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Average, Schmaverage

September 9, 2008  

In a post at the Email Insider blog, Jordan Ayan writes that he inevitably receives a basic query when he speaks at conferences: "What is the average [fill in the blank]?" The usual concerns relate to click rates, open rates and delivery, but Ayan claims to be more interested in the question than the answer: "I have never worked in an industry so fascinated by the concept of industry averages."

The irony, notes Ayan, is that focusing on "averages" can actually prove destructive to otherwise good email campaigns because you judge your results against meaningless statistics. "If anyone ever truly calculated the average open rate, for example, it would be made up of numbers in such a large range as to be virtually useless," he says. "So, does it really matter where that number falls in evaluating your email program's success?"

Ayan advises internal—not external—benchmarking:

  • A campaign that produces superior ROI has earned continued funding. Period.
  • One that achieves acceptable—though not spectacular—ROI should be improved through testing.

According to Ayan, marketers who become too fixated on industry norms cause problems for themselves. "In the end," he says, "they let the benchmark guide them into an uncomfortable position because they are focused on the wrong goal." Stick to your unique reality.

The Po!nt: Trust your own stats. Who wants to be average, anyway?

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