Benchmarking digital marketing efforts: Why does it matter?

August 10, 2022

Leslie Thandiwe Sithole

What exactly are digital marketing benchmarks, and why do they matter?

If you’ve ever spent time strength training at the gym, you’ll know the satisfying feeling of gradually, incrementally, being able to lift more. Remembering where you started and then being able to pick up a bigger weight or move that pin to a heavier setting as you get stronger is really rewarding.

While gym time can be a nice mental break from your desk, when you think about it, digital marketing benchmarking campaign performance and bench pressing actually have quite a bit in common.

Being able to accurately and meaningfully measure campaign success is an essential component of any good digital marketing strategy. And, like at the gym, seeing numbers go up (or maybe down if we’re talking about the scale) is certainly motivating. But where there is simplicity in measuring weight loss or seeing how much more you can lift, digital KPIs can be less straightforward.

One of the biggest challenges marketing departments face is effective data management. More often than not, teams don’t have a simple overview of the numbers needed to benchmark their efforts. A recent survey of 300 marketers by CallRail found that:

• 51% of marketers use four or more marketing platforms

• 75% of them said they spend too much time reporting

• 39% of marketers lack insight into the effectiveness of their campaigns

Working across multiple marketing platforms can make it hugely time-consuming or even impossible to analyze data and report on success. It would be like working out at a different gym every day, with scales and machines that all use different metrics to measure weight, distance, or time. You might be able to tell if you’re getting stronger or faster, or if you’re losing weight, but it would be difficult to measure and even harder to pinpoint which exercises had been effective. It would be much easier to measure accurately if you had a single baseline and all your metrics (or exercises!) were in the same format.

At Pink Orange, data is consistently one of the top pain points new clients come to us with. Either it doesn’t exist or it’s overwhelmingly complex, thanks to disparate platforms. It’s our job to deliver demonstrable campaign success. So, often, one of our first tasks is addressing data management, streamlining reporting, finding a baseline, and deciding exactly what it is we want to measure. This would be considered the marketing benchmark.

In the same way, different people have different fitness goals—some want to lose weight, some want to run faster, some want to lift more or cycle further, and some may want to do a combination of all of these—different clients have different business goals. And in the same way that different exercises target different areas of the body, different platforms and strategies can be used to target different metrics for campaign success. The key is defining the goals, implementing the correct strategy, and measuring improvements from a defined baseline.

Knowing how much you can bench on day one sets the benchmark you measure against in the weeks and months down the road. Of course, when it comes to fitness, sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. That’s when employing the services of a personal trainer can come in. And the same goes for digital marketing—it can be a wise investment to get the experts in to help.

As a starting point to help get your digital KPIs fighting fit, here are five things your company should be doing to benchmark better:

Get to know your audience

Knowing who your audience is and how they behave online is a basic, essential step in being able to benchmark the success of your marketing. Knowing who your audience means knowing the best platform to reach them. You might do well on LinkedIn targeting business-focused adults, but not if your audience is mostly 14-to-18-year-olds.

It’s a bit like knowing which exercises to do to target different fitness goals—lifting weights probably won’t make you a better swimmer as quickly as laps in the pool will. Nor is how much you can lift a great way to measure swimming ability. Likewise, if you’re not investing your marketing efforts where your audience is, it’s difficult to find and measure success.

Get to know your competitors

Analyzing your competitors’ digital presence and performance is an incredibly useful step to benchmarking your own performance. While you obviously won’t have access to their campaign reports, you can still have a look at their website and social media platforms to see the tone and frequency of their content and the volume of engagement they are getting.

In the same way, as it’s helpful to know the average BMI for your age and how yours compares, measuring your own marketing activity in light of your direct competitors can help you know where your company stands.

Decide the most important variable(s) to measure (and stick to those)
Any given campaign could have dozens of potential success metrics to measure. If you’re sending an email you could look at open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates—all are potential indicators of success. But the most important one depends on your campaign goals.

Are you testing different subject lines? You’ll want to look at open rates. Are you hoping to increase traffic to your site? Then 100,000 opens aren’t doing your company any good if no one is clicking through. Determine the most important action (or two) and make that your KPI.

Streamline your reporting

Once you’ve narrowed down the most important variables to measure, focus your campaign reports on those metrics and present them in an easy-to-digest way. Almost everyone in marketing knows that reporting can become a big-time drain or bamboozle in complexity, aim for clarity and simplicity, and cut out the noise.

Set actionable, data-based goals

A big benefit of narrowing down your KPIs and simplifying your reporting is that you will quickly have a meaningful baseline to benchmark against. And that means it’s easy to set incremental, data-based goals.

For example, if you’ve seen that your emails are consistently getting an open rate of 5%, your goal could be to double that—perhaps by testing subject lines or send times. Just like getting stronger in the gym, seeing your marketing numbers go up thanks to meaningful benchmarking will be so rewarding.

If your team needs more help making sense of data, defining KPIs, or benchmarking for campaign success, get in touch for a consultation with the team at Pink Orange.

Are you a marketer curious to learn about the aspects that affect our industry?

Or do you want to tap into our expertise to sharpen your tactics? Look no further than our free downloadable resources. We work hard to research our content - and offer it to you - free of charge.

Ready to set data-based goals to secure the success of your campaign?

Muscle up with our free Education marketing metrics checklist to ensure you stay focused on your targets and re-align where necessary.