From Benchmarks to Insight – your content marketing metrics

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Lauren Armstrong

12. 12. 2016 | 4 min read

From Benchmarks to Insight – your content marketing metrics

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When we work with clients, often we’re asked about benchmarks. People seem to love them – and we can see why. Answering the question, “How are we doing?” feels at least related to the question, “How are we doing compared with others?”.


At Velocity, we like a good benchmark too — but only in the absence of real, relevant data (and then only temporarily – until real, relevant data becomes available).


If you have absolutely no previous experiences on which to base your metrics, it makes sense to start somewhere, with published benchmarks like these:



If you have absolutely no other information to base your targets on, you’ll have to start with this kind of general stuff. But the goal is to aim way higher than that.


If you use them as a substitute for real data, you breed complacency, divert your attention, and obscure the solid ROI insights you really need.


Start at home

The best KPIs start closer to home and focus on your own past performance.


Even if you could get benchmark data for your specific industry, they would ignore dozens of critical differentiators like company size, offer, target audience seniority, etc


And, unless you’re running a bespoke (expensive) benchmark project, you can forget about other key variables: list source, emails sent per month, or customer preferences.


Make KPIs Personal

Best practice is to base your valuable KPIs on your own marketing initiatives. Pulling insights from your past experiences will save you from shooting too high or too low. It’s about where you sit on your own marketing maturity curve that really matters.


If you want to know if you’re moving in the right direction, you need performance insight.


So what do we mean by performance insight?


Real insights come from your own tools and reporting to show how your audience is reacting to your marketing efforts (content, campaigns and offers).

Real performance insight means you can:


  • Form meaningful KPIs based on your historical trends in all channels
  • Test different hypotheses for stronger conversion rates
  • Guide new content decisions
  • React, focus and expand your marketing efforts
  • Highlight and optimise ROI


Let’s use two companies to illustrate the difference between benchmarks and insights. We’ll call them – unimaginatively but sensibly – Client A and Client B.


Both clients want KPIs. The first used SMART insights, the second relied on Benchmarks (without the benefit of a tidy acronym):


SMART Insights (Client A) Industry Benchmarks (Client B)
Focused on an exact measure
Focused on an aggregated number
Linked to key organizational value
Linked to external norms
Based on precise targets
Based on broad ranges
Meeting organizational strategy
Meeting multiple outcomes
Time Specific
Aligned to defined dates
Aligned to evolving dates


There’s a reason you’ve heard of SMART KPIs but haven’t heard of GCDRO KPIs. What does this mean for our two companies?


Client A works in three-month improvement cycles

Client B work is less iterative and managed in an ad hoc way


Client A runs efficient, focused projects

Client B suffers from shifts in scope and direction


Client A createss content that’s driven by strategy

Client B creates ’random acts of content’


Client A evolves content to better meet customer needs

Client B has a committee to judge what works


Client A presents regular data-driven successes

Client B frets about hitting a moving target


Client A knows when they’ve made a difference

Client B always feels they’re behind the curve
You can imagine which quarterly metrics meeting is the most productive and fun to attend.


So what are the five key takeaways?

Glad you asked:


  1. Start with your own performance instead of obsessing about generic ‘others’.
  2. Customize and evolve your reporting tools to give accurate baselines.
  3. Build focused KPIs based on SMART insight
  4. Let your KPIs drive your content and campaigns instead of the other way!
  5. Review performance monthly, quarterly and annually


The Insight Dividend

The difference in outcomes between Client A and Client B is huge. When – and only when – you know your own performance, can you start to think in terms of KPIs that have authority and value.


There’s no shortcut. But the good news is you can start today. The answers are at your fingertips (hiding in your web analytics, marketing automation and CRM!).

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How to break free from the benchmark trap

If you’re turning to industry benchmarks to set your performance goals – make sure you’re asking these two questions.

Agustin Rejon | 06. 09. 2023


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