Marketing audits are the dental checkups of the business world. Sure, you dread your regularly scheduled cleaning, but you know it’s good for you and your pearly whites. More importantly, it’s really the only thing standing between your dubious flossing regimen and a traumatizing root canal.
In similar vein, a marketing audit is designed to catch any major flaws in strategy, process and implementation before a costly mistake. If done right, they can save your company thousands of dollars, keep marketing aligned with revenue goals and serve as a safety net for preventing anything that could detrimental to the future of the company.
The best kind of audits usually begin at a holistic level, dive into deeper detail and end with a prioritized list of action steps. While not all marketing strategies are created equal, here are a few ways to go about auditing yours:
When to audit
While there’s no hard and fast rule as to how often you should schedule a marketing audit, the key here is proactivity, not crisis management. If you’re just getting your marketing off the ground, an audit can be a great way to help kick off strategy. Once you’re further down the line, regularly scheduled audits are useful to keep marketing strategy aligned with business priorities.
As an entrepreneur with a fledgling business, you may want to stick to an annual audit. As you add to your roster of tactics, employees and customer base, you may find it handy to ramp up to a quarterly timeline. The gist of it is, the more robust your marketing strategy and structure, the more frequently you should be auditing.
Look at it this way: as an employee, your performance reviews are traditionally used to provide you with constructive feedback on your work and career progression. For entrepreneurs, marketing audits perform the same role for your product or service, keeping you in touch with your milestones and goals. The chaos of running a small business often causes brilliant ideas to fall through the cracks. There’s nothing worse than finding a goldmine of potential new customers, defining an outreach plan…and then failing to follow through. Down the line, marketing audits will also allow you to assess what’s worked and what hasn’t, helping you to quickly pivot when necessary.
How to conduct a marketing audit
1. Set clear objectives and identify stakeholders
Begin each marketing audit by determining if it will be a comprehensive audit or a functional one—are you looking at all facets of your marketing operations or focusing on a singular aspect? If your brand and design could use a revamp or your sales collateral is looking stale, settle for the former. Either way, setting a high level objective will ensure that you end up with a targeted list of next steps. The objective also determines which stakeholders—CEO, sales team, designers, consultants, customers etc.—play a part in the audit and who is responsible for overseeing it.
2. Conduct research and collect data
Though this tends to be the most time consuming part, addressing the competition and macro climate surrounding your industry could turn out to be the most lucrative thing you do. Audits occasionally identify a significant gap in the market to exploit. Take the story of Dominos, just a minor league player on the pizza delivery scene back in the 1970s. After CEO Tom Monaghan uncovered an industry wide irregularity around vague delivery times, he coined the “Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed” tagline. The rest is history, one that now spans 70 countries and over 10,000 stores.
Once you’re done scrutinizing the enemy and the playing field, it’s time to look inward. Take stock of tactics, budgets, audience, products, goals and tools for tracking and measurement. Now go ahead and objectively investigate all your collateral and platforms for communication—company decks, brand guidelines, white papers, websites, blogs, social media—and gather the relevant output and metrics for each one. If this is your first go at an audit, you may want to spend some time determining the KPIs (key performance indicators) for each tactic. Does your sales revenue depend more on social media traffic or website conversion rates? Tailor your analytics for your business, not the trendy new tactic of the year. Don’t forget to consider the corresponding tools for tracking each channel and tactic. To supplement your quantifiable findings, consider sending out a brand equity survey to customers which will add depth to your data.
3. Organize and analyze information
Next, sift through the information on hand, making sure to evaluate each tactic using both qualitative and quantitative data. For instance, assess your website for both technical (SEO, page speed, browser caching) and content (design, copy, UX/UI), making sure to check Google Analytics to see how landing page traffic and bounce rates have changed. For baseline numbers, check industry standards, though your own data patterns will eventually become your best chance at optimizing for success.
Remember to consider everything in relation to your overall business goals and how efficiently the tools, tactics and campaigns at hand are meeting them.
4. Recommendations and next steps
The best way to go about the reporting stage of a marketing audit is to approach it from a neutral perspective.
Make sure to present recommendations based on the data, backed by your knowledge of the industry and in line with company goals. Suggest a two-pronged approach that tackles both quick wins and plans for long term sustainable growth. Make sure you end with a prioritized list of next steps. Consider presenting the data, analysis and recommendations internally, treating each audit as a learning experience for the whole company (even if your entire operation consists of you and two happy, wet-nosed, four-legged helpers).