Whenever we’re going over results from a marketing automation campaign and a client asks, “Well, OK but how does that compare to other companies that do this? Am I doing better or worse?”, I tell them it doesn’t matter. This isn’t the answer they want to hear. But it’s the best answer I can give them.
Look, it’s understandable to want to measure yourself against others to see how you’re performing. But as a business, benchmarks are not the most important measurement, and they’re not going to help you use your marketing automation system more effectively. All benchmarking does is compare the results of your completely unique campaign with someone else’s. What will you really get from that, except a habit of trying to keep up with The Joneses, Inc. rather than bettering your business?
What this tells me is that despite the wide adoption of marketing automation and the data extolling its value (such as 107% better lead conversion rates, 40% greater average deal sizes, 20% higher team attainment of quota, 17% better forecast accuracy—and that’s just from one Aberdeen report), MA is still a novelty to some marketers. A new toy, if you will, that must instantly prove its value on the bottom line.
Marketing automation’s true value is, I think, less about revenue and more about doing things the right way and giving customers what they want. By doing this, you also improve things for your organization—nurtured leads are better qualified, your sales and marketing teams can work more efficiently, results are tracked, adjustments can be easily made, and so on.
You have to flip your mindset
So when a client asks me to benchmark how they compare to others, I flip the question back to them: “Where are you compared to where you could be?” The answer is probably that they don’t know. And that’s okay, especially if this is the first time they’ve used an MA system. You may not know what your full potential could be, but it’s not going to be the same as anyone else’s.
Your business has its own goals, needs, processes and strategy. While benchmarking can perhaps inspire your business to make a bigger push, it’s better to look inward to figure out what needs to be tweaked as opposed to looking outward. There are so many factors that go into the implementation of an MA system and the setup of campaigns, whether it’s lead nurturing, lead scoring, inbound marketing or anything else. There are just too many variables to allow you to make a true apples to apples comparison with another company.
I’ll share with you some of the other questions I ask clients, and why they’re better indicators of progress.
“How does X result compare to where we thought it would be?”
Tackle pieces of data from your MA system and ask yourself this question about each one of them. No doubt you started with a strategy and a rough idea of what results you might see or would like to see. So don’t worry about how anyone else fared. How did you fare against your own expectations (and not your hopes)?
“Why did X have really good results, and why didn’t Y perform very well?”
This is an especially important question when looking at your content, whether it’s your content marketing efforts or lead nurturing campaigns. It’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t, but you have to dig in deep to find outWHY. Word of advice; this question begets more questions. If the ‘why’ isn’t immediately apparent start asking others—talk to your sales team or customer service to see what kind of feedback they’re getting. Rather than trying to figure out what kind of content other companies are sharing, look at your customer and social networks to see what people are talking about—you might find some more relevant ideas from that.
“What roadblocks or issues seem to crop up consistently?”
Implementing a marketing automation system is no easy task. Like a lot of things in marketing, it’s almost never going to be right the first time. You can certainly look outside for advice on best practices or some interesting ideas for building a campaign differently, but it has to be something that works for your specific needs. Talk to representatives of every department that uses the system and find out where the hiccups are, then plug the gaps and streamline clunky handoffs. Sometimes, you have to focus on finding and fixing internal processes to create better results on the flipside for leads and customers.
Remember, you only have control over your own business. Don’t worry so much about how everyone else is doing and where you fall in the spectrum. Besides, what’s true today may not be so tomorrow. Focus on what you know, what you’re doing and what you can do to improve. After all – do you want to compare yourself to others, or do you want to be the one they’re aspiring to be?
Justin Gray (@jgraymatter) is the CEO of LeadMD (@myleadmd). He founded the company with a vision to transform marketing through the use of marketing automation and CRM solutions.