I was preparing to send an email to my customers today and chatting with a service partner of mine about our email metrics. “I don’t see great open rates on Mondays for other brands – do you have a sense of your success?” she asked, with an undertone of suggestion that maybe I should send my email another day. Actually yes, I do have a sense of our success. I like Mondays for specific communications, and I don’t particularly like making comparisons between grapes and kiwis [maybe you are more comfortable with the “apples-to-oranges” analogy, but I’m in the wine industry].
I have a love-hate relationship with benchmarking. Why? Because it’s a handy business tool that is often used improperly. Let’s start with a strong definition:
“Benchmarking is a technique in which a company measures its performance against that of best in class companies, determines how those companies achieved their performance levels and uses the information to improve its own performance.” – ASQ
Too many people focus on the first part, “...in which a company measures its performance against that of best in class companies...” Small business owners, especially, stop there. They can develop the mentality of “they’re doing this, so we need to do that,” and it’s like quicksand. They start following the pack, do things that are “prescribed” but may not be right for their brand, and quickly lose sight of what was actually working in their own business. They read an article or someone tells them that the best time to send an email is Wednesday at 10am, and that becomes their new way of doing things.
Benchmarking at its best is focused on the latter part of the definition, “...determines how those companies achieved their performance levels and uses the information to improve its own performance.” That’s the ticket right there. That’s how you will succeed. Absolutely pay attention, watch, listen and learn… but take the best practices, apply them to your own business, then test and measure them against your own performance. It’s a mistake to compare yourself only to others, and a better idea to compare against yourself. Small, incremental changes over time are what you want to see to make powerful changes and achieve sustainable success over the long run.
I’ve experimented with various email send times, and guess what – there is no best. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to my open rates. They’re in a comfortable range of “average,” so I don’t overthink it. [Honestly, I pay ZERO attention to open rates.] I pay attention to what makes the 22-29% of people who regularly open my emails to TAKE ACTION. My subject line should make my customers curious enough to open the email, and the content within should drive a revenue-generating activity. My open rates aren’t “the best” on Mondays, but my product sales are strong on that day compared to other days! And I learned this by trying different things and seeing what worked for my brand.
For more on benchmarks, and specifically email metrics, I highly recommend this article: 5 Reasons External Email Benchmarks Make Poor Success Metrics.