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Have you ever thought about any of these questions?

  1. How is my competitor down the road able to charge less than me? (Or able to charge more and still have more customers?)
  2. Is my business fully protected against risk?
  3. Which forms of marketing should I be using?
  4. How much should I be spending on marketing?
  5. The marketing strategies I am using aren’t delivering results I expected – am I doing them wrong or are they the wrong strategies or is this “normal”?
  6. My sales conversion stats are around 50%, is this normal, low or high for my industry?
  7. Are my costs too high? How do I know? What can I do about it?
  8. What sorts of technology should I be using in my business?
  9. What do I need to do differently to get better results from my staff?
  10. Why are some of my franchisees achieving better results than others?

If you have then benchmarking can help provide you with the answers plus the answers to many other burning business questions.

Put simply benchmarking involves comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and best practices from other businesses both inside and outside your industry.

The most successful businesses implement a range of benchmarking strategies on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are operating as profitably and effectively as possible to stay at the top of their industry and niche.

Whether you’re running a hotel chain, a printing franchise, a restaurant, a manufacturing business, a medical practice, a child care centre, a legal practice or a mortgage brokerage, no business is too large or too small to benefit from the enormous opportunities for improvement that an ongoing benchmarking process can provide.

However not all benchmarking strategies are the same and each comes with its own benefits and challenges.

Internal Benchmarking

Internal benchmarking is a comparing business performance and processes either to other similar processes within the same organisation or to historical results and processes.

Typically these fall into three main categories:

Performance Benchmarking

Performance benchmarking examines a businesses’ own internal results and sets benchmarks based on either average or “best” results for that business.  Performance each month or each year is then measured against these benchmarks.

Performance benchmarks are most commonly used in business planning and goal setting and in staff performance management.

Examples of performance benchmarks include:

  • Productivity figures
  • Sales numbers
  • Financial year profits

Functional Benchmarking

Functional benchmarking examines how things are done across different parts of an organisation. Most franchises and many larger businesses with multiple departments or offices undertake some form of functional benchmarking.

Examples of functional benchmarks include:

  • Customer service processes
  • Marketing strategies
  • Use of technology
  • Staff training procedures
  • Customer service systems

Operational Benchmarking

Operational benchmarking examines the results or outputs of an individual franchise, office or department’s operations.

Examples of operational benchmarks include:

  • Productivity rates
  • Profit margins
  • Manufacturing or delivery times
  • Staff turnover
  • Customer complaints

 Operational benchmarking needs to be examined in the light of functional benchmarking and vice versa. After all it’s not much help knowing that Franchise A is 20% more profitable than Franchise B without understanding what they are doing differently to achieve the greater profitability.

External Benchmarking


The first and most commonly understood form of external benchmarking is industry benchmarking. Industry benchmarking enables a business to compare their business performance metrics against publicly available industry benchmarks.

Industry benchmarks can be obtained from the Australian Taxation Office, your business or industry association or your business accountant or business consultant.

Examples of industry benchmarking figures include:

  • Cost of sales as a percentage of turnover
  • Cost of labour as a percentage of turnover
  • Cost of rent as a percentage of turnover

Industry benchmarking is one the easiest forms of benchmarking for most businesses to implement as the numbers are widely available however it is also amongst the least useful as knowing that your business has higher operating costs than a comparable business in your industry doesn’t tell you anything about why, what to do about it, or how to fix it.


Competitive benchmarking is a direct competitor-to-competitor comparison of a product, service, process, or method. You compare your performance with that of your direct competitors. Getting the information you need can be a challenge (please stay legal here… we’re not talking about industrial espionage.)  but done ethically you can still get great insights into what your competitor is doing to realise the results they are achieving.

Examples of competitive benchmarking include:  

  • product oriented reverse engineering where an organisation buys its rival’s products and studies them in order to compare them with its own products
  • Service comparisons – many companies employ mystery shoppers in order to experience their competitors service delivery processes
  • Price, and features and benefit comparisons. It is very common for businesses to compare pricing and features with their direct competitors in order to be competitive in the market place.
  • Production method and cost comparisons.

Best Practice Benchmarking

Also known as generic or process benchmarking.

As the names suggests Best Practice Benchmarking involves identification of best practices across generic functions, processes or operations, identifying the most effective operating practices from other businesses that perform similar functions.

Best Practice Benchmarking is effective across the full range of generic business operations: branding, marketing, sales, operations, financial management, technology, human resources, risk mitigation and strategic planning.

We’ve developed a list of more than 50 best practice benchmarking measures that you can review your business against.  Take the SMART-Connect Best Practice Benchmarking audit now and compare your results with other businesses of similar size.

Strategic Benchmarking

Strategic benchmarking involves the examination of global business practice. It differs from Best Practice benchmarking in that it is broader and more future focused. Rather than looking at what is Best Practice now it looks at industry and global trends and attempts to identify what is likely to be Best Practice in the future for strategic or resource planning purposes. Strategic Benchmarking is used by forward thinking organisations in order to develop a vision for the future of the organisation.

Which forms of benchmarking have you implemented in your business? What were the benefits and challenges you experienced?

About the Author

Brenda Thomson

Brenda Thomson

CEO and Founder of Synergy48 Group

Brenda is an experienced small business owner.  She has won an Australian Home Based Business of the Year Award, the My Business Magazine Best Start-up award and has also appeared in the Anthill Magazine top 100 Cool Companies and top 100 Innovative Businesses list.  Brenda has an honours degree in organizational psychology and a Graduate Certificate in training and development and is an experienced trainer, facilitator and counsellor.

Brenda is a firm believer in mutual collaboration combined with a practical, hands on tools, strategies and systems as the most effective way to achieve real results in business. 

Brenda is a sought after mentor, speaker and trainer in the areas of strategic alliances and joint ventures and networking with a twist.  She is also passionate about actively giving back to the wider community. In addition to donating her speaking fees and a proportion of every SMART-Connect Alliance membership to provide microfinance to help women in Malawi to start their own small businesses, Brenda has also climbed the Himalayas to raise money for Kids Help Line and helped lay a pipeline to supply water to a remote village in Tanzania.

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