Do you aspire to be average?
Psychology Today explains that daytime TV succeeds because it "provides us an opportunity to compare ourselves to other involved in situations that we're glad we're not....we can temporarily feel good that we’re not in those situations ourselves."
I see the same thing in the flurry of emails bouncing around the inbound marketing community over the last several weeks trumpeting the latest "State of Inbound Marketing Report" from HubSpot.
Here's what I mean.
Success is absolute - it's not a checklist
Who cares if 65% of marketers plan to blog more next year, are increasing budgets or if there's a 7% increase in the number of companies that actually claim to have an industrial inbound marketing strategy now. (These are my fictitious numbers - not actually extracted from the report, but informed by reading such reports for many years.)
If you're an industrial company that's expanding your digital footprint and using content marketing approaches, they're either creating more qualified leads, or they're not. And your sales team is adapting to nurture and sell inbound generated leads or it's not.
In other words your program is successful, for your company, given your industry and specifics....or it's not.
If it's not, then teasing techniques from the aggregate is, at best, only going to make you average. And never in my discussions with manufacturing companies have I ever had a CEO tell me their goal was to achieve average revenue.
In fact I'd argue that the "State of Inbound Marketing" is primarily of value to internal marketing teams and outsource agencies who deliver mediocre results - because it provides a patina of "best practice" wisdom to uninspired work.
Benchmarks & metrics that don't matter
Amid the pablum of "video is the new killer app", "quality content vs. volume" and "how to republish blog posts," it's hard to find the sort of metrics that really matter - or at least to find an honest assessment of statistical significance. Does frequency of blogging directly correlate to lead generation? Probably not, although more articles answering more questions for more audiences (an outcome of more frequent blogging) and the focus on marketing, which an investment in more frequent blogging indicates, probably do.
What absolutely doesn't matter is the percent of companies that have a strategy vs. not (are that many companies really that silly?); how many plan to ramp up video; how many plan to invest more in marketing next year; or what percent of companies have aligned sales and marketing.
Of course it's theoretically possible that by reading the report someone might learn of a different approach to digital marketing of which they weren't aware. But even in that case, a far better use of time would be to dig into the voluminous educational resources which HubSpot offers in it's Academy - for instance the Contextual Marketing Certification.
An alternative approach
Instead of comparing your industrial inbound marketing to the bulge on a bell curve, determine the results that you need/expect and then work with people that can help you identify how to be superb; how to do the very unique sorts of things that only top performers do; or better yet, how to do things that nobody's yet doing - like Manufacturing Journalism™.
Don't simply chase the average.