Ten Steps To Benchmark Your Marketing Plans

One way to address this is to use a set of benchmarks. I use benchmarks in different ways to judge my performance and also how my products are selling. I sell digital products on the web and look for ways to judge my performance (not only sales) against my competitors. Why? Benchmarks help me see things with greater clarity.

How to take your ego out of the business? Tricky at the best of times. For me, benchmarks are one of the most reliable ways to judge my true abilities against someone else’s.
You see this in sports all the time.
Maybe you have a friend that thinks they are pretty handy on the golf course. And maybe they are. Compared against those they know they can beat, of course.
But what happens when someone new joins the club?
Ever notice the way these loudmouths slink away and make their excuses. Suddenly the bravado is gone.
They adopt a ‘wait and see’ policy.
If the guy (or girl?) is really good, they’ll steer clear. If they know they have a chance, they’ll come bouncing back. You know the type, I’m sure.
This is fine on the golf course.
But, in business, you don’t have the same luxury. The pressure is on. You need to gauge how successful your product, service, or customer satisfaction is and adjust accordingly.
You can’t afford a ‘wait and see’ policy. Time lost is money lost.

Ten Step Benchmarking Model

One way to address this is to use a set of benchmarks. I use benchmarks in different ways to judge my performance and also how my products are selling. I sell digital products on the web and look for ways to judge my performance (not only sales) against my competitors.
Why? Benchmarks help me see things with greater clarity.
Instead of leading with my heart, which most small business owners do, the benchmarks allow me to assess things objectively.
It takes me out of the picture.
Here are ten steps to benchmarking your business.


1.  Identify the benchmark target – highlight the product, service or activity you want to improve. Start with one benchmark and learn from this. Don’t complicate things by defining multiple benchmarks at once.

2. Identify benchmark partners – look at competitors you want to compare yourself against, for example, similar size SMEs or startups with a similar market presence. Be realistic.
3. Collect data using a combination of web tools and excel spreadsheets. Google provides some excellent tools for monitoring firms and brands. You can compliment this by developing surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups to glean more information.


4. Determine the gap – look at the market research findings, clean the data, and look at the difference in performance, sales, or customer satisfaction  between you and the benchmark you’re working against.

5. Project future performance – set a target of what you want to achieve and timeframes for getting there. Again, be realistic and allow some leeway if this is the first time you’ve benchmarked your products.


6.  Share results – one way to keep the team motivated (and in unison) is to share this information. This also helps set the standard and show the team what’s expected of them from here on.

7.  Establish goals for each person – be specific about each person’s targets. The more you refine the targets, the greater the chance of them reaching their goals.
8.  Develop Action Plans – armed with the information from the market research, develop an Action Plan that works with the goals and timelines you’ve established for your team. Use the Action Plan to clarify to each member of the team what’s expected of them and the critical success factors associated with these targets.
9.  Implement plans and monitor results – hold a workshop or team meeting and kick off the project. Assign a project manager to lead the activity and agree on how status reports should be delivered. Reduce misunderstandings by sharing examples of status reports, action plans and other deliverables. Monitor the results as per the action plan.
10.  Recalibrate benchmarks – look at the feedback and tweak the benchmarks where necessary. Don’t change things just to keep your team on their toes. Instead, encourage them on their work to progress and show how their contributions help the company move forward. Celebrate major milestones to boast morale.

Do benchmarks work?

I’ve used benchmarks in companies for different reasons.
Sometimes we’ve wanted to see how our customer service compared with another firm.That makes sense.
Other times it was to take people’s ego out of the equation. Benchmarks are neutral. They don’t take sides.
If your department or project is struggling and you can’t get a handle on where to move next, let’s say you can’t reduce the number of customer complaints:

  • Work with the team to setup benchmarks.
  • Show them that you have nothing personal against under-performing team members. These are the industry averages and we need to get there.
  • Then examine why we (we’re all in this together right?) have not hit this target yet.
  • Build consensus. Show that this is the best way forward. Take other suggestions but be careful with those who are trying to undermine you.
  • Create a Project Plan, assign tasks, and deadlines.
  • Create an Action Plan and walk each person through what’s expected of them.

Revise, revise and repeat.
That’s one way to do it.
How can we improve upon this?
Pic credit:°Florian

4 thoughts on “Ten Steps To Benchmark Your Marketing Plans”

  1. By the way, if it’s OK with you I’d like to add that no marketing plan or marketing calendar should be set in stone!

    If history has taught us anyting, no matter how effective your plan may be, chances are, it will have to be altered at a given time; due to what your competitor(s), clients, future clients or suppliers are doing.

    Here’s the kicker, don’t feel as if you have to be a psychic. Don’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of needing a business and marketing plan so flexible that it takes away from the overall aim and goals that made you ‘hungry’ to market your particular business, product, service or idea in the first place!

    No doubt about it, there’s an easy way to be sure that you can continue to have success in the future – if you just start off with flexibility in mind! The best way to do so is to have a marketing plan and marketing calendar that is flexible and built to adjust itself when the time comes to do so.

    Sandy Barris
    Fast Marketing Plan.com

    1. Absolutely. We need to think Market Planning not Market Plans. Business Plans are a very similar in that they should serve as a metronome for one's business but, as you said, if conditions change, the adjust the plan accordingly.

      Your site looks like a winner, by the way!

  2. Ivan

    Benchmarking works; in case there are some non-believers. Developing a marketing plan with the understanding that it is a plan and not a set in stone you must do as plans change. A plan is a guideline to follow and to report back to, to see if there are any modifications that need to be made in the strategies and tactics as you are seeking to achieve a goal.

    I have benchmarks in many aspects of life. It keeps me focused and balanced.

    Great article and a pleasure to read as I shook my head in agreement.


    1. Thanks Suzanne,

      You can see how benchmarking works in other industries, such as in Sports, Training, and of course in Customer Support roles.

      What’s interesting is how much ego gets invested in Marketing and Business Plans.

      It’s as though changing the plan is a sign of weakness or that one has made an error. Whereas, it’s a sign of flexibility and having the smarts to react fast and take the corrective action.

      We’re trying to introduce this concept at our local school so the kids grasp the principle from a young age.

      As, like you said, you can then apply it across many areas of one’s life.



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