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Benchmarking the Benchmarkers

I’ve repeatedly praised Web-based Invoicing service FreshBooks for being innovators, unveiling the hidden business model enabled by SaaS: benchmarking.   But who’s benchmarking the benchmarkers?

Competitor Xero has just issued a call looking for benchmarking partners comparing metrics like:

  • Customer acquisition rates
  • Teaming model and allocation of spend
  • Sales and marketing spend
  • Sales quotas
  • Google spend
  • Pipeline conversion

CEO Rod Drury is looking for 5-10 partners, communicating either directly, or through a trusted third party.  Either way, its quite a challenge, as unlike the aggregate anonymous data Freshbooks provides to their customers, this level of sharing requires quite a level of trust.

Interestingly I contemplated similar ideas just a few days ago when Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu published his margin analysis of Google, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and a few others.  He drew a conclusion that since Google’s current revenue and profit per employee metrics were much higher than even the best players in the application space, Google has little incentive to move into this space forcefully. (He then followed up with a What’s in it for Zoho? post)

Specific conclusions aside, I thought it would really be interesting to expand this spreadsheet buy including Zoho and comparable companies as well as additional metrics.  Needless to say I ran into a similar dilemma that Xero is facing now: these are private companies that don’t typically publish their financial results, to get them participate we would need a relatively larger sample and it would still require a leap of faith.

Rest assured I’ll be watching Xero’s experiment with great interest.

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Comments

  1. The only way that’s going to happen is if the private companies are prepared to share their data with a trusted third party.

  2. It would be very interesting … but I wonder if it’s truly useful. You can get the metrics for all the public SaaS / software companies, and it’s very easy to compute what your own metrics need to be to be profitable and successful. So what if venture backed company X is blowing all its venture cash on sales and marketing spend? Does it really matter? What is takes to actually succeed is public …

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