The best gauge of marketing success is how well your email program meets your specific company objectives. However, knowing how your program measures up to industry benchmarks can help you the next time a senior executive asks, "How do we compare to everybody else?"
Benchmarks generally do not replace data showing how your marketing program has contributed to your company's bottom line, solved problems for other departments or helped your company achieve other goals. However, knowing how well you compare to your industry peers and the market's top performers sets a baseline, especially if you lack real numbers or need help to defend your budget allocation or request additional resources.
Benchmarks can help you answer three questions about your marketing program's performance:
1. How are we doing compared to everyone else?
These industrywide comparisons tell you if you're in the statistical ballpark, but not whether you're sitting in the corporate skybox or the bleachers.
They're usually reported as averages, which are easy to understand and calculate but not as meaningful as the median (the data point at the exact midpoint of results).
Also, many email industry benchmark reports treat all data equally, even though we know B2B and B2C lists or lists with different permission levels perform differently.
When you read a benchmark study, see if the data reflects peer companies in your market sector. For example, B2C benchmarks would be interesting but not particularly relevant to a B2B marketer.
2. How are we doing compared to the top performers in our industry?
Today, "average" is the new bottom. Better to compare yourself to the top performers in your market sector. Silverpop's study compares performances among email senders in the top- and bottom-performing quartiles. In many case, the "average" benchmark differs little from performance in the lowest quartile.
3. How do we compare to our own goals?
This is your benchmarking gold standard, because these statistics are the most relevant. If your company hasn't previously tracked performance in "process" metrics (opens, clicks, unsubscribes, spam complaints, etc.), it's time to open a spreadsheet and start filling in the numbers.
As you compare, remember that "output" metrics (revenue, leads, cost savings, order size, repeat orders) actually measure how well you are meeting business goals, which is your best set of benchmarks.
Benchmarks from Silverpop's International Study
Silverpop's newest International Email Marketing Benchmark Study generated a new set of performance benchmarks for email marketers and compares metrics in the top and bottom quartiles. Here’s a selection of findings from the Silverpop study.
- Unsubscribe rate higher among lower performers: While the best-performing messages have few to no unsubscribers, little difference exists between average and bottom-quartile performers.
However, the overall unsubscribe rate for bottom-quartile performers (0.26 percent) is almost three times higher than median performers (0.09).
- Bounce rate lower for top performers: The average bounce rate of 5.5 percent was more than four times the rate among top performers (1.2 percent).
In the United Kingdom, the average bounce rate was 3.6 percent. However the bounce rate for companies in the bottom quartile (4.1 percent) was about 8 times higher than the bounce rate for the top performers (0.5 percent).
- Click/open rates vary: Bottom-quartile performers saw fewer than 1.3 opens per opener compared to a 1.66 overall average. For clicks per clicker, top-quartile performers (1.6 clicks/clicker) were 19 percent higher than the median (1.34) and 35 percent higher than bottom performers (1.19).
The full report explains the methodology and presents the complete list of benchmarks. Download your copy here.