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Reporting | Oct 20
Jessica Malnik on October 5, 2021 (last modified on October 4, 2021) • 8 minute read
Many people creating their first benchmark report get wrapped up in the science and methodology behind it. The result – the benchmark report ends up reading like a high school science paper.
On the surface, it is easy to see why this can happen. Great benchmark reports and high school science reports share some similarities. They both have a hypothesis, an intro, methodology, and key findings.
But that’s where the similarities end.
A high school science paper is all about presenting what you learned in a report.
On the other hand, a benchmark report is all about analyzing the findings and then creating a narrative around it that supports a business initiative or outcome.
In this post, we’re diving deeper into benchmark reports along with sharing some best practices.
A benchmark report is a type of business report that allows you to see how your product, performance, or company compares to similar products or companies.
“A benchmark report is a top way of debunking what’s the best performance being acquired in a particular organization or by a diverse industry,” explains Eden Cheng of PeopleFinderFree. “So, such reports have always been helpful for my company as it helps identify gaps in my company’s processes to achieve a competitive benefit.
Data collection and assessment is the best factor of a good benchmark report. It is an inevitable step that helped my organization garner crucial data from a competitor as those details remain confidential. A top-notch benchmark report that I have used helped me a lot to amass details via interviews, research, and everyday conversation with contacts from other firms. So, after gathering those crucial details, it also helped me get all the stakeholders together to assess the data carefully.”
Since benchmark reports can be useful in just about any business, we surveyed respondents from a wide variety of industries including SaaS, professional services, agencies, healthcare, and ecommerce.
Editor’s note: Learn how you compare to other companies with between $250k and $1 million in revenue with this HubSpot marketing benchmarks template.
Writing a benchmark report depends on the type of benchmarking you are doing. There are four types of benchmark reports, including internal, external, performance, and practice benchmarking.
When it comes to internal, external, and practice benchmarking, most companies practice and report on it.
On the other hand, for performance benchmarking, most companies just report on it. This makes sense considering these reports tend to be competitor benchmark reports.
Like most things in marketing, the answer is — it depends.
However, since these reports can be complex and time-consuming to create, most companies create these reports on either a quarterly or monthly basis.
The most common tools that companies use when creating benchmark reports are Google Analytics, Google Sheets, and HubSpot.
Now that you know what a benchmark report is, here are some best practices you can use to improve your process for creating and analyzing these reports.
It can be tempting to add in every metric you can find into these reports. This is a bad idea for many reasons.
“Sometimes we can be tempted to put in a lot of metrics and benchmarks which in the end, can actually backfire and not help us achieve our business goals,” says Andre Oentoro of Milkwhale. “So, it’s important to discuss with your team and figure out what’s the most realistic number of benchmarks you need to include in a report to help get closer to your target. In this case, it’s important to focus on quality instead of quantity.”
Not to mention, as a survey found, the more metrics and initiatives you try to compare, the harder it is going to be to create and analyze your benchmark report.
Another mistake that people make is overcomplicating the report structure. The golden rule is to stick to the simplest report format with the fewest metrics needed to get the results you need.
“Because benchmark reports can be comprehensive and sometimes convoluted, it’s important to have a solid structure to your report,” says Marc Bromhall of Surf Gear Lab. “ I always start with three key sections: an introduction, key findings, and a methodology in that order. This helps set the stage for the report and also keeps the reader engaged until the end.”
An added challenge is to make sure you’re comparing your performance or product to similar companies.
For example, if you are a 4-person startup doing low six-figures in ARR, you probably shouldn’t be comparing your business to Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, or Netflix.
“A good benchmarking report compares against the right type of organizations,” says Georgi Todorov of ThriveMyWay. “In my experience, in terms of numbers, it is best to compare to organizations of a similar size.
If you’re benchmarking against a corporation while you’re running an SME, you will get little value from the report because your resources are not comparable. At the same time, it makes a lot of sense to look into organizations outside of your niche, especially if their target audience overlaps with yours.”
Marilyn Gaskell of TruePeopleSearch adds, “The most important part of the benchmarking process is to decide who or what you want to benchmark against.
Is it a direct competitor? Is it a company outside of the industry you operate in? Is it another department within your own company?
Who you choose to benchmark against will set the standard that you compare your company to and will thus serve as the example you want to live up to. That is why you need to carefully analyze the pool of candidates and select a company or a department that employs best practices so that you too can live up to these best practices when you have finished your benchmarking report. This will involve looking carefully into the companies or departments you can analyze, making sure that your selected candidate has data that is readily available for you to collect, and comparing their processes to your own to ensure compatibility.”
For example, Daniel Veiga of Danny Veiga Marketing says, “In our agency, we provide lead generation through multiple channels, and we are always running benchmark reports to make sure that the metrics are in line with everyone else across the United States at any given time. By doing this, we can quickly see trends occurring or necessary steps to take to increase results.”
Editor’s note: How does each metric in your inbound funnel compare to the averages and top performers from similar companies? Learn how you compare to other companies with between $1 million and $10 million in revenue with this Hubspot marketing dashboard.
The best benchmark reports tell a story tied to your specific business initiative or outcome.
For example, John Millen of MillenGroup says, “Over the past 20 years we have experimented with all types of formats and styles. The goal is to make sure the recipient understands and can implement the “story” the benchmark reporting is telling them. The most important thing we have discovered is that it needs to be simple. It needs to be concise. It needs to be formatted in a way that a sixth-grader could interpret the results.
Many times people think reporting needs to be massively complex to demonstrate value. I disagree. I think it’s much harder to simplify the data into a one-page report than it is to layout 30 pages of a report booklet.”
A gap analysis is particularly important for performance benchmarking.
“The most important factor of a good benchmark report is a great gap analysis,” explains Shawn Plummer of The Annuity Expert. “This is the part where the report analyzes the gap between the company and competitors, the reasons for the gap, and how the company can overcome it. A good gap analysis is insightful, can generate a concrete action plan, and can determine whether the benchmark report is valuable and insightful for key decision-makers.”
James Diel of Textel adds, “Designing a great benchmark report isn’t about hitting industry standards, it’s about finding ways to exceed them. Competitive research can show you what everyone else is doing and how to do it well, but why stop there? Once you gather some intelligent data from your benchmark reports, start brainstorming, testing, and adjusting new processes. A great benchmarking program allows for the continuous process of improving and analyzing workflows.”
In sum, creating a great benchmark report is all about having a proper hypothesis, sharing your methodology (our process), and then creating a narrative around your findings that support a specific business initiative or outcome.
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