How much should you lean on industry benchmarks?

As marketers, one of the ways we measure our success is by comparing our results with benchmarks. Whether it is email open rates, social media engagements, or responses. Industry benchmarks allow us to set goals to aim to outperform our competitors. And while this makes sense, how much should you actually lean on these numbers?

What are industry benchmarks?

Industry benchmarks are the average performance metrics of those considered the “best” in an industry. These numbers are collected from many businesses within the industry and are then sorted. 

These analytics are a useful tool in measuring your performance against similar organizations and are even helpful for younger companies looking to forecast and drive growth.

How can I find my industry benchmarks?

Websites, such as SproutSocial, can give you general benchmarks for all industries. If you aren’t sure what industry to be researching—or want to start with general social media benchmarks—there are a plethora of sources on the internet with general stats. 

To get industry-specific benchmarks, check out RivalIQ. They have reports for 12 industries, including non-profits, higher education, and more. If this source doesn’t include your industry, you might have to get more specific with your Google search. It might take some digging and a lot of research, but the information you’re looking for is out there. If you can’t find it though, don’t fret, because you shouldn’t focus too much on these stats.

Interested in learning more about social media analytics?

Check out our blog on social media metrics that matter.

Why shouldn’t I focus on these numbers?

While these are a great resource for your marketing team, be sure to take them with a grain of salt. And for one reason: you don’t know if these numbers are organic, paid, or both.

Let’s take click-through-rate (CTR), for example. One of our clients, an information technology solutions company, is a unique company. One barrier for us has been the lack of direct industry benchmarks for us to compare them to. That being said, we did pull benchmarks for the technology industry and found that the average CTR is 3.6%. After analyzing several months’ worth of data, we found that our organic CTR exceeded that, but our paid fell short at 2.79%. 

And we know exactly why our paid CTR is typically lower than organic: Because when you promote a post, it reaches far more people than it would organically. It just keeps reaching and reaching people until it gets the number of clicks that you paid for. 

Pro-tip: If you’re also having trouble finding industry benchmarks on the Internet, what we do is broaden our search. While data wasn’t available for direct competitors for our client, we did find analytics for the technology industry as a whole. Then, we studied our numbers for several months to create our own benchmarks.

Overall, keep in mind that your results and the industry benchmarks are not apples to apples. Even if the benchmarks include paid metrics, your budget, targeting, or objectives might not be the same.

What’s the best way for me to set goals for my organization?

While it’s important to understand your industry’s benchmarks fully, it’s just as important to understand your own. Take 6-12 months to study your own analytics, and compare your organic, paid, and combined results. To push yourself and improve, take your individual results, and set your goals realistically above your findings. 

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