement rates, which can provide deeper insights into your email marketing programs, are unlikely to be understood by executives but can be useful to educate others where opportunities exist to improve your programs.
6. Identify what’s possible: A powerful use of benchmark data is learning what is possible to achieve. Leverage top performer benchmarks to build out your targets for the next quarter or year and drive specific strategies to achieve improved results.
7. Support for budget and resource requests: Benchmark metrics help you identify where your marketing programs are both underperforming or delivering results well above average. In either case, use these findings to make the case to management for more budget and resources to make improvements or expand already high-performing programs.
Once you identify improvement opportunities, see if you already have the technology and capabilities you need. Perhaps your vendors offer features you’re not using yet. Or, you might collaborate with another department to save money and resources.
With all benchmark report data, you are looking at results taken at a specific moment in time on a representational slice of a particular vendor’s client database. How your own numbers fall or rise is ultimately a more critical and insightful benchmark.
See our benchmark resources and previous blog posts: