I know the word audit makes people cringe since it's generally associated with a letter from the IRS about your taxes. I'm lucky enough to have never received one of those (knock on wood), but when it comes to marketing audits I believe it's something all marketers need to embrace.
"A marketing audit is a comprehensive, systematic, independent, and periodic examination of a company's or a business unit's marketing," according to Wiley. I like their definition since it speaks to the four main elements that make a marketing audit successful:
- Comprehensive - you look at everything from the brand down to the giveaways. Ask yourself if everything you are doing from a marketing perspective is relevant and applicable to the message your are sending into the marketplace and creating the behaviors and reactions you want from customers. This often means some SWOT analysis and maybe a little Porter's Five Forces Analysis sprinkled in as well since the market conditions that were present when this iteration of your brand was created have probably shifted.
- Systematic - it's not about liking the colors and making sure the fonts are in style. This is the whole construct of how your marketing works and moves your business forward. Invariably it could mean changes to messaging or channels, but it could be as much as about processes and speed of delivery within your marketing organization. I think the big thing here is measurement. What are your measuring, what are your KPIs, and what is your return on investment are gaps marketers still have to close in the eyes of senior management. Understanding and awareness of important metrics at the start of any audit gives you a lens by which all other factors can be evaluated.
- Independent - being independent doesn't necessarily mean it has to be external, but it should stand outside the normal day-to-day perceptions or inclinations about the brand. You have to hold up the mirror and be honest about what the market is showing to you about your company and embrace the good, bad and ugly. If you can't do that objectively, a consultant or someone from outside the marketing team could shed some light or give you some new ideas that can lead to more efficiency and effectiveness.
- Periodic - if you're not doing it at least once a year you are missing out on a great opportunity to assess your marketing. In one of my recent marketing roles we would do updates on performance to goals each quarter with a larger, more comprehensive view once a year. It gave us the opportunity to see where we were and gave us audience with leadership to make sure what we were doing was in line with business goals and expectations. It may be overkill depending on the size of your business, but I would recommend putting some kind of recurring calendar event on your schedule so you have a reminder for assessing your marketing programs and strategy.
At the end of the day it's easy to get caught up in the tactical elements of your marketing plans and think about the bigger picture when someone asks a hard question or you're falling behind your competitors. A proactive approach to understanding where you brand and company are with respect to marketing will be that "ounce of prevention" that will hopefully avoid "the pound of cure" (props to Ben Franklin for the quote).
If you want a bit more depth on this subject check out this article from Brand Quarterly. I just found them and I think they are putting out some great stuff on marketing so check them out regardless. If you are looking for that outside perspective, feel free to drop me a line and we can talk about my experience with marketing audits and how it could help your business.