Nov 16, 2015

How Does Your Digital Marketing Compare: Benchmark Yourself Against the Competition

by Digital Marketing Institute

It’s natural to compare, to rate yourself, whether it’s competing in sport or business. If you want to succeed, you want to know how you rate compared with your peers, and where you need to improve relative to them.

I believe that benchmarking the maturity of digital marketing capabilities is an essential approach for businesses who are serious about making the most of opportunities from digital communications/channels. If you want to be the “best-in-breed” in online marketing for your sector, or just to “get more returns from online”, you need a baseline to review marketing effectiveness against competitors.

The power of benchmarking the digital maturity of your digital marketing capabilities is that it provides an objective evaluation of your current use of best practices and identifies the gap between where you need to be and where you should be.

You can then demonstrate to colleagues the gap and make the case for change and resource to take your marketing to the next level. This is particularly useful within digital marketing since it is still new to many organizations and those responsible for digital marketing need to show the opportunities it can provide to their colleagues.

To summarize, benchmarking or scoring capabilities can help:

  1. Audit current approaches to digital marketing to identify areas for improvement
  2. Benchmark against competitors who are in the same market sector
  3. Identify best practice from more advanced adopters
  4. Set targets and develop strategies and roadmaps for improving capabilities through time
  5. Communicate the current situation to colleagues and budget holders and highlight investment priorities in for different activities

What should we benchmark?

Benchmarking can be applied in different ways within digital marketing, either for digital marketing overall or for key digital communications channels like search, social media or email marketing or for the digital experience.

I recommend you start by auditing your overall digital marketing capabilities reviewing how you manage all digital marketing activities. I have created this summary of key issues to consider which marketers can download from Smart Insights. You can also check out similar benchmark visuals for other tactics too.

Rows A to D in this visual benchmark show how well the business manages their digital transformation overall. E highlights the management of systems and technology while F and G review communications offsite and the on-site digital experience across mobile and desktop.

The benchmarking system uses a simple 5-point scale from the US Carnegie Mellon Institute. This was originally developed for reviewing the maturity of software development processes, for which it has been adopted as a standard. With the increasing role of technology in marketing, it’s logical to use this simple breakdown and labels in digital marketing too. I originally developed capability benchmark spreadsheets when working on personal consulting projects for brands like Barclaycard, BP and Mercedes Benz, where I interviewed stakeholders asking them to assess their digital capabilities on a detailed scale. A version of this was referenced later in the Econsultancy Managing Ecommerce Teams reports.

A new interactive benchmarking tool

After developing many digital benchmarking spreadsheets and marketing strategy audits, I wanted to take digital benchmarking to the next level by creating an interactive tool that could be used to score a business digital marketing capabilities and make recommendations to improve. That’s what Smart Insights’ new Interactive Benchmarking tool does – you can register to use it here. It includes an assessment covering the whole customer lifecycle within each of the 5 areas of the Smart Insights RACE planning framework.

By scoring using this tool, you will develop a better sense of where your organization is currently at, which will help with your progress and digital transformation. In addition, your results will be anonymously benchmarked against the results of all others, so you can see how your business compares.

This could be very useful if you are trying to get management buy-in for your digital transformation plan or budget for a digital marketing project.

I hope this article may prompt you to score your digital marketing overall, or important inbound marketing channels or experience depending on your role.

Remember that people are a key contributor to digital marketing success, so you can score their knowledge and skills in a similar way to identify gaps to improve. The Digital Marketing Institute have this skills diagnostic that can help you review this.

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