What is benchmarking ‘Continuous process of comparing a firm's practices and performance measures with that of its most successful competitor(s)’. Why do it? You have to know how you rate compared with your peers, to know where you need to improve relative to them. If you want to be "best-in-breed" in marketing, or just to "do better" you need a baseline to review the marketing effectiveness of competitors.
Online, potential customers will often directly compare what a competing brand or website has to offer. Benchmarking "puts you in the customers shoes" and gives you insight on where you need to improve. It can also give you inspiration to try new approaches whether they're related to content, design or the brand communications used.
So when should I benchmark? Ideally you should be benchmarking at least every 6 months or so as it will allow you to keep up to speed with what your competitors are doing and how your competitors' marketing changes. It's also an essential part of developing a marketing strategy where you need to look at all aspects of your marketing communications especially SEO, content and social media.
5 great free online marketing tools We know you will already be reviewing competitor sites, but at times we see there are some key issues that are often missed and you may also be missing some of the great free tools available to help you.
Google Alerts ‘Best in class’ - allows you to review mentions of your company name, your brand, or competitors by entering keywords. Widely used.
Google keyword planner It is part of Google Adwords but it is still free. You don’t have to invest in Google Adwords. It allows you to see what keywords are being used by your customers and competitors. Invaluable. We use it all the time.
Alexa An Amazon company which allows you to view competitor website visitor numbers amongst other interesting metrics. It gives you good overall visibility into the performance of your competitor’s websites. You can sign up for a 7 day free trial.
Majestic They offer a ‘must use’ tool to gain insight into your competitors’ backlink success. Google sees backlinks as high-ranking criteria.
Google Analytics You should be using Google Analytics at some level to understand your online marketing performance such as your website’s effectiveness or your social media marketing reach.
5 main pitfalls to avoid when benchmarking
Being unclear about what you are benchmarking and why - you need to have a purpose. Why are you prepared to invest the time or expense. What is it that you want to improve?
Failing to not know what tools and resources that are out there is probably the biggest block. There's lots of choice so knowing what to use, and when, will save time and resources.
Remembering that benchmarking should be an ongoing process, not a task that you do once a year.
Thinking your online competitors are the same. It's also worth looking beyond your direct market for "out-of-sector" benchmarking if you want to be 'best in class'.
Have a plan for the outcome of the benchmarking exercise. It needs to be linked to action. If the report sits on your virtual shelf, it was a waste of time.
Warning and recommendation Be careful not to get too worried about your competition, of course it's important, yet not all of your answers will lie within your competitors - we think that looking outside of your market can be just as beneficial for driving ideas and innovation - a source of inspiration for asking new questions. We can help Please get in touch with us if you would like advice on how to start your competitor benchmarking.