Why B2B Benchmarking is NOT a good idea!

Am I better than the competition?

If I got a penny for every time a client has asked “How do we compare against our competitors?” or “How are we doing against the benchmark for our industry?” I’d be a rich man. But the thing is that B2B benchmarking is not a good idea. Seriously. You should strive to be a ‘Unique’ company and not an average company.

Most of our clients want to know how they are doing against the benchmark score for their industry. My response: “If you really aspire to being a mediocre company, then I’ll tell you what the average score is for your industry and how you compare against the average. But you can do better than that. You can be UNIQUE.”

In fairness, some of our clients have latched on to the message that they should ignore the competition. They should focus purely on being indispensable to their existing customers. Still, it’s tempting to see where you stand in a league tables against your industry peers.

So let me ask a few questions about why you want to do benchmarking. Because B2B benchmarking is not a good idea!
 

What exactly is your industry?

Are you in the insurance industry, or the insurance broking industry? Or are you in both? Or re you an outsourcing company that specialises in insurance third-party processing?

It’s all in the insurance world but these are very different industries. They have different dynamics and there are differences in average scores from one industry to the next. For example, we know from experience that IT and BPO outsourcing companies tend to get lower than average scores from their clients, while corporate banking and professional services companies tend to get slightly higher than average scores. Firms operating in niche markets also find it easier to be seen as different and unique.
 

If I say you’re at the industry benchmark, will you really be happy?

If you aspire to hit the average score for your industry, or your country, you’re setting the bar pretty low. What you’re telling me is that you want to be an average company. To take my point to its extreme, benchmarking is little more than a recipe for mediocrity.
 

Do you realise that international benchmarks are inherently flawed?

This is not just because the insurance broking or widget-manufacturing markets in the Netherlands have a completely different structure than they do in Australia. It’s also because Dutch and Australian clients have completely different approaches to the way they answer customer surveys.

There are some good academic papers on how different nationalities are pre-disposed to answering questionnaires differently. Let me give just one example. Some people will claim that the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) for B2B companies is between 25% and 30%, regardless of industry. However, these figures are heavily skewed towards US companies.

Our experience of gathering NPS scores across 86 different countries since 2006 is that the average NPS score for any B2B industry is closer to 10%. But then again, our clients are more heavily weighted towards European and Australian respondents, who generally tend to score less positively than their American counterparts.
 

But I still want to benchmark my performance!

I thought you might say that.

If you really do want to benchmark yourself, then let me suggest that you approach the subject of benchmarking in a slightly different fashion:

  1. START BY SETTING THE BAR HIGHER. Aspire to be the best, or at the very least to be ‘Unique’ in the eyes of your customers. Our database at Deep-Insight shows that only 10% of B2B companies are considered Unique by their clients, but these Unique companies have significantly stronger relationships – and retention rates – than the ‘average’ company. Unique companies typically have twice the number of Ambassadors and have NPS scores of 30% or more.
  1. BENCHMARK YOURSELF AGAINST YOUR OWN PERFORMANCE LAST YEAR. That’s a much more reliable way of seeing if you are becoming more customer-centric or not. The journey to becoming a customer-centric organisation is a long one – don’t think you’re going to achieve it in anything less than three years – so be sure to check your progress formally on at least an annual basis.
  1. BENCHMARK YOURSELF INTERNALLY. See what your clients think of you, compared to the scores that are achieved by other divisions or business lines within the same company. If you’re an international company, benchmark yourself against other geographies (but watch out for the cultural differences between, say, American and European divisions.)

Remember that B2B benchmarking is not a good idea. It’s not a BAD idea. It’s just that you should ignore the competition and become unique for your customers.

Good luck!

Product Management: First Month, First Insights

Rose Murphy
Product Manager, Deep-Insight

I’m delighted to start my new role as Product Manager. It’s an exciting challenge for me and for Deep-Insight. But where do I start? What do I do first?

Having spent ten years working my way up to Operations Director in Deep-Insight, I know our products and services like the back of my hand. I’d like to think I have a good grasp of the enhancements required to improve the reports and results we provide to our customers. But how can I be sure?

Here’s the single biggest thing I learned in the last few weeks since starting this role.

What I knew within operations, I really knew. What I know now, I only think I know.

I need to gather a lot of information and knowledge in the next few months. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this.

Here’s the plan; I am going to deal with the ‘known unknowns’ one day at a time.

There are a lot of unknowns at the start of this process, but I have decided that there are only two that really matter.

1. What do our customers really want need?
2. What is the correct product roadmap for the next couple of years based on this?

I thought I knew the answer to number 1 above. I did with the word ‘want’. I have been listening for years to client feedback on our products.

But do I really know what happens within our client’s organisations once we deliver the results? Do I know what they really need?

We spend a lot of time with the management teams responsible, as a result of our findings, for creating action plans and driving change throughout their organisation.

But what about the team on the ground responsible for working with the reports on a daily basis?
– Do we really know everything that happens with our reports and results once our clients receive them?
– Have we ever truly observed how the account management teams use our reports and findings to help them manage their accounts?
– Have we ever assessed if our clients are making full use of every piece of information in every document we send to them?

To answer the question at the beginning of this blog, that is what I am doing first.

I will visit every client that will have me and meet as many people as possible within their organisation. I am going to ask many questions but I am also going to stop asking questions and simply watch.

I believe that it is this process of watching how our products are being used that will bring me much closer to understanding what our customers really need us to do. I will consider this information to be the single most important factor when deciding on our product roadmap at the start of next year.

That’s better. Now I have a plan. I’ll keep you updated.