What is a marketing audit? Can your brand pass its marketing MOT?
Marketing audits are a lot like the MOT of the business world.
While you may dread the confusing, exhausting and often expensive process of digging around under the hood of your marketing mix, you know it’s crucial if you want to keep your company on the road to success.
Fail to audit your marketing strategy often enough, and you could end up with a promotional vehicle that breaks down before you ever reach your goals or one that takes you veering drastically off-track. Marketing audits are the solutions that help you catch any significant issues with your marketing plan before they get out of hand.
A professional marketing audit, complete with a SWOT analysis, competitor evaluation and insight into your brand identity can save your organisation some serious cash. After all, when you know which promotional campaigns are working, you also know where to invest your money to get the best return on investment.
At the same time, marketing audits also give you the insights you need to develop stronger connections with your target audience – paving the way for a more successful business in the future.
Today, we’re going to answer the common question: “What is a marketing audit?” and discuss all the ways these simple tests can turbo-charge your organisation.
Let’s get started.
Back to basics: What is a marketing audit?
Bruce Clark, the author of The Marketing Audit and Organisational Performance, defines a marketing audit as a periodic, comprehensive, independent and systematic examination of business marketing efforts.
So, what does that mean?
Essentially, a marketing audit is a system designed to help you evaluate your marketing assets and activities with an eye on your business goals. It asks you to determine whether the promotional methods, teams, and strategies you’re using are having the right impact on your target market, and your bottom line. The idea is that the more you check to find out whether your marketing is working, the less likely you are to waste cash on ineffective campaigns.
When you invest in a marketing audit, you give an expert team (often outside of your business) permission to analyse the internal and external communication environment that helps your business to thrive. With the data you gather from your audit, you should be able to develop a more informed and focused marketing and advertising plan.
The best kinds of marketing audits are holistic, comprehensive and truthful. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question: “What is a marketing audit?” experts suggest that all audits should be:
Systematic: Marketing audits need to be strategic and orderly. They analyse the areas of marketing that your business relies on on a step-by-step format, looking at everything from marketing principles, to objectives and operations.
Independent: Though it is possible to conduct your marketing audit, the best results generally come from external companies as they can give you an independent overview of your current strategies. External auditors offer a new perspective and a fresh set of eyes for your business.
Periodical: Marketing audits don’t take place just once. Like any important test, you’ll need to audit regularly to check for any problems that emerge over time.
The crucial components of a marketing audit
Sometimes, the best way to answer a complicated question like, “What is a marketing audit” is to break the concept down into its core elements, or components.
Marketing audits can come in many different shapes and sizes. You might ask your professional team to focus exclusively on your social media marketing strategy. Alternatively, you might need an overview of your complete communication environment. Most marketing audits will look at the following components:
The marketing strategy
A big part of your marketing audit involves looking at the strategy that you’re using to drive communications with customers. If there’s something wrong with your strategy, your marketing goals, or your business mission, then you’ll never reach the right results for your business. Evaluating a marketing strategy may require a SWOT analysis to evaluate your company and how you’re positioning yourself in the marketplace.
SWOT analyses involve looking at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that face your business every day from an outside perspective. As you look at your marketing strategy, you’ll begin to figure out whether your current campaigns are feasible when you take your macro and microenvironment into account.
A macro environment marketing audit looks at the factors outside of your organisation that might have an impact on your marketing performance. It examines the ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Threat’ parts of your SWOT analysis, by examining everything from your cultural and economic environment to the actions of your competitors.
A macro environment audit asks you to look at your customer and prospects with in-depth user personas and target audience evaluations. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to decide whether your current marketing efforts correspond with the needs and expectations of your ideal clients. At the same time, examining the world outside of your business also means looking at your competitors to figure out how you can differentiate yourself from other people in your field.
Your analysis of the external marketing environment surrounding your organisation might also include a ‘PESTLE’ analysis. This simply means looking at all of the factors beyond your business regardless of whether you can control them or not. The PESTLE analysis examines Political, environmental, social, technological, legal and economic factors affecting your overall marketing plans.
The micro-environment audit
The micro-environment aspect of your auditing strategy involves looking at the internal factors affecting your performance. It also encompasses the strengths and weaknesses part of your SWOT. During the micro part of your marketing audit, you might look at your:
Marketing environment: The channels you’re currently using to connect with customers, and the new platforms you might be able to consider.
Marketing tools and systems: Social media tools, digital analytics systems and other components that can help you measure and enhance your marketing efforts.
Reviewing your internal marketing environment is important because it’s crucial to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to achieve your promotional goals. Of course, it can be difficult to put your own business under the microscope, which is why so many companies find it easier to access the assistance of an external auditing team.
The benefits of auditing your marketing strategy
At this point, you probably have a pretty good answer in mind for the question: “What is a marketing audit?” Although, you may be wondering why you should bother dealing with the time and effort involved in assessing your marketing campaigns.
The importance of a marketing audit can’t be overstated. As a thorough review of your marketing strategies, plans, and current activities, it helps you see what’s working and what isn’t, so you can begin to improve on your current results. A successful marketing audit outlines your strengths and weaknesses, so you can make better decisions about where to invest your resources.
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of a marketing audit.
1. Marketing audits help to realign your goals and activities
When you’re dealing with the stresses of day-to-day operations, it’s easy to lose sight of your brand vision and goals. Unfortunately, this can mean that both your branding and marketing strategies start to veer off track, leading to inconsistency in your image, and problems with your promotional results.
A marketing audit is a good way to step back and take a look at your overall business plan, then reconsider how you can align your marketing efforts to suit your goals. In simple terms, the components of a marketing audit help to keep you on track.
2. Marketing audits improve ROI
One simple answer to the question, “What is a marketing audit” is; a way to explore all of the marketing activities you’re currently implementing and find out whether those strategies are working. Looking at your business operations with an objective eye ensures that you can start making positive changes to the way you use your promotional resources.
With the facts and data, you gather from your marketing audits, you can make informed decisions on how you can improve your efforts and get the best results from your campaigns.
3. Consider new ideas and strategies
With the help of the right branding experts, your marketing audit can help you to explore your offline and online presence in greater depth. Marketing audits require significant research into the tactics your business uses every day, as well as a host of external factors too. While you’re finding out what does and doesn’t work for your company right now, you can also begin to look at new marketing strategies and trending campaign ideas that might be relevant for your brand.
For instance, during your research, you might find out that your competition is doing something you never considered to help show off their brand personality. That could inspire you to launch your new campaign too.
4. Insight into your competition and position
As mentioned above, a successful marketing audit requires an in-depth understanding of your market, your target audience, and your competition. As you audit your existing strategies and processes, you can get an in-depth view of what your competition is currently doing to reach out to their target audience.
Exploring the strengths and weaknesses of your competition could give you ideas on how you can get ahead of them and earn a larger share of the market. For instance, you could use digital tools to find out which keywords your competitors are currently ranking for, and which terms you can take advantage of without spending too much of your marketing budget.
5. Marketing audits keep you up to date
As the marketing and advertising environments continue to evolve with new technology and customer trends, a regular audit also helps you to stay ahead of the curve with your customers. Without a regular check-in to ensure that your marketing strategies are up-to-date you could risk investing all of your promotional budget into techniques that are old, outdated and inefficient.
Conducting marketing audits on a regular basis helps you to maximise your marketing investments by focusing on the activities that work best for your business and uncovering new opportunities for growth.
When do you need to conduct a marketing audit?
A natural follow up question to “What is the purpose of a marketing audit?” is “when do you need to conduct one?” Like any audit – whether you’re evaluating your brand, updating your website, or changing out your social media campaigns, marketing audits are best conducted on a regular basis. However, there are no hard and fast rules on how often you should schedule your audits to take place.
Perhaps the best way to time the components of a marketing audit is to remind yourself that the aim is to ensure ‘proactivity’ instead of crisis management. In other words, you don’t want to jump in at the last second when your brand has already lost its way. Instead, your audit should be a compass constantly available to guide and re-direct your marketing decisions. If you’re just starting to launch your business, an audit can be a great way to kick-start your strategy. Once you’ve got your marketing strategy off the ground, your audits can help to ensure that you don’t lose sight of your vision.
The younger your business is, the more opportunities you’ll have to learn from your competitors, your customers, and the changes in your business strategy. This means that you may need to launch your marketing audits more frequently. Alternatively, some of the best times to do a marketing audit are when your business is facing turbulent times. For example, you might need to re-ask yourself “What is a marketing strategy” when:
You face a change in leadership
Whether a recent merger has you working with a brand-new extended team, or an acquisition leaves your business with a new president or CEO, a change in leadership is a great time for a marketing audit. New people in your business come with new resources, attitudes, and perspectives to offer. Just make sure that you bring all the right people together to contribute to the auditing strategy.
You consider a rebrand
Sometimes, when you’re just not having the right impact on your target market, the best thing you can do is go back to the drawing board. For some companies, a brand refresh will be enough to get you out of your rut. For others, a full rebrand may be the only way forward. Whatever you choose to do, when major transformations happen in your brand, a marketing audit is always necessary to help you find or rediscover your voice.
You’re stuck with poor results
Businesses of all shapes and sizes experience ups and downs from time-to-time. There are very few companies out there that find themselves dealing with all success all the time. However, if your bad patch seems to be lasting forever, and you’re struggling to accomplish your goals, then this could be a sign that you need to invest in a marketing audit. Don’t just admit defeat, find ways that you can overcome the roadblocks on your way to success.
You’re experiencing rapid growth
Marketing audits aren’t just helpful when you’re down on your luck from a profits and revenue perspective. Sometimes, when you’re growing faster than you ever imagined, a marketing audit can also help you to ensure that you maintain that growth and keep moving in the right direction. With a marketing audit, you can figure out which of your strategies and practices are accelerating your success, and funnel extra investment into them for the best results.
You need to get ahead of the competition
All companies, no matter how big or small have competition that they need to fight against in the current marketplace. Auditing your marketing strategy helps you to understand how your campaigns and efforts compare to your competitors, and where you might need to catch up if you want to get ahead. Regular marketing audits ensure that you’re not only up-to-date with the latest marketing trends, but you’re also fully informed about what the other organisations in your industry are doing, and how you can beat them.
You need to strategise
Finally, if you know what you want to accomplish with your marketing efforts, but you don’t know how to reach your targets, then a marketing audit could be just the thing. Having a marketing and brand strategy isn’t the only way to make sure that you have the guidance you need to accomplish your goals. A marketing audit can help to refine the plans you already have in place and determine how you need to use your resources. Auditing can even help you to put together an estimated budget for your next big advertising strategy.
Employees have performance reviews to help guide them towards success in their position and provide them with constructive feedback on how to excel in their role. Students have tests to help them figure out which topics they understand best, and where they need to study up and enhance their skills.
For entrepreneurs and business owners, marketing audits offer similar results. They give you a way to keep in touch with your goals and reach your milestones. With a marketing audit, you make sure that you don’t lose track of the steps you need to take to accomplish incredible things with your advertising efforts.
Perhaps one of the most important things you’ll need to remember when it comes to conducting a marketing audit, however, is that an external perspective can be worth its weight in gold. Though there are steps you can take to conduct your own audits, having someone from a branding or marketing company on hand to oversee your efforts can be a great way to make sure that you don’t overlook any important information.
Marketing audits are there whether you need a reality check to find out how well your current campaigns are working for you, you’re looking for a starting point to help launch your marketing plan, or you just need to give your promotional methods a checkup.
Just like other aspects of your marketing campaigns, audits can be hard work, but they’re also the best way to provide your team with the foundations they need for better customer connections, stronger branding, and bigger results.
Is it time to audit your marketing efforts?
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