by Jonathan Tyler |
Are you a manager who is in charge of product development or sales? Are wondering how you can boost the success of your product on the market? Do you know you have a great product but want to make it even better? Or, maybe you’re wondering why a product you think is great and has potential just isn’t winning over customers.
If you’re asking yourself these questions, then you are like many managers who could benefit from implementing a business strategy known as “benchmarking.” Benchmarking is a process by which managers identify the best practices of an industry or sales operation by looking at a competitor or industry leader. This can move down to the product level as well.
From there, a manager can improve processes, sales operations, customer service and more simply by making changes to the current process and incorporating industry best practices. But, even more than that, successful benchmarking reaches beyond a competitor’s good work and allows for a company to be creative, imaginative and innovative in its approach so that it can become the standard by which other companies are benchmarking.
Think your company could use some benchmarking help? Read on to get five quick tips to implement it:
Tip #1: Identify Key Metrics
After you select the product or process that you want to benchmark, you’ll need to identify the key metrics that you want to study and track. For example, how well did the product perform? How many people bought it? How many people returned it? How many people were surveyed who gave a positive, negative or neutral response. There are many key performance metrics you can consider depending on the product or process you are studying. Select the ones that drive your outcomes and goals.
Tip #2: Identify Competitors to Compare
To truly understand where your product stands in the industry, you’ll need to compare it to others that are performing below, at and above your performance. Make a list of your top competitors as well as any company internal groups that make similar products. Identify the products they make that are similar to yours and begin researching the data that fits your key performance metrics questions.
Tip #3: Begin Your Research
Not all companies will be forthcoming with data about their products — especially if the product is under-performing. However, there is a lot of public data that you can get just by looking through company quarterly reports and by reading news articles on the company and/or product. Start investigating your competitors to glean as much information you can about their performance metrics that are in-line with yours. You’ll need to compare apples to apples as much as you can when you are researching your competitors to make sure you place your product in the most accurate space in your benchmarking project.
Tip #4: Identify Opportunities to Improve
As you crunch that data across your product line and your competitors, you’ll begin to see areas in which you are both strong and weak. Let the data speak to the situation. If your product performed poorly and your competitors did as well, is there a reason? Maybe the economy was bad at the time. But if your competitor’s product out-performed yours, then there are lessons to learn. Does your competitor have a larger following? Do they have a better marketing strategy? Is there something specific about their product that makes it better than yours? Is it easier to use or more effective at getting a job done?
As you look through the data and survey results of your own reporting, you’ll begin to identify areas where you could improve upon your product — and that will give you a starting point for innovating and carrying your product forward into a more successful generation.
Tip #5: Set Reasonable Goals for New Changes
The last step is in the implementation of what you learned from your benchmarking study. If you now know the weakest points of your product, then spend time thinking of ways to make it even better. Don’t just copy your competitor. Make your solution better than what your competitor has to offer. Remember, there are many different ways of making a product. If a customer reports she like to use Product A better because it has a more aerodynamic style — then what can you do to your product to give it that feel and look.
Effective benchmarking is about taking the results you learn from your investigative work and creating a product that surpasses even your competitors by thinking creatively and taking some risks. This all is grounded in data, so you know you are starting on a solid business ground when you begin brainstorming solutions to the weak points of your product. Take it step by step. Make your goals small, test the product, an d see what happens!
Are You Ready to See Your Sales Soar?
If you’re ready to see a difference in sales at your company and you’re a manager, then trying out benchmarking and incorporating it into your team strategy is one surefire way to see change. Benchmarking is not only easy to do but it reveals incredible insights into why certain products sell better than others –and it spurs new imagination and innovation.
Remember, benchmarking is not about copying a competitor’s product. It’s about learning all you can from best practices and then incorporating those insights into the design and delivery of your product in such a way that your product is not only improved but expanded in new ways.
Start slowly with one product until your entire line has a benchmarking process in the cycle of its shelf life. You’ll be glad you tried this expert strategy for product development and sales.