What’s the best way to maximize the return on your marketing investment? Take a step back from your day-to-day marketing projects and conduct a marketing audit.
A marketing audit is a top-to-bottom assessment of your entire marketing program, from branding to tactics. The beginning of a new year or the start of a new budget period is an ideal time to do it.
How do you conduct a marketing audit? And how can an audit help you develop a smart marketing strategy? Here are some answers.
What a Marketing Audit is About
The purpose of a marketing audit is to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of your investment in marketing. By taking a good, hard look at every marketing dollar you’re spending, you can decide whether to keep spending dollars this way or direct your resources elsewhere.
Most audits review the core elements of a company’s marketing strategy, such as its branding, messaging, marketing channels, marketing campaigns and tactics, offers, sales tools, and creative approaches.
The goal is to determine what’s working and what isn’t, so you can adjust your marketing strategy going forward. You want to know how marketing is moving the sales needle and which elements of your marketing plan are making that happen.
How to Conduct an Audit
In my role as a marketing consultant, I’m often asked to conduct marketing audits for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. Here’s how I advise clients to conduct an audit:
- Form a small internal team. Even if an independent marketing consultant will be guiding your audit, marketing staff from across your company should be involved in the process. Keep the group manageable in size, ideally five to seven people. Include staff from different levels for varied perspectives. Consider inviting a few individuals from other departments, such as product management, sales, or customer service. Ask a representative from your marketing agency to participate.
- Establish an evaluation timeframe. Most marketers look at one to two years’ worth of marketing initiatives to evaluate their programs. Older initiatives usually are not relevant to an evaluation of what’s working today.
- Do your homework. You will need accurate metrics to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing, such as leads generated, leads converted, direct mail and e-mail response rates, web traffic, search engine rankings, social media engagement, media coverage, advertising impressions, trade show traffic, and brand awareness. Compile and share these numbers in advance to give your team a context within which to view your marketing. Look for industry benchmarks to use as a comparison.
- Meet offsite. Pick a meeting room outside your normal workplace. Spread all your materials and images out on tables or on the walls. A neutral environment will help you focus your discussion and see your creative with fresh eyes.
- Be objective. Try to look at your marketing through the eyes of a customer or prospect. Avoid the temptation to defend campaigns you’ve created or tactics that “we’ve always done.” Be ready to jettison initiatives that aren’t delivering results and be willing to test new ideas and approaches.
- Examine your marketing in all channels. Look for inconsistencies in messaging and branding and for opportunities to integrate marketing more effectively across traditional, web, and social media. Ask your web specialists to evaluate marketing in traditional media and vice versa. They may be surprised at what they can learn from each other.
- Compare your marketing to your competitors’. Though your focus should be on your own program, take some time to compare your marketing to what competitors are doing. Try to do a head-to-head comparison of your branding, website, and marketing messages to see who’s having more impact in the marketplace.
Two final tips:
- Customer satisfaction surveys and web comments can help you see how well you’re delivering on your brand promise at the human level, when your staff interacts directly with customers and prospects.
- If you find that you and your team can’t be objective – or you don’t have the time or resources for a thorough, top-to-bottom assessment – get help from an external marketing consultant.
Applying Your Insights
A marketing audit can give you insights into your strengths and weaknesses as a marketer and help you determine how to invest your marketing resources going forward. It can also help you build consensus within your company about marketing and forge a common vision to guide your efforts.