Tonnis van Dam

Why Some Benchmarking Efforts by Associations Fail

Failure is often considered the route to ultimate success. However, associations don’t have that luxury. A failed benchmarking process or one that does not yield proper results usually means that they stand to lose membership. When members stop believing that the association can do an excellent job of providing them with solid benchmarking data, that’s when there is a risk of members cancelling their membership. Thankfully, most of the mistakes that can be made already have been by other dozens of other associations. So, today any young or growing association that wants to run benchmarks needs to do is learn from those mistakes. The goal is learning how to do benchmarking which does not fail its members.

In this article, we will discuss potential pitfalls for association benchmarking. What can go wrong and why it does go wrong? We will also try to address some of the most common reasons why associations despite their best efforts aren’t able to leverage the data they gather correctly to produce solid benchmarks.

Unplanned and Unscheduled Benchmarking

Preparation and planning is everything. Unplanned and often unscheduled benchmarking by associations lead to failure in most cases. For starters, associations should use strategic planning to identify where the benchmark study will fit in the grand scheme of things. Once that’s identified a study or survey needs to be outlined for a given period. The goal should be to collect quality data from members which will fuel the benchmark.

Associations need to understand why do organisations benchmark? Once they know that it is easy to identify valuable data points and poll members for additional information. Keep in mind that many members may not like to receive emails or surveys from the association too often and for that, the benchmarks should be limited to just the ones that improve performance.

Tip: The best time to run benchmarks is during the industry’s designated downtime. Take for instance businesses in the tourism industry may have more time to answer questions in October or December than they do in May till July (depending on where you are located). When there is a slowdown in the industry that’s when business owners have the time to engage in benchmarking and surveys.

Awful Communication

In the business world communication is everything. Businesses are communicating with clients, suppliers, employees, and partners all the time. It is unfortunate that many associations representing these businesses have not invested much in good communication. When communication is not good, it causes issues which leads to low quality and unreliable benchmarking results.

To ensure benchmarking success, the person in charge of running benchmarks should be the best communicator that money can buy. The person in charge of the whole benchmarking mechanism should do the following:

  • Lay out clear expectations
  • Clarify and solidify goals
  • Set a date for each milestone
  • Use the most appropriate benchmarking model
  • Know how to communicate with team members or subordinates

Pro Tip: Communication tools such as Slack, Teams, GotoMeeting, and Skype should be used by the entire team responsible for benchmarking. However, in person communication is a huge part of success.

Not Getting the Team’s Feedback

A colossal mistake we’ve seen associations make is that they never ask the people on the ground for feedback. Those who are involved with gathering data points, speaking with members and formulating benchmarking models are left entirely out of the mix.

All team members should be encouraged to speak their mind and leave feedback without adverse ramifications. The goal should be to get feedback which helps the association improve their benchmarking procedures. Criticism isn’t the goal, but rather improvement should be. Team members should also be a part of the planning efforts. For instance, it would be a good idea to ask team members if they are comfortable with completing a specific task within a given deadline. So, instead of just forcing it on them you are working within realistic boundaries.

Not Encouraging Member Engagement

If members aren’t encouraged to engage in benchmarking data gathering efforts, then the results will not be good. To involve members associations need to know and then address their needs. Members who are not aware of how to use benchmarking for performance improvement should be taught about it.

Benchmarking is something that businesses in all industries will want to have. However, if it isn’t promoted correctly and intensively to solicit member engagement, then benchmarks will not provide the needed data everyone expects from it.

Another way to get members to participate is to offer an incentive. The incentive can be a gift, potential rewards or a certain level of standing in the community. Businesses that are quick to respond can be provided with extras like a free analysis of the benchmark customized to their business.

Now for the incentives to work, they should be of value to the member it is targeting. If they don’t feel that the incentive is worth their time, you will not get the required engagement despite the effort put in.

Not Carefully Addressing Reservations

Many associations never address the reservations that businesses have with sharing data. Even though some reservations like the data being leaked to competitors are relatively easy to address. The best way to tackle each member’s concerns is to make a list, then devise a plan to answer each question one after the other. In some instances, like that of security, encryption and hiring an independent benchmarking expert will help address those concerns.

Tip: To find out a member’s you need to ask them about it. Businesses usually never come out in the open and say they have concerns until asked.

Not Promoting the Benchmarking Event

Promotion is just as important as running the benchmarks. Associations that don’t promote this often have members that don’t participate or share data willingly. Consider the fact that like a product benchmarking needs to be sold. The members have to buy the idea, and that requires selling it to them. Sure! It may be free, but it does cost them time.

Associations should have workshops that underline the how to do benchmarking, and reasons to benchmark. They should also emphasize the fact that participation will yield better results. The benchmarking propose should connect with the needs of members and only then will they feel the need to participate. However, promoting the results of the benchmark is more important than promoting the benchmarking itself.

Promotion should be done via articles, case studies, press releases, etc. Show how your data has helped businesses. Publish testimonials of the companies that have benefited from the results. All of this will help promote and motivate members to participate.

The Biggest Mistake is not Benchmarking

If your association isn’t benchmarking, it is losing out on something that’s enormously important. The same goes for members who are not improving because they don’t have solid industry data. As an association, it is your job to reach out, and make sure that members are doing well. After all, the association only exists because members participate and so by offering to benchmark, you’re adding value to their membership.

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