Do industry marketing benchmarks matter?
Consider these two benchmarks, completely out of context:
- The average clickthrough rate (CTR) is about 4% for B2B. (source)
- The average Facebook organic reach for pages with 500 likes or more is 2.11%. (source)
Do these benchmarks provide you any useful insights? On the surface, they might seem to, but they're deeply misleading. Consider what could potentially be inside each benchmark.
For example, "B2B" encompasses everything from a Silicon Valley garage startup with two guys putting together a new computer to the largest aerospace defense contractors on the planet. B2B includes healthcare, finance, technology, and food supply. Saying B2B industry benchmark implies that every company in this category, averaged together, should perform more or less the same.
It's highly unlikely that the Facebook fans or email subscribers to a cancer-fighting healthcare company will behave identically to the fans and subscribers of an industrial food dye manufacturer. Possibly, but unlikely.
What Good are Benchmarks?
Are industry marketing benchmarks of any use? Averages aren't in this case because of the likelihood of outliers skewing the data, but median benchmarks are useful under some circumstances to know if we're an edge case. For example, if the median clickthrough rate of B2B email is 5%, then we know the middle of the road is 5%. If we're significantly above 5%, great - let's keep doing what we're doing. If we're significantly below, we might want to ask why.
What's Better Than Benchmarks?
Remember that any industry benchmark is average. By definition, it is mediocre.
The most useful measurement is our own performance. How did we do compared to yesterday, last week, last month, last year? Are we continuously improving our performance?
Chart your own data and improve upon it. For example, if you improved your performance every day a measly 1%, in one year's time you'd be 37 times better than you were at the start of the year.
Don't aim for average. Don't settle for mediocre. Focus on constant and never-ending improvement, a little bit each day. If you achieve true, constant improvement, in a year's time you won't care what the benchmark is.
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