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June 01, 2016

We hear every day from our clients—and for our clients, from their higher-ups—"What's the benchmark? Is this good or bad compared to the benchmark? What benchmark should we expect?" Benchmarks are just that: a point of reference for comparison, or a way to compare performance against a standard. There isn't any real value in comparing your performance on a specific campaign to almost every other campaign that has ever run on these new-age platforms. But then, how should we be benchmarking our campaigns' performance?

The best road to consider in this case is to benchmark against yourself. Allow us to explain.

You Set the Pace
Think about it: If you compare metrics like navigation rates, engagements, interactions, clicks, and views against a vertical category, advertising spec size, or other competitors, how much can you really learn? If Fast Food Advertiser X is looking to drive store traffic visitations without a sale, and Fast Food Advertiser Y is offering a 75-percent discount on their products to drive traffic, their engagements, navigations, and interactions will look very different, no? Is it wise to compare your campaign to that of a competitor who's so different at face value? A better gauge of success would be to benchmark against yourself. We know you're already thinking, "But what if I haven't run a campaign on a particular platform, and it's my first time?"

We would suggest that you compare the performance of that campaign against a prior campaign that had similar pricing parameters, executions, or strategic elements. For instance, the performance of Fast Food Advertiser X's new location-based marketing campaign to drive store traffic could be measured against Fast Food Advertiser X's most recent traffic-driving initiatives for search, social, or other native platforms. Comparing equal metrics like CPM, interactions, and possibly navigations will give this advertiser a more insightful view—one beyond the assumed expectation for all fast food advertisers.

A Roadmap for Benchmarking Success
If you've run a campaign on a newer platform, benchmark your next campaign against the previous flight, rather than that of a competitor or an industry vertical. The roadmap below will help when evaluating the success of your next location-based, mobile, or native campaign:

1. Kelley Blue Book Standards
Institute a standard for comparison—CPMs, CPCs, interaction rates, or engagements that can easily be compared cross-platform.

2. You Don't Need a Learner's Permit
As Mashable notes, CTR has been around since 1994, and the first banner ad had a 44 percent CTR. Are you getting 44 percent CTRs on your ads now? We didn't think so (and if so, what's your secret?!). Stop basing your performance evaluations on the rate at which someone will click, and instead evaluate more advanced or campaign-specific metrics.

3. A 4-Door Sedan Theory
Simplicity is key. Keep variables and testing parameters in place. Overanalysis and too many variables will leave you with a digital data mess. Test one or two things at a time for simplistic, less-skewed results.
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