Tonnis van Dam

How to collect benchmarking data and motivate members to participate

Once you have finalized all the required steps for implementing your benchmarking efforts and you are pretty sure from the dry runs that everything is working as it should, then it is time to move on to the measuring phase. The goal of measuring is to gather data and ensure that it is all of top quality.

You should encourage all members that the benchmarking is targeting to participate by filling out the distributed questionnaire. So, the idea is to get as many members to participate as possible. After all the more members that participate, the better will be the final outcome. Finally, you should validate the data that’s collected to make sure it is accurate and reliable. You never want to inject data that’s faulty or incorrect in some way as it can throw off the results by a pretty wide margin.

Benchmark Promotion

Now as an association that is running benchmarks you always want members to participate, but some may simply not want to participate for whatever reason. Promotion helps to motivate members. It helps them understand the importance of their participation and what they can stand to gain.

Here are a couple of things you can do to promote the benchmarks:

  • Send Newsletters: you can send a newsletter to all members to announce and talk about the benchmark. The newsletter is of particular importance if the benchmarks are carried out annually. So, in a way, it prepares members for the benchmark.
  • Announce an exact date: You will always want to be specific as to when the benchmarks will be conducted. When participants know the cut-off date, that motivates them to work on filling out the questionnaire before that date.

Even if you conduct benchmarking surveys every quarter, it is still imperative to announce and then communicate about upcoming benchmarks. Sure participants already know, love and like the results from the benchmarks but those who haven’t yet started to participate will still require motivation.

If there are other businesses, that can also participate even if they have not been invited you can send them a link to the survey. You can also announce that the benchmarks are open to everyone and all they have to do is fill out the form on the official website.

Strictly Manage all Participants

You will want to use some sort of software system to manage the participants. If you are using a general survey tool or a specialist benchmarking tool or a program like the Benchmark Tool, then it will have an overview of all the members. There will also be samples and perhaps a status bar showing who has participated in the questionnaire and maybe who has finished submitting it and who hasn’t gotten down to doing it right now.

If an online system for data collection does not exist, then register who is on that list and who has sent over their required data. Plus, make sure to check how many participants you already have and how many of them have acted on it. If you have a low response rate, make sure to dispatch reminders to those who are yet to respond.

Please keep in mind that this information is very important to the success of your benchmarks’ performance. So, if you don’t have the time to stay on top of it maybe hire a person for this clerical task and then just keep an eye on the progress. If you are still running behind maybe change your approach slightly.

For instance, you have 5000 members who you think should participate, but realistically there can only be maybe 40% participants. So, you’ll probably end up with around 2000 participants. You also have just a four-week window for data entry. Doing the math, you can see that approximately 500 complete questionnaires on average will be required for the first week. If you have just 150, by the first week, you can wait for the second week, but it would be best to send a reminder.

The goal is to have enough businesses participating when the date for collection ends.

Collecting Information for Benchmarking

Associations, for the most part, will want to restrict benchmarks to members only. That way getting people to participate is easier as compared to just having an open benchmark. All that’s required is to invite participation from a select group of members. That invitation can be sent via an official notification email.

However, there are times when you may oversee an open benchmark during which the population is not known beforehand. In that case, it is possible to use direct mail, the website, advertisements, etc., which will help motivate professionals and businesses to take part in the process.

Sending Invitations

At the beginning of the data collection, invitations are sent to all targeted members in the group who will then fill out the questionnaire. If you have run benchmarks the year before, then all the targeted members could just as quickly be sent invitations like you did the last time. Though emphasise on ones who didn’t participate. You will want to use a separate set of emails for both participating and previously non-active members.

You will want to test the invitations. Some types are obviously more effective than others. If you have not previously tested different kinds of emails then perhaps it is time to start and keep a record of which ones were effective.

Tip: It is important to emphasize why members should participate and what they can expect to get from the whole process. The more benefits you state, the better.

Automated Reminders

If you are using an automated system, it is possible to automatically set up the reminders so that they are sent to those who haven’t participated within a given time frame. You can also draft the reminder so that a different one is sent to each group of businesses.

Ideally, the reminders should use motivational texts. The email message should also show how many people have already participated and how many are left. Finally, mention the various benefits of participating. Some people tend to wait until enough are participating to start participating. So, the figures should push those on the edge over on the right side.

If you are using an online Benchmark Tool, you can see that some people have started but not finished the questionnaire yet. These people can be sent a reminder to complete the questionnaire. Here you don’t have to bother with any motivational text. Though you may want to mention that it will only take them a few minutes to finish up the questionnaire.

Miscellaneous Communication

When in the process of collecting data for the benchmarking survey it is important that the associated website is kept up to date with the total number of businesses participating and the number of days left for the benchmarks. You may also want to add some form of testimonials. Call up a couple of those who have participated and ask them why they decided to fill out the survey and put their words on the website.

Tip: You will want all the promotional texts to be on the home page or on any other highly visited page. That way even those who are not participating can see the message, which over time could get them to take action and participate.

During the data collection period, you will want to use the newsletter to promote the benchmarks. Ensure that the newsletter starts by talking about the benchmark. Though you shouldn’t talk only about the benchmark as the newsletter should be relevant to other aspects of the industry too.

Also, if members call for some information or assistance not directly related to the benchmark ask them if they have participated. Try to talk them into participating if they have yet to do it. That way they will be more motivated to join. 

Finally! Importing Benchmarking Data

When you can link the Benchmark Tool to the most critical administrative tools that your members use, then most of the data can be imported. Though make sure you get consent from participants before including their data in the benchmarks, and they should have subscribed to the benchmark. Once approved it can be imported into the benchmarking system.

If the data is manually imported always make sure to double check for errors. Make sure that multiple people are working on importing data and what is imported happens to be triple checked. Please keep in mind that even the slightest error can be detrimental to your benchmarking results.


Benchmarking is all about getting as many members onboard as possible. As an association, all that promotion does pay in a big way as it motivates member businesses to participate. Though you will not want to go overboard with promotion because doing so can be just as demotivating and a huge turn off as having no promotion. So, it is essential to strike the right balance of promotion and offering useful information and a reason to participate.

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