How to conduct a marketing audit and fix your pesky communication woes

How to conduct a marketing audit and fix your pesky communication woes 

Marketing audit

When we talk about “marketing audits”, or “communications audits”, we’re typically referring to the methodical process of reviewing and analysing all aspects of a business’s identity, marketing, and communication systems. Simply put, it’s about taking a magnifying glass to the brand, and determining exactly where that company came from, where it is now, and the path that it might be headed down.

A great marketing audit covers every tangible asset of a brand, from descriptors and taglines, to shapes, symbols, colours, and even the type of voice you use in your messaging. By the end of your marketing audit, you may find that your brand identity has completely evolved, or you’ve discovered something valuable about your business.


What does it mean? Marketing audit definition


Basically, a marketing audit is a structured approach to the analysis of information around the internal and external environment of a company. It looks at the economic climate, the market you’re working in, your competition, and what your operating performance looks like. Usually, an audit is an essential part of any good marketing strategy because it forces you to ask two crucial questions about your methods:


  1. What actually works?


  2. What has failed?


That doesn’t necessarily mean that the purpose of an audit is to pay someone to criticise all of your past marketing activities, however. Rather, it’s about using a skilled team, such as Fabrik, to help you identify whether you have any current practices that could be more effective, or strategies that need to be re-thought.

A marketing audit simply builds the foundation for all of your future marketing decisions (until you need another audit). When it’s done properly, and regarded with care, a marketing audit can be very effective and valuable for a company. So, what does an audit look like?

The anatomy of a communication audit


The outcomes of your marketing audit will depend on the unique aspects of your business, and what your strategies involve. However, the average “successful” marketing audit contains the following characteristics:


  • It’s comprehensive: As much as you might hope for a vague and complimentary marketing audit that tells you your business hasn’t done anything wrong – this won’t help your business to thrive. A marketing audit needs to be comprehensive and cover all the marketing issues that your organisation might face. If it’s not comprehensive, then you’re wasting time and money on something that’s not going to impact your bottom line.


  • It’s systematic: A great marketing audit needs to be actionable. In other words, it should contain an orderly sequence of diagnostic steps and events that cover your marketing environment, internal marketing system, and specific marketing activities. After a thorough diagnosis of your organisation, your auditing team should be able to give you a corrective action plan that offers both long-term, and short-term proposals for success.


  • It’s objective (independent): There’s a reason why the most successful marketing audits can’t be performed by your own team. You’re not objective to your own practices. A marketing audit needs to be conducted by experts who’ve dealt with companies just like yours in the past.


  • It’s periodic: Finally, a marketing audit isn’t something that you can do once and forget about. The world of communication and marketing is constantly evolving, particularly in this world of growing technology and digital developments. One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is to only conduct an audit when there’s been some kind of crisis with their strategy.


The benefits of your marketing audit


So, you’ve got a basic marketing audit definition, but you still might be asking yourself “What is a marketing audit?” and “Why is it beneficial to my business?”

The first way to answer this is to remind yourself that you’re accountable for your business. That doesn’t just mean that you’re responsible for the amount of money you bring in at the end of a month, or the kind of logo you choose, but also how other people perceive your company too. The only real way that you can have an impact on your audience’s opinion of your brand, is with marketing.

Marketing is how you tell your customers where the value of your business can be found. It’s the thing that helps you to pick the logo that best represents your company manifesto, or choose colours that are going to inspire action from your valued clients. Without marketing, the whole identity of your business would be left down to chance, and word-of-mouth generated by customer experience.

Marketing audits allow you to listen, first-hand, to what you’ve been telling your audience, and ask yourself if you’re really giving out the right message. They give you the chance to evaluate your company in the current climate and examine whether you’re still meeting your business goals.

Auditing yourself is a great way to increase your ROI, and maximise your revenue, but if you want to boil the benefits down into a quick list, here are some of the advantages that come with a typical communications audit:

1. A chance to reintroduce yourself


Do you like your business? More importantly, do your customers like it? A marketing audit allows you to figure out whether you’re making the right impression on your target market or not. If you’re potentially struggling with a disjointed identity, or you’ve lost faith in your USP, then you can use your marketing audit as a chance to reintroduce your brand from the right perspective.

2. Remind yourself of your goals


Goals are crucial to any business. Without a distinct idea of where you want to go and what you want to do, you’re likely to lose track of your company growth and end up confusing both your marketing team, and your customers. Auditing yourself can give you a chance to make sure that all of your current communication strategies line up with your end-goals.

3. Learn how to let go


Sometimes, we commit ourselves to marketing strategies for so long that we worry about giving them up, convincing ourselves that we’re only a day away from success. An audit that shows you exactly what is working for your company, and what isn’t might be what it takes to convince you to let go of the things that just aren’t having the right impact.

4. Bring life to your brand


Finally, a marketing or communications audit can give you the inspiration that you’ve been lacking when it comes to boosting your business. With the help of your auditing team, you can figure out new ways for your company to move forward that might breathe life into your brand and wipe the cobwebs off old strategies.

Finding your marketing audit foundation: Your brand identity


So, where does the art of the marketing audit begin?

If you want to figure out whether you’re having the right impression with your marketing strategies, then the first thing you need to do is establish your brand identity. If your branding isn’t right, then the communication you’re having with your audience isn’t going to be right either.

Branding spans all the way from your visual identity, from guidelines and standards, logos and descriptors, and taglines, to your naming conventions, and the voice you use in your content. Essentially, you need to think of your brand as a living thing. Just like a person, it has unique characteristics and personality features that you can’t totally control. However, over time, you can watch your brand grow, nurture it, and guide it to fit the right environment.

A communications audit helps you to make sure that your brand isn’t deviating from its course, and causing your strategies to suffer as a result. Remember, your branding is the lynchpin for your entire company strategy. It identifies who, and what you are to your internal employees and external customers, while dictating the actions and messages you use to move your company forward.

Evaluating your brand identity


The first step in a communications audit is a kind of “brand audit”. It starts with you looking at, and determining what’s right, or wrong about your current identity. For instance, your identity as a company can be defined by various components, such as:


  • Your tone of voice.


  • The styles that characterise your company.


  • Your signature graphics, logo, and company colours.


  • Your company name and tagline.



With a bit of luck, you should already know these unique elements of your identity quite well. The aim of your brand audit is to make sure that they’re accurate, effective, and figure out whether there are any areas that you can improve on without causing problems with your current audience. Surveys may be a good way to help you make decisions about your current brand. For instance, you can distribute internal surveys around your company, and ask for feedback from your audience.

Some questions you might ask include:


  • What does this logo make you think or feel?


  • How do you feel about our written material and graphics?


  • Does the tagline we use accurately convey the identity and mission of the company?


  • What would make you like this brand more?



Asking open-end questions can help you to get a general overview of your current position. Once you have a general idea of what your identity looks like at present, you can examine your marketing strategies for an analysis of your performance to back up your data. For instance, metrics you should look at, include:


  • Brand awareness.


  • Return on investment.


  • Marketing channel statistics (likes and shares on social media for instance).


  • Web traffic data.



When you begin to analyse these different metrics and pieces of information, you’ll have a basis to help you determine whether your current brand, and the marketing you’re doing to display that brand, are effective. When you’re analysing your strategies, it may help to look at what your competitors are doing too, to determine whether you might be falling behind.

From this point, you’ll be able to look at three different aspects of your communication strategies, your digital marketing, your traditional communications, and your internal communications.

What is a marketing audit? Digital marketing audit


Digital marketing is a huge aspect of running a successful business today.

Unfortunately, positioning a brand online is a comprehensive exercise that can take months, if not years, to do right. On top of that, once you’ve finished finding your position online, that doesn’t mean that your work is over. An equal degree of hard work will be required to help you maintain your leadership position. That means that you’ll need to make changes in line with your competitor strategies, and make course corrections according to emerging trends at a break-neck speed.

Auditing your digital communications strategy at regular intervals is a crucial way to ensure that you’re staying ahead of the curve. A great way to make sure that you’re examining all the right metrics, is to focus on six key areas: Reach, architecture, content, conversion, integration, and measurement.

Digital marketing reach


Your “reach” refers to your ability to connect with people on paid and organic channels. You can look at your email marketing program to see your click rates and open rates for example. Alternatively, you might examine your social media channels to check what kind of impact you’re having regarding followers, likes, channel views, subscribers, and more. On your paid campaigns, you can look for reach by examining your click through rates per advertisement channel.

Digital marketing architecture



Your architecture requires you to look at your website and other elements online, and access their usability. For instance, you might evaluate how graphic elements have been used, and how effectively your information is presented. Architecture might link to your social media channels too, and whether your descriptions, profiles, and links are optimised.

Digital marketing content



Almost all digital strategies come with some kind of content plan. This will involve a constant creation of content that might include videos, blogs, emails, white papers, and social media. You should have a mechanism in place that helps you to determine what’s working in your content, and what isn’t.

Digital marketing conversion



In digital marketing, each of your channels should be designed with a specific conversion funnel in mind. For instance, you might look and see whether you have any forms on your Facebook, website, blog, and other areas. Additionally, you may examine what your rate of form fills is per visitor, and what your abandonment rate is.

Integration



Integration in digital marketing refers to the connection of all your offline and online touch points. For instance, this might mean ensuring that social media channels are accessible through your website. It could also include linking to your website from various social media channels. You should also try to link your offline activities to your online channels too. For instance, combining print ads with hashtags, or trade shows.

Measurement



Finally, your digital marketing audit will allow you to examine which objectives you have in place for influence, awareness, action, and engagement, and which metrics you’re using to gauge performance. If you don’t know how to measure your success, it’s impossible to determine whether your strategies are working or not.

What is a marketing audit? Traditional communications audit


As important as digital marketing might be, it’s worth noting that traditional communications still have a part to play when it comes to making yourself heard in the saturated market space.

The everyday brochure, newsletter, magazine, or leaflet is still just as important today as it ever was, and some people even prefer this media – depending on what kind of audience you’re trying to appeal to.

As your business develops, and your external and internal audiences increase, it’s up to you to figure out how you can adjust your communications plans to satisfy the internal and external communications needs you have. A regular traditional communications audit will allow you to evaluate your current practices, and figure out which ones are working for you.

Fortunately, if you’ve never conducted a traditional communications audit before – it’s easy enough to get started. All you need to do is follow five steps.

Step 1: Analyse your communication vehicles


First, you’ll need to assemble all the different communications vehicles that you’re currently using outside of your digital marketing practices. This will likely include newsletters, press releases, “direct mail” campaigns, leaflets, and other forms of branding. Look at them in depth and try to determine whether they’re still playing an important role in the definition of your business identity. If they’re outdated, or no longer effective, then it may be time to lay them to rest.

Step 2: Get feedback


The best way to figure out what’s working for your business, is to ask other people. Speak to the people inside and outside of your business who receive your communications materials, and ask them whether they like your current communication strategies. If they’re unhappy with the current media, then you could request that they offer some alternatives as to what they would prefer. For instance, some of your partners might prefer email newsletters instead of physical pages.

Step 3: Consider your brand image


Before you began your marketing audit, you thought about your brand identity. When examining external communication options, you need to think carefully about how different strategies make you look. For instance, if you refuse to engage in digital practices and only use printed media, this could undermine your identity as a forward-thinking revolutionary.

Step 4: Organise your strengths and weaknesses


By this stage in your traditional communications audit, you should have quite a lot of data. Use the information you’ve gathered to look at strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities in your business. This will help you to determine which communication practices need to be changed, what opportunities you can leverage for the future of your business, and what might be threatening your brand image.

Step 5: Change


With your evaluation complete, there’s only one step left to take: change. If something’s not working, then you need to be prepared to change it, no matter how scary that might be. At the same time, remember that a communications audit, just like a digital audit, should be conducted regularly to help you stay up-to-date, and ahead of the curve.

What is a marketing audit? Internal communications audit


So, you’ve examined the way that you’re appealing to your customers through digital and traditional strategies. Now, you need to think about your communications from an internal perspective. Ask yourself, what’s the best way to communicate with employees, seniors in your company, and partners?

This might seem like a deceptively straightforward question, but it’s got quite a lot of hidden aspects to it. The bottom line to remember is that every company is different. For instance, a highly digital approach might be a good way to connect virtual employees who are constantly on the road, but it might prove to be a waste of resources for companies that all work within a highly-integrated environment.

Your internal communications audit will look at:


  • Employee communication campaigns.


  • Exhibitions and events.


  • Seminar branding and marketing.



A good first step to developing your best-fit internal communications strategy is to audit your existing practices. Look at:


  • The trends that are already encouraged and used around your business, and the gaps that could benefit your employees. For instance, remote employees may appreciate the chance to join a digital meeting room during company updates.


  • The requests made by people in your business: The first way to see if your internal staff are happy, or unhappy with your business, is to ask them. See where they think your company is lacking, and ask for feedback.


  • Your presence to other businesses: Your brand identity isn’t just an important element to share with your customers, it’s also something that you need to display to potential investors and partners too. If you’re not hosting events and exhibitions to show off your professional side, then you could be missing out on huge opportunities.



How often should you conduct a marketing audit?


Finally, we mentioned above that a marketing audit isn’t a one-time solution to all of your company identity problems. Rather, a communication audit is something that you need to do on a regular basis. The ideal time to conduct a marketing audit will depend on the aims of your business. For instance, you might benefit from an audit that takes place:


  • Before or during a rebrand.


  • Before or during the development of new marketing campaigns.


  • Before or during the design of a new website.


Alternatively, you may set a time to conduct an audit once every couple of years as part of your typical housekeeping practices for marketing. The important point to remember is that the constantly changing business environment ensures that no brand – no matter how apparently timeless – can stay the same forever.

Some companies will perform complete audits once a year, whereas others will conduct audits every four years with smaller modifications in between. The answer of when is the best time for your business will depend on the complexity of your industry, and the amount of change or growth it has experienced during a specific timeline.

The worst thing you can do, is wait to schedule your marketing audit until after you’ve started to notice that your marketing efforts are no longer effective. In these cases, the marketing crisis has already happened, and your whole team ends up scrambling to figure out why your sales are in decline. Preventative maintenance is a far more cost-effective, and efficient option. After all, the best cure is prevention.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these ones too:

– What is guerrilla marketing and what can it do for your brand?

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About the author...

Steve Harvey

Client Director. Captain of calm. Armchair football fan. It’s 18 years since Steve turned his back on investment banking (and any chance of early retirement) to plough his own furrow in creative services. Experienced. Knowledgeable. Meticulously well-organised. Keeps Fabrik running like a well-oiled machine. His temperament is cool. But his peppermint tea is piping hot (with a Fox's Crunch Cream on the side).

    2 Comments

  1. An audit is so important for a re-brand or even starting a new marketing strategy. By having an external agency coming in and taking an objective look of your systems, strategies and online processes, you can learn a significant amount although it may sometimes be hard to hear. It’s an exciting process that all companies should invest in every few years to ensure they do not lose sight of where they stand amongst competitors and what could be done better.

    • By Evie Dimmock |
    • 04 June 2017
    • Reply
  2. Although other types of audits are a given for companies, marketing audits can be overlooked.

    When marketing services are all done through agencies, marketing assessments can be pushed to the back of our minds as something that is being ‘taken care of’. Whilst it great that people feel they can put that much trust into their agencies, there is no point staying with one if what they’re doing isn’t exactly right for you. It’s always good to check out your other options and shake things up, even if the task seems lengthy and daunting. By having an external company, coming in and examining what you and/or your agency is doing, you have a good chance of keeping ahead of the game with competitors.

    Very useful and informative article!

    • By Vanessa Painuly |
    • 12 June 2017
    • Reply

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