If you've been doing online marketing for long, you've probably come across a lot of benchmark data you should be comparing your marketing's performance with.
Unfortunately, these benchmarks are completely useless.
In this post I explain why, giving an email marketing example.
The Email Marketing Campaign
Imagine you've just executed an email marketing campaign. You sent the email to the highly targeted opt-in email list you've been building via inbound marketing for the last 2 years, and it was delivered to a total of 5,000 people.
You come back a week later to look at the stats for how it performed. Of the 5,000 contacts sent the email, 1,250 people opened it (25%). A total of 400 people clicked the link to the awesome piece of content you were promoting (8%).
Naturally, after reviewing these numbers, you want to know if they're any good. You do a quick Google search for open rates, and find Mailchimp's guide. You note that in the software industry it's standard to achieve a 22.03% open rate, and 2.61% click rate.
You compare this with your numbers, and note that both your open rate and click rate is higher than the industry benchmark.
That means you must have done a great job, right? You don't need to change anything, and start thinking about the next email marketing campaign you can run in a few weeks.
Why This is Toxic
In this instance, by comparing your open rates to the benchmarks, you've had a negative impact on your marketing. Your numbers were better than the benchmarks, so you decided there's nothing you can improve for next time. So long as your conversion rates keep beating the industry figures, you're happy... Why bother changing?
The industry benchmarks have created complacency.
Remember that benchmarks represent an average of performance in the industry.
Being average is actually pretty bad.
How many terrible emails do you receive from software companies each month?
Given that the average open & click rates were 22.03% and 2.61% respectively, it's likely that the top end of the sample had much higher for both. If they've achieved much higher than average conversion rates, you can too.
What to Do Instead
Instead of comparing your inbound marketing performance with industry benchmarks, compare them with your previous campaigns. Did this email do better than the last one? Why not?
What about your landing pages? Blog posts? Call-to-action's? Bounce rates?
You can find benchmarks for almost any of these conversion rates, but if you want to achieve the best you can with your marketing, leave them ignored. You don't become great by comparing your performance with the average.