3 Benchmarking Rules

Individuals measure themselves in so many areas – we gather data, compare and contrast achievements, performance, revenue, strategies, fun (FOMA) and any number of the other areas. As with most things, the data itself is only valuable if you provide context, or better yet, a benchmark against other data points to obtain an understanding of performance and trends.

3 basics for benchmarking successAs I compile the data gathered recently from our third annual B2B Enterprise Demand Generation Survey, I feel the significance of data. It’s not easy to build a survey, to take the pulse of an industry or a segment of the population. A few basics need to be established before building a survey or attempting a benchmark.

We have all learned firsthand that most things are never as simple as they seem. However, here are three basic rules of benchmarking to get you started:

1.State your purpose/goals
Defining and stating the goals and purpose of any survey or benchmark is essential for valid data collection. To obtain the most valid data, your audience should understand how the data will be used and for what purpose. Give survey recipients the courtesy of full disclosure and you will have willing participants that will assist you year after year (essential for a true benchmark). In addition, the questions asked in the survey should always support the purpose and goal for the data collection in the first place.

2.Keep it simple
Again, this sounds like a no-brainer, but often surveys turn out to be more of a test of your intelligence interpreting questions than obtaining responses. Short, simple questions with a selection of clearly worded responses work best. Choose your words carefully as “frequently” or “often” may mean different things to different people. According to a recent post by QuestionPro, “Don’t leave anything to interpretation from respondents.”

The less room there is for interpretation (or misinterpretation) in survey questions, the better.

Once you have the data you need, you then you can develop insights from the data. Don’t let questions become too complicated or ambiguous or you run the risk of invalid data.

3.Consistency is key
When building a survey, it is important to remain consistent. Try to be consistent in format and don’t use too many different types of questions some with wildly different options. Choose several formats that best fit the question. Try to keep the format similar throughout the survey to help your audience feel comfortable and to ensure ease of use.

It is also important to remain consistent with the same questions or similar questions year after year to develop a valid benchmark. This is not to say you cannot or should not remove or alter a question that proves unnecessary or is confusing to your audience. However, don’t ask the same question different ways each year. The less you change the language or format, the easier it is to compare and contrast data for the most accurate results.

When developing a survey, remember that data can be as simple or complex as you make it. If you are unsure if you should ask or measure something, ask if the data gathered would support the documented goals of the project. If not, skip it. Never focus on vanity metrics or seek information that cannot be utilized. There is an unlimited amount of data that can be collected, but the rule of thumb is unless you can use it, don’t gather it.

Lastly, keep your survey-takers happy and provide easy-to-understand questions with uncomplicated methods for answering them. Also, keep the survey short to mitigate any survey-fatigue (something we will work on for our fourth survey in 2017). It’s important to balance the data you need with the data your audience is willing and able to share. Surveys and benchmarks aren’t as easy to conduct and produce as you would think, but keep the basics in mind, and they can provide a great deal of information and data that is beneficial to many, not just your own organization.

The ANNUITAS 2016 survey results will be available early October. Register for a copy of the report here.

Author: Erika Goldwater CIPP/US @erikawg is VP, Marketing for ANNUITAS.