Every business is a world on its own. Needless to say, managing it means controlling every aspect possible to produce excellent-quality products and services to valued customers. Business owners and their managers decide who and what comes in and out of the businesses to maintain the standards required to stand out in the market. You go through every minute detail to ensure that the products and services that your customers know and love remain as is - and where you can improve. Regardless you are managing businesses built from scratch, passed down to you, or assigned to you, you’ll want to make sure that they stand out. It has to be original!
Fostering an original business idea includes making it distinct and appealing to people who could benefit from it. Say for example, flattering clothes for plus size men and women. While there are clothes available for them, there's a gap in variety and personality that limit’s the market’s expression and needs. Another example would be trendy shoes for old people. Most old people settle for comfortable footwear because they have limited choices, but imagine providing them shoes that trendy young people wear without sacrificing the comfort and support they need? A good business idea, fills in a gap in the needs or wants of its target market.
You can think of a number of ways to make your business very original, but the truth is - nothing is original. There are clothing lines that already offer plus size sections; many geriatric footwear advertise their products better because they team up with businesses that cater to the same niche; But that’s okay. You will always have competition and competition is what helps to expand your business. This is where benchmarking comes in.
What is benchmarking?
Benchmarking definition started to formulate when bows and arrows were put up against early firearms to hit the same target efficiently. These early researchers saw that gunpowder powered arms were better and became the earliest basis for case studies to produce newer weapons with better load, hit, and aim. The results were used to analyze the production of firearms and ammunition and were later on adapted in other lines of businesses.
To put it simply, benchmarking is the practice of comparing your work to other works. Benchmarking in business can specifically mean conducting studies within your company by comparing performances of related functions or departments. You can also compare your business with other businesses, but not limiting yourself to study the ones of the same scale and location as yours, but to also check out the business processes and performance metrics of more established companies working in the same line. Benchmarking consistently over time helps you to gradually apply new and improved practices to your management and slowly committing to - or even going above your industry’s standards.
Improve your advertising
Benchmarking in business will benefit a lot of business owners no matter the size and scale of your business. Benchmarking is like studying and testing a formula to a proven positive result - in fact, it is. But before you dive deep into the maths of benchmarking, try to focus your comparison to what you can actually see. Aside from the quality of your products and services, your customers appreciate visual cues so it would be smart to first improve your marketing materials.
- Your branding
You probably already know this, but just to reiterate: branding is everything. It is what people associate your product with. Your business name and your logo are the first things people look out for when trying out a new product or service. For those first time business owners, you can try to start by creating your logo for free and check out the tips on how your logo should look like. You can compare your branding with others and analyze why theirs respond well to people who avail of the same product and/or service. For example, if your business caters to people who are luxurious, it would make sense to use typeface, figures, and colors that exude the same appeal. You can read more about what certain web designs can communicate to their audiences to get a feel of what we mean by using the right visual language with your target audience.
- Your website
When people conduct their searches for a product or service within your industry, you would want your website to show up first. With a good marketing campaign, google analytics, and active search engine optimization, your rankings will improve over time. But you also need to prepare what they’ll be seeing when they click on your website. When people gravitate to your business website, you’ll want to make sure they stay long enough to potentially get them into the buyer’s journey, so captivate them as soon as they land on your website - here’s how other users have created their inspiring landing pages.
As a business owner, it’s also your prerogative to check out your competitors’ websites from time to time and see what they do and why it works. Are their websites performing better because they are minimal? Are their aesthetics more appealing to your audience? It could be something very obvious or a little bit of everything. The benchmarking process allows you to see how you can improve your work processes without compromising your brand and integrity. Pick up what works, but make it your own.
- Your published content
Yours may be a business that has a running catalog of your items, and may be one that provides value by having a newsletter. Whatever the case, evaluate any and all of your published content. Don’t limit yourself with just posters, videos, articles, blogs, or promotions - observe your competitors’ published content. They could be releasing weekly podcasts, housing a community forum, and other out of the box content that support their brand. You don’t necessarily have to adopt all the ways of content creation too, but it’s worth a study in benchmarking management to gain a better understanding of your competitor’s inner workings. See if they are posting too much or too less and if their posts drive people towards or away from their page. Your competitors are most probably exercising some of these strategies to remain on top. After all, they’re probably benchmarking for the better, too.
- Your social media game
Don’t just create social media accounts because articles recommend you should or their icons look cute on your business card and website. Your social media feeds need a lot of attention so don’t treat them like an afterthought. Include them onto your marketing calendar. Your posts can be produced from one source, but the duration for each should depend on the platform you’re using. For example, you could post an eight-minute video on Facebook then re-edit it to a two-minute clip on Instagram then turn it into a gif and post it on Twitter. Be resourceful with your material and take note of your competitors’ posts. Take note of the posts with both good and average engagements, then apply what works to yours. This way, you have narrowed down the kinds of content you want to share that may or may not work with your audience.
It is important that you add links to your social media accounts on your website. You can read more on the benefits of integrating your social media on your website here.
Your business’s visual identity needs to stand out in your industry and your branding and website should support that need. When you build your website with Strikingly, you’re well-supported 24/7 for any inquiries with a vast catalog of resources that can help you make the changes you need to help your brand standout.
Know what works and what doesn’t
In every business, we all aim to maintain or elevate the quality of work we produce. Good benchmarking in business evolves looking to improve all the factors that affect the quality of our work - that’s time, cost, and scope.
Let’s take the social media creation example - say your marketing team can finish a ten-minute video in 30 hours. What are the requirements you need to do it in 15 hours? As part of the marketing team, you may need additional resources to get another editor on your team that can cut down your editing time with the same equipment to achieve the same quality of work. What other areas can be optimized to help achieve the same or better output?
This decision-making and scenario-running is important for your benchmarking process because this helps you analyze your current performance. If you can find the formula that produces zero defects and hundred percent customer satisfaction, keep doing it. When this becomes a repetition, this becomes your internal benchmark. Internal benchmarking will help your business a lot, too. But remember that optimal performance in one department does not apply to all. Good benchmarking management ensures that you test out different strategies per department or organization to collectively achieve industry standard metrics. Your benchmarking management might become other companies’ benchmark one day.
Benchmarking is a good practice because this will give direction to your business. This helps you identify what works and what doesn’t because other companies have already taken the risks that you still haven’t. By benchmarking, you will know where to bank on. Should you put more money into your marketing materials? Should you hire highly capable people with competitive salaries? Should you invest on more equipment to produce more outcome? There are businesses that share their business processes and performance metrics as a part of competitive benchmarking. Look for the ones that are in line with your business. Identify what you want to benchmark, collect data, make an action plan, take action, then find the formula that works.