It’s not easy being me — or you, for that matter. When you really think about it, as individuals and organizations, we are often pulled in opposing directions. For example, we often strive to be better than others: special, unique, to stand out. It’s that 30-second elevator pitch challenge: If you can’t communicate your unique positioning, then you are just “one of the unwashed masses.” OK, maybe it’s not always that black-and-white, but clear differentiation is a key goal of many people and organizations. And yet, when it comes to getting better, continuously improving and staying ahead of the herd, we often turn to others to learn best practices designed to make us better. But by doing that, don’t we become more like others and lose some unique differentiation? A bit of a dilemma, and we hear that a lot, especially when we offer to benchmark a client against a peer set.

A key objective of every SiriusDecisions benchmark is to understand — at an organizational and individual level — where a client is in terms of marketing and sales resources, processes, systems and, most importantly, goals. Each of our seven advisory services has a unique benchmark survey that requires a client to report data on very specific areas of marketing and sales. What level of investments do you make? How do you define roles and responsibilities, and how do you staff them? How do you measure and track results? Often clients ask us to just send along sample or representative peer data; we are reluctant to do so, not because it wouldn’t be useful but because we know that peer data alone doesn’t get clients to where they want to be. For example, if a client knows that its average conversion rate of inquiries to marketing qualified leads (MQLs) is about 50 percent, while peers report 5 percent, does that mean the client should completely revamp its MQL process? Without knowing specifics of what an organization is trying to accomplish though its lead qualification process, or the roles and responsibilities of marketing and sales resources, then our benchmark data is not very useful or helpful.

The point of benchmarking — at least with SiriusDecisions — is not just to identify differences from peers and plot a course to increase client investments or change budget allocations in an attempt to be more like peers (though sometimes that can be beneficial). The point of good benchmarking is to understand what an organization or individual is trying to accomplish and why (e.g. improve the ability to locate and qualify a high volume of leads for the sales force or perhaps to focus on improved account-based marketing skills and capabilities). A benchmark should be an insightful tool that sets the baseline of where you are now and provides a diagnosis of what things you should focus on and improve to get where you want to be and be able to prove that you have gotten there.

Working with SiriusDecisions, and specifically conducting a benchmark, is about identifying areas of potential improvement while increasing your differentiation — the best of both worlds. That’s my shot at an elevator pitch, granted a little more than 30 seconds. Good luck with yours.