Identifying and benchmarking your year on year data

Posted by Alison Leishman

When planning for the year ahead, don’t get too caught in all the data you’ll be bombarded with. Focus on the metrics that matter.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 53 seconds

The end of the year is usually a time of reflection for many businesses. Owners and employees look back on the year past to see where they can improve their efficiency, where they need additional (or realigned) resources and what strategies, tactics and tools worked well. As a data-driven agency, we know that it’s important to identify which metrics will be included in your year-end reporting to plan for the year ahead.

Why is benchmarking important?

Benchmarking is a way of discovering what is performing the best, and to ensure your business is always growing. Shopify has a great definition of benchmarking: “Benchmarking is a process of measuring the performance of a company’s products, services, or processes against those of another business considered to be the best in the industry, aka ‘best in class.’ The point of benchmarking is to identify internal opportunities for improvement.”

There are some key concepts to keep in mind when identifying the data you want to benchmark.

1. Context matters

Your year-on-year data needs to show a full timeline of all the ups and downs your business experienced, and these need to be understood in the context of macro and micro influencers.

Some of these could be:

  • Internal changes to your team of business
  • Seasonal changes that influence your product or the prospects that you are talking to
  • Public holidays including religious holidays and long weekends
  • Conferences relevant to your business and industry
  • Sales changes
  • Internal training and upskilling
  • Software updates or changes within your business
  • Political and economic climate

2. Benchmarking vs competitor review




Competitor research is a good way to see where your business lies in the market and what targets you might need to include in your future strategy, and is important to add to your strategy. There are key difference between benchmarking and doing competitor research according to iSix Sigma, a high-tech B2B media business.  Benchmarking focuses on best practice, while competitor research focuses on performance measures. Competitor research can be seen as attempting to mirror another company and their processes, while benchmarking means a business is adapting based on customer needs after examination of the best practices.

3. What metrics matter for year-on-year

Keeping in mind that context matters, you need to identify the metrics that you are benchmarking based on your KPIs, your company’s business goals and on the industry performance.  Some of the common areas which require benchmarking are website data, content data, sales data, lead generation and market share.

When it comes to the growth of a company’s website, the views, contact conversions, bounce rate and organic growth are some key metrics to focus on. These metrics are a good indication of whether or not the content on your website is relevant and useful to your consumers - and whether it is driving them to get in touch.  These metrics also guide where you need to be optimising your website to keep your customer as the focus.

When it comes to content such as blogs, articles, emails and downloadable resources, views, conversions, open and click through rates are your most important metrics. You don’t want to be putting out content that won’t lead to some form of action from your audience. Tracking these metrics in HubSpot is made much easier with an in-depth dashboard.

For both the sales and marketing teams, your contacts are important and conversion rates from visitor to lead and lead to customer are key (they are our number one metric!). Both salespeople and marketers need to know where in the buyer’s journey each contact is, in order to serve them the right content and contact them at the right time. The conversion rate is also a indication for other metrics, such as deal close duration. There’s more for you to read about this on our blog in choosing the right sales metrics to measure your business success.

Further important metrics are sales numbers and market share. You need to be monitoring where were you last year, where were you aiming to be and where are you now.  

These are some key metrics that we look at each year as a business and with our customers.  BUT… each customer and often each individual has a number of additional key metrics that are important to them.  Create individual dashboards where you need to but keep this all in line with your overall business goal.

4. Are social media metrics any different?

Even though social media is a constantly changing world of its own, looking back to see what worked and what didn’t on the various social media platforms is crucial to planning your next social media strategy. Keep in mind that metrics and data are what social media giants like Facebook and Instagram base their algorithm changes on!

Engagement rate is crucial for any social media platform and more important than number of followers. Social media platforms want to see that the content you put out there is what your audience wants, and they make this judgement call through shares, comments, retweets, reposts and likes.  Some people get confused between reach and impressions: the reach might be less than impressions since one person can see multiple impressions. The overall reach of your post is an important metric as this is showing how many people are reached through your content and shows if your content is relevant or not. If your reach is low, perhaps you need to widen your audience by changing some of the content.

All metrics are important in some way or another but don’t over-complicate your year-end reports with too much unnecessary data. Ensuring that there’s a focus on the right metrics means that you include exactly the data you need for your business strategies. Setting reasonable and relevant targets and goals for your business will be much easier in the year ahead when they are based on data.

Make measuring your year-on-year metrics a little easier by having insightful and thorough monthly reports with our monthly reporting templates.

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