It seems we all have some bar in our heads, some level that we want to reach. I know I do. I have a “weighing this much is ok, but not this” bar. Or “this salary is impressive, not that”. In listening to the coverage of the NBA Draft yesterday I couldn’t help but think about how much money these young kids (that’s right, I’m that guy now) are all of a sudden going to have. But it’s a benchmark we place. Or maybe society places it. Either way, it’s an imaginary value.

Though not real, benchmarks become a driving force for goals, professional moves, back-stabbing, fighting, hard work.

“We got a 1000 likes on Facebook!” For some reason they think that is great- and it might be for their small company – based on a benchmark they have set.

“We had 30,000 visits to our website!” Makes for a great slide headline in a meeting, but is that the only benchmark the value indicator for your business?

“The tweet reach was in the millions!” Awesome, but then are you just playing the impressions game now? Or is there something that more actionable that we can latch on to?

When it comes to digital marketing, a win is a win. Sometimes it just keeps the group thinking, creating, moving, dreaming. I get that. Part of my frustration in the online marketing space is that for some reason we set relative levels of success. For example, if our open rate is better than some other company – even if only by a fraction of a percent – we think we have it figured out.

I love that we have this data to gauge our work against, but I think we do a disservice to ourselves and the businesses we serve if we don’t strive to raise the bar to levels that are not typical.

Here’s a few questions I would explore to set a much higher benchmark:

  • Why did only 20% of the people in my list open my email? Sure that might be good to some, but that means I am NOT reaching the majority of the people who have opted in to receive something I’m sending them. Does it feel too corporate? Would I open this email if I received it? Is there anything in there in terms of content that I care about? Is the content relevant to what’s going on right now in my industry/business?
  • Why did all those people come to my site and not do anything? Is it clear what I want them to do? Is there enough motivation for them to take the action that I want them to take? Is what I’m offering of value enough that they will fill out that form or download that item?
  • So you’re spending a considerable amount of time and money to drive those social campaigns and they are reaching millions of people, but what could you do to turn those people into champions? How could you gauge that metric? Maybe someone has determined the value of each of those people to your business, great! Now how can you reap that value in terms of real business sales/action?

I find it challenging to approach my daily/weekly life and look beyond the normal set of numbers or benchmarks. Someone put them there, but I think we should challenge them, even if they were put there by us.


With over a decade of experience, I have managed online marketing for a wide range of industries including biotech, high-tech, financial, higher education, non-profit, manufacturing, hardware providers, and startups. My specialty is helping business make the right turn with their online efforts focusing on lead generation and analytics.

Leave a Reply