by David M. Raab, Raab Associates.
If benchmarking has a patron saint, it might well be former New York City May Ed Koch, who famously stood on street corners and asked those walking by, “How am I doin’?”
Like the three-term mayor, marketers also often wonder how well they’re performing at their jobs. But while Koch could only judge his success based on people’s opinions, marketers can compare themselves to more objective standards based on benchmarks against their peers.
Benchmarks are often prepared by vendors who aggregate results from clients, allowing for representative data obtained anonymously. The results are much more realistic than if it were based on user surveys, which have much smaller samples, typically rely on respondents’ casual recollections, and often attract responses from a typical users (those most interested in the topic at hand).
Of course, benchmarks also have their limits. They report on averages and rarely show any variation. Even averages by industry or other categories hide a large amount of deviation. So marketers who are above or below a given average have only the roughest indication of whether they are performing as well as they could.
Still, a benchmark is a good place to start with your measurements, even though you should also compare your results to your own history to see if you’re improving.
Here are some recent benchmark reports on various marketing topics which you might find useful. Click on the titles to download the originals. Most will want your email in return.
• Yesmail Email Marketing Compass Q4 14 Recap : Email results are broken down by the viewing device: smartphone, tablet, or desktop. The report shows conversion rates, revenue and number of purchases. It also shows the proportion of responsive design emails that users are sending.
• Marin Software Q4 2014 Performance Marketer’s Benchmark Report : Users can track ad performance through SEO, display ads and social media. Measurements include number of impressions, conversions, click-through rate and cost-per-click.
• Experian Email Benchmark Report Q4 2014 : Another set of email benchmarks, broken down by industry and device. Users can measure email volumes—rates of opens, clicks, revenue, transactions, bounces and unsubscribes. The report also measures emailings by date and time.
• Insidesales.com Annual 2014 Lead Response Report : Analyzes the response to Web-based inquiries sent to 14,000 companies. The report shows the distributions of phone-response times, numbers of phone and email responses and media used—broken down by industry and company size.
• Listrak 2014 Research Report and Look Book : Reports on the email remarketing programs of the top 1,000 Internet retailers, with a focus on shopping cart recovery campaigns. The report shows the percentage of companies running campaigns, number of messages in their campaigns, and use of discounts, recommendations, and ratings or reviews in the campaign messages.
• Epsilon Q3 2014 Email Trends and Benchmarks : Shows the usual email statistics including open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates. The report gives results by industry and quarter going back several years. This gives a good indication of trends.
What’s unique here is the data also shows results for different message types, such as acquisition, editorial, legal, marketing, newsletter, research/surveys, and service. This also gives information on use of triggered emails.