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The Ins and Outs of A Marketing Audit
Marketing audits are a crucial marketing tool that any business can do to set the company up for success, but also something that not enough organizations take advantage of. Marketing, in general, is as much art as science and, as such, looks different for every company.
What’s the best marketing strategy for your specific business? Where are the opportunities or pain points of your current marketing efforts? Are you getting the biggest ROI possible on your marketing dollars?
The truth is, it is hard to know any of this without a marketing audit.
The good news is that a marketing audit is a relatively easy and painless process that can set your company up for success and be huge for your bottom line. It is something that can be directed by a Chief Marketing Officer (what is a CMO?), or, if your company doesn’t have one, is a perfect project for a fractional CMO.
Here is everything you need to know about the ins and outs of a marketing audit.
What does a marketing audit do?
A marketing audit is a process that examines your complete promotional environment, from your direct mail newsletters to your social media campaigns. The purpose of a marketing audit is to sort through your resources and figure out which of your strategies are working, and which could be wasting your budget.
What is a marketing audit’s purpose?
The purpose of a marketing audit is to get a clear picture of everything the company is doing in terms of marketing and evaluate how that marketing is working.
Marketing audits are especially vital for small to mid-size businesses. In most cases, these types of companies don’t have a massive marketing department or a full-time CMO. Often, these companies are doing things like fractional marketing and using experts outside of the company like an outsourced CMO or a fractional marketing director to plan and execute marketing programs.
Using outside experts is a great way to improve your marketing in 2021, but it may mean that the principles are not highly involved in day-to-day marketing. It is why a marketing audit is even more important when a full-time or even interim CMO isn’t part of your company.
Additionally, a marketing audit will not only give you an idea of what happened with past marketing initiatives, but it is also a great way to use data to create a marketing vision and drive future marketing strategies.
What are the components of a marketing audit?
Any good marketing audit, whether they are done by a fractional CMO or another type of marketing professional, should consist of three distinct elements.
1. A marketing audit should be all-encompassing
A good marketing audit should examine every facet of your companies marketing. A common mistake companies make during marketing audits is only examining what organizational leaders consider to be problem areas.
Although you shouldn’t shy away from taking a hard look at problem areas, you should also audit aspects of your marketing programs that are considered a strength as well. Doing so provides several benefits that may lead to even greater areas of improvement.
When you take a holistic approach to a marketing audit, you’ll not only be able to adjust courses on strategies or cancel practices that aren’t working. You’ll also be able to find out why something is working and use those principles to make other areas better. You may find new opportunities or ways to improve on even the most successful marketing initiatives.
2. A marketing audit should be orderly and methodical
A good audit of anything looks at its subject on a granular level. One of the reasons marketing audits are necessary is because it is so difficult to always make sure that all your marketing bases are covered and so nothing falls through the cracks in a fast-paced business environment.
A well-done marketing audit will be well-planned in advance and will examine every program, initiative, strategy, event, and piece of content our organization produces. It means going through your marketing program with a fine-toothed comb, which is one of the reasons it may be beneficial to get someone from outside your organization to conduct this type of audit (more on that below).
3. A marketing audit isn’t a one-time thing
If the only time you conduct a marketing audit is when your marketing is failing, you’ll never reap the full benefits of the practice. Good marketing audits should be done on a semi-regular basis, whether things are going well or not.
Think of a marketing audit as your semi-annual teeth cleaning. You do these types of check-ups regardless of your physical state to make sure everything is good and to catch something early if it’s not. It also allows you to pick up some tips on how to do better before the next exam too.
Why should your company outsource a marketing audit?
First, let’s state that a marketing audit should always be done by someone outside the organization. There are several reasons for this.
A marketing audit is all about looking at a marketing program with fresh eyes. Getting an outside perspective is so important in many aspects of business, marketing included. It also ensures that there is no inherent bias or internal politics wrapped up in the audit as chances are greater when conducted by internal staff.
Also, using internal people often means that either the auditors aren’t full-time marketing experts, or if they are, they are usually too close to the company’s marketing to be completely objective or think critically about each initiative.
This is why many companies choose to use a fractional CMO to conduct marketing audits. A fractional CMO is basically an outsourced marketing director. This is to say, they are full-time, professional marketing experts who work part-time for several companies, usually at a set hourly rate.
Companies, especially small-to-mid-sized ones, bring in Fractional CMOs for a number of reasons, including when they want to conduct a marketing audit. It is a perfect way to get an outside perspective of a skilled professional without breaking the bank. Even after their time is up, they will still instill new training and practices a company can use for years to come.
How are marketing audits conducted?
When you bring in a marketing expert from outside your organization, they will give you a comprehensive marketing audit. Along the way, people within the organization will need to be involved and, at other points, they will take the reins.
Here is the general process of how marketing audits are conducted.
1. Setting marketing objectives and goals.
This first step is something that the company’s leadership will have to be heavily involved with and, oftentimes, can be done before the outsourced marketing company or fractional CMO even comes in.
A third party will know how to evaluate marketing programs and create strategies and benchmarks going forward, but they may not know your business or your industry that well. That’s OK, but it is also why this first step is so critical.
The company needs to set its high-level marketing priorities for a marketing audit to be successful. Maybe this means goals around growing brand awareness, establishing new marketing channels, increasing ROI, growing market share, keeping existing customers, or generating better leads.
No matter the goal, a marketing audit is a perfect first step to achieving them, but they need to be spelled out ahead of time.
Always remember, though, that achieving goals also takes time, money, and manpower. That is why creating both short- and long-term goals is important. The short-term goals are ones to commit to and invest in during the immediate weeks and months after the audit. The long-term goals are ones to always keep in mind, but that may not be accomplished until further down the road, maybe even after the next audit.
2. Know your target consumer
This is an important piece of any marketing program and should be done prior to a marketing audit. It can be done internally or in conjunction with a fractional CMO who will eventually do the audit.
The best way to do this is to create what’s called a “buyer persona.” This is creating a fictitious target consumer (or consumer) with real information based on who you want your marketing to reach.
For example, one persona could be a working mom in her mid-30’s. She is from the Midwest U.S., has at least one child, uses childcare every weekday, has a household income of between $45,000 and $55,000, and struggles to pack a healthy lunch for her kids each day.
This buyer persona would help a company — say an organic apple sauce pouch company — get a clear idea of who their marketing is for. That clear picture will help tremendously during the audit to determine whether or not the current marketing is effective in reaching and appealing to this woman.
3. Know your competition
A marketing audit isn’t just about the internal machinations of a company, it is about how the marketing performs in the marketplace. In order to gauge this, you need to know as much as possible about the competition in your space.
If you identify your competition for the fractional CMO running the audit, they should be able to put together detailed reports on the other companies. These reports should include everything from where the competition is to what SKUs or services they offer to their price points and their marketing campaigns.
4. Define what you do
Marketing is all about communicating a message and, to communicate that message, you need to have a clear idea of what you are communicating. That’s why a marketing audit should involve clearly defining and describing your products or services.
This should involve straightforward definitions like the features and benefits as well as the more nuanced things that differentiate you from your competition. The more clearly you can define what you do, the easier and more effective your marketing will be.
5. Identify your marketing “inventory”
Just like your storeroom packed with products or equipment, you also have an inventory of marketing assets. Identifying and quantifying these assets is a crucial step in the audit process.
This should include digital assets — website, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. — and your physical assets like branded material, promotional items, signage, and more. Remember that a good marketing audit needs to be comprehensive which is why knowing your inventory is something you need to do.
6. Get insight from the data
Using all the data above and then analyzing your marketing programs through those lenses will create a lot of data that a fractional CMO can then present to the leaders of the company. This report should include things like the strength and weaknesses in your marketing, additional opportunities, excess programs, and cost analysis.
Once you have the report, you can start to get ideas and create a strategy for moving forward. This is the time to bring your suitor and your marketing team (if you have one) back together to start to use the data from the audit to create a plan going forwards.
7. Create a strategy and execute
Now that you know what works, what doesn’t, and what you can do to improve, it is time to put a marketing strategy plan on paper (or more likely in a computer in 2022).
The first step is to remedy any of the problems that came up during the audit. This may mean scrapping old initiatives entirely or brainstorming ways to take a fresh approach to an old way of doing things.
Next, you want to create a to-do list of short-term actionable items that will help get your plan rolling. This means low-hanging fruit that will result in easy wins for your marketing team and your business.
Then, you can start addressing long-term goals and go about the process of brand-building for growth and success.
Lastly, right before you start executing on this plan, you want to make sure you schedule your next marketing audit whether it's quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
Want to learn more about how a Fractional CMO can take your marketing potential to new heights? Digital Authority Partner's Chicago Fractional CMO Services or San Diego Fractional CMO Agency offers you a unique approach to marketing strategies, and can confidently take you on a path to reach next-level growth.