Tonnis van Dam

How Benchmarking Can Help Business Associations Make Money and Attract Member

It is interesting to note that many of the reasons why businesses join an association correlate with reasons to benchmark. Associations by their very definition are organized, funded and expected to operate for companies in that industry. It is the job of an association to engage in public relations, education, lobbying, publishing, etc. However, all of this is done for the benefit of businesses within that industry but without performance testing methodologies such as benchmarking its impossible for associations to cater to start-ups.

Many associations stop growing because the majority of businesses in sometimes a fledgling industry see no reason to join it. So, associations in a bid to stay relevant, profitable and attract more members have to engage in performance improvement activities. One such activity is benchmarking.

A Source of Revenue for Associations

Associations can be considered as the middlemen, the people that businesses trust have their best interests at heart. That means it is easier for associations to gather statistical data from members as compared to businesses volunteering to share it with each other. The ability to collect the required business data puts associations in a unique position to facilitate benchmarking activities.

Businesses within any given industry often look at themselves as competitors. Competitors will not want others to do better, after all, they are looking to take over the market regardless of how saturated or difficult it may be. Businesses are also afraid that sensitive information like who is their source of raw materials, what manufacturing quotas they adhere to and what advertising venues offer the best return on investment may get into the hands of the competition. However, associations can collect this information in confidence.

Over time the accumulated data provides for better benchmarking. It is the type of benchmarking that gives previously unconceivable insights to even the most seasoned businesses. So, it is a win-win situation.

Associations that can provide accurate benchmarking can make it a source of revenue. After all which business does not want to improve? Then there is also the fact that many companies in the same industry may not even be competitors. For instance, a barbershop in one area isn’t competing with one two blocks away the same way it is with the one across the street. However, both barbers can learn from each other if they know how to use benchmarking for performance improvement.  

When associations offer extra or value-added services like benchmarking it gives members an incentive to pay for it. The more valuable, insightful and detailed the benchmarking data is the more businesses will be willing to pay for it. The notion of monetizing benchmarking data by associations isn’t new, yet it still isn’t utilized by many associations in the majority of industries.

Draws in More Members

Why do you think businesses want to join an association? What matters most to the companies your association caters to? If you are able to answer these questions, it is clear that benchmarking is going to be a significant draw for potential members. It will also help existing members justify their membership especially if it requires a monthly or annual financial contribution.

Benchmarking can also help with branding efforts for the association which in turn allows them to retain existing members and acquire new ones. Benchmarking services offered by associations is a statement of knowledge and caring to the industry. It also demonstrates the association’s ability to think forward. So, a business that’s looking to join an association will often opt for one that’s more popular and has the most members. Thus, benchmarking is a way that associations can get both.

Offering Members, a Unique Value Proposition

While individual businesses know how to use benchmarking for performance improvement, associations, for the most part, don’t. The practice of benchmarking in the majority of associations across various industries is not widespread. Generally, it is because associations don’t have the expertise and time to run such benchmarks. However, they all have the required market information.

Offering benchmarking services is easy once the association understands the value it gives members. In most cases, all that’s required to run valuable benchmarks is the data they are already gathering and an expert consultant. The consultant can be an employee or another business that specializes in running benchmarks in that industry. Expert benchmarks will help associations wield influence in the industry which in turn brings in more members.

Depending on your industry we are pretty sure that your association may be the first to offer benchmarks. As noted above not many associations provide the service to members. That said once you’re able to gain that unique position by offering benchmarking services, other associations may follow but will still be far behind. The larger pool of members you have the more information your association has to run good benchmarks. So, catching up for competitors becomes difficult.

As an association, you have the power and ability to offer benchmarks that no other consultant or individual business can run on their own. Only associations have a market-wide reach made possible by a large number of members or their connections with other associations. It’s a win-win situation both for members and the association itself which benefits from all the positive publicity it gets in the industry.

Free to Paid Benchmarking Services

Associations are free to market their benchmarking services any way they seem fit. Some associations may offer an overview type benchmark for free while more accurate or individual benchmarks can be paid. Perhaps a model where the more relevant and laser-focused a benchmark is the more members pay will be more feasible. Not to mention the fact that it will cover the costs of having a benchmarking service in the first place. While benchmarking can be an exciting way for associations to generate revenue, it shouldn’t be the only source of revenue. More value-added services like market reports and industry trends should be added to the mix.

By providing a summary report, online analysis, selling reports, industry averages and price averages, etc. associations can ensure that those who receive the benchmark can use it to improve. Benchmarking should be a means to improve the industry as a whole with the association as being a fundamental part of it. As a consequence, associations can add another revenue stream to their existing model.


What to benchmark and how to use benchmarking is something that associations in many industries need to focus on. In today’s day and age thanks to computers, software, and the internet it isn’t as difficult as it once was to run thorough benchmarks and gather valuable industry data. Not to mention the fact that associations can stand to make a lot of money and gain many members too. Benchmarking helps everyone win so why not start using it!

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