How to Use Benchmark Studies

August 10, 2015 mogoarts

Arts marketers are frequently exposed to benchmark studies, which are of course intended to offer them industry insights.

Unfortunately, the data in these studies can be so overwhelming, there isn’t much time to consider the applications. In addition, countless numbers of these studies are published by different authors and groups every year, and many of them contain contradictory data. There’s no shortage of reports published by agencies or consulting companies, analyst firms, or research groups who examine digital marketing and patron behaviors.

With all this information available, how do you effectively use benchmarking studies to improve your marketing program’s performance and improve your digital marketing performance? Here are some ways you can get started:

1. Think of “benchmarks” as best practices for your industry.

Benchmarks are a way of measuring continuous improvement over the life of a campaign or even an entire marketing program – that’s why it’s critical to make sure the benchmarks you’re using are relevant. Arts marketers need to take into account the size of their organization, their available budgets, and the maturity of their marketing programs while using benchmarks. Ask yourself whether the benchmarks provided in each publication are really applicable to your company or campaigns.

2. Carefully consider the methodology and source.

Not all studies are created equal. Is the source credible? Where’d the “facts” come from? We’re not suggesting you discredit all data out there, but it’s important to have discretion.

Here are some questions you’ll want to ask to see if a benchmarking study can be considered credible:

Who published the study? Is it a sales tool?

Some companies self-publish studies to exemplify their services. Is it truly objective?

How big was the sample size or data set?
Was the study on one arts organization or a group of different types? How many types? How many organizations were evaluated? Over what period of time? Normally, a benchmarking study will contain a large sample of relevant data.

When was the benchmarking study published?

This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s important. In the rapidly-evolving world of digital marketing, even a year-old report can be outdated. Be sure to check the publish date.

3. Don’t use competitors as your benchmarks.

It’s easy to get caught up in the competition, but don’t use your competitors’ performance as a benchmark for your performance. Again, you should think about using benchmarking studies as best practices for digital marketing and digital arts marketing. Performance metrics are better suited for competitive analysis. Comparing yourself to competitors also diminishes the value of your organization and brand – what makes you different. Instead, focus on your organization’s unique value to acquire new patrons.