Thoughts and ideas from SHAKE Marketing Group

8 Steps to Reveal Gaps and Opportunities in your Marketing Strategy

The Confident Marketer Playbook: Step 2

When is the last time you did a marketing 'health check'? A consistent and comprehensive marketing health check (or audit) is a great way to figure out what's working and what's not. But many marketers often forgo audits because of time or resource constraints.

But just as often it seems, you may skip the auditing phase because you aren't clear how important they are or how to conduct one effectively. So we're here to show you how!

Why Conduct a Marketing Audit?

So, why conduct an audit? Simply put, a marketing audit helps you determine what's working and what isn't. It helps you diagnose problems with existing campaigns and programs, helping you determine how to course-correct if possible or if some initiatives are unsalvageable.

Audit results can help you determine if your strategy was sound and execution was flawed, or vice versa. And in cases where the execution was flawed, you can learn who or what was responsible to avoid similar performance issues in the future.

In viewing audit results, you'll gain a deeper understanding of which tactics are working and can build them into future campaigns. You'll also gain a stronger sense of how your audiences perceive and engage with your brand. And you'll be able to see how well your current work aligns with your broader strategic priorities.

Bottom-line: audits can help keep you organized. And according to recent CoSchedule research, organized marketers are hundreds of times more likely to be successful than their peers.

How Often Should Audits Take Place?

When it comes to marketing audits, you should conduct one at least once a year, if not more frequently. The exact frequency of your auditing process should be determined by the size and scope of your business. A 20-person firm serving a single domestic market may only need an annual audit. In contrast, a multinational firm with multiple subsidiaries may audit more frequently to keep track of all of its activities across markets.

Now, your marketing audit should not be mistaken for your post-campaign assessment (though it often is). When you review the performance of a campaign, you're looking at just those specific results within the context of your campaign and perhaps your broader strategic business goals. But you're missing the impact of concurrent campaigns, non-campaign-based marketing activities, brand touchpoints, and other public-facing activities that affect your brand.

A marketing audit captures the full scope of your efforts across the company on the brand. But too often, marketers rely on single-campaign assessments as a proxy for the company's full spectrum of marketing activities. As a result, they miss key insights along the way.

While auditing may seem daunting if you have never done one, use the following steps to get started. Getting the process right is important to land the kind of data-driven findings that can help you improve your margins.

How To Perform an Audit

When you embark on a marketing audit, you're taking a critical look at every element of your marketing activities. You can start by following our Confident Marketer framework, which includes:

  • Team Marketing Skills
  • Research & Insights
  • Targeting the right audience
  • Goal Alignment
  • Unique Value Proposition
  • Content Strategy
  • Execution Plan
  • C-suite alignment

You can and certainly should pull up any recent post-campaign assessments as a reference. However, you should examine your company's work broadly when conducting an audit. For example, in an area like targeting, ensure you're assessing not just what it looks like in the Marketing department. You must also gauge how it is handled in complementary departments.

Team Marketing Skills

In The Confident Marketer program, you'll learn how to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a marketer, both as an individual and a team. And while the program will help you shore up your weaknesses, understanding how to assess the skills and abilities of your team members is also critical within the context of a marketing audit.

As you explore the hows and the whys of your company's marketing operations through your audit, you'll need to understand when problems arise because of processes, resources, or people. Some of your team members may be underutilized in their roles or may need more training in specific areas to ensure your marketing efforts succeed. It's critical to understand these dynamics as you evaluate your company's efforts past and present.

Research & Insights

With an ongoing European land war, extensive global supply chain issues, and the vestiges of a two-year pandemic weighing heavily on consumers, businesses must continually test and retest assumptions. The research your department conducted years ago for your company's five-year plan must be revisited, as entire industries have undergone massive upheaval. Your competitors may look different, as may your market and your customers. And you can't simply swap a new rival's name for a defunct one in your internal documents and hope to keep your competitive edge.

Use your audit to overhaul your research. You'll want to re-examine what's changed in:

  • Your market
  • Your customers (looking closely at both why and how they buy)
  • Your competitors
  • Your product positioning

Note what's changed and the newly emerging trends expected to dominate the landscape. And if substantial time has passed since you devoted time and resources to research, consider whether your budget appropriately supports the research your company needs.

Targeting the right audience

Just as you need to re-examine your market and competitor understanding, you must reevaluate your ideal customer profile(s) and buyer personas. Customer needs and preferences have shifted considerably. Therefore, it's crucial that your marketing shifts with them.

And when you perform a deep dive into who your customers are at this very moment, the answers may surprise you.

Ask yourself:

  • Which customers are the most profitable and why?
  • Are customers buying less or more of the products you sell? Why?
  • How have buying expectations changed?
  • Which channels are customers using to research and purchase your products?
  • Are marketing and sales aligned on customer targets?

It's not only the marketing department that needs a firm grasp on your customer base. You must ensure a shared understanding of who your customers are throughout your company. If your department believes one thing, but your sales team is targeting a completely different segment, your lack of alignment will cost you.

Goal Alignment

As you pore through your data, look at your marketing goals and tactics. Ask yourself, am I working toward the right things? Are my goals aligned with the company's goals? Are my tactics aligned with the needs and preferences of my customers? Achieving this kind of synergy can be tricky and often requires sharp pivots to account for evolving consumer dynamics. Misalignment can also be costly, especially when it comes to missed opportunities.

A common area in which companies miss opportunities is focusing on new customer acquisition to the detriment of engaging existing customers. And companies lose up to 80% of customers when marketing departments don't work to make their experience frictionless and engaging at every touchpoint. It's not just a matter of making them feel welcome at the point of the initial sale. It also involves onboarding, customer service, online, and everywhere else they may interact with your brand. So filling each touchpoint with easily digestible content, approaching inquiries with rapid solutions, and building long-term relationships with your customers are all critical.

Take a look at your customer experience using a variety of scenarios. How well is your customer received at each touchpoint? What is their experience like? Map out their journey to help you determine your marketing activities' effectiveness.

Unique Value Proposition

A value proposition is a promise of the value your company will provide to customers when they use the product they bought from you. But how often do you evaluate whether you're fulfilling that promise?

Just as you need to understand how your customers have evolved, you must understand how their needs and perceptions of your brand have changed. Your revenue may not be growing as much because your brand no longer resonates as much as it once did. Or indirect competitors are undercutting your margins.

Along with your financials, evaluate your customer feedback to see if your value proposition is relevant and differentiated. You may find your customers don’t agree. And that deviation doesn't necessarily mean your customers have evolved. It could mean flaws in your original marketing strategy are only now coming to light. Whatever the reasons, you need to know.

Examine your value proposition as part of your audit to ensure your brand message is consistent and doesn’t sound like your competitors. Make sure everyone in your company understands and agrees with the value proposition. If not, figure out why. Only after you assess and understand why can you begin to address these issues.

Content Strategy

Some marketers also take a brand content audit as a proxy for marketing performance. But it is not and should not be mistaken for one. It is crucial to review your content to ensure that it is aligned with the buyer's journey. Your content should help guide customers from their awareness of the problem to learning more about it and helping them evaluate alternatives before guiding them toward yours. And your content should help customers feel good about their purchase. As a result, they will be primed to make another one.

Often, marketers overlook the full gamut of branded collateral that customers see. Old signage, dated sales collateral, and microsites from previous campaigns are just a few of the materials that may deviate from your brand. You may find other departments using content they've developed themselves (such as sales presentations or customer onboarding docs), which you must account for as well.

Evaluate every published and draft piece across campaigns for alignment with your value proposition, brand, and goals as part of your audit. You may be tempted to revise some pieces midstream. However, it's best to forgo that until you've completed your audit to do so with the benefit of the full results.

Execution Plan

Take a look at how your plans are being resourced. Ask yourself if you have the right people, processes, technology, and budget in place. Use the audit process to identify the sources of bottlenecks your Marketing department may be encountering. For example, unclear processes may have resulted in your staff members spending more time than necessary on basic tasks or trying to figure out who is responsible for the tasks they need to be completed to get their work done. Or you may find that you haven't properly resourced staff to monitor ongoing digital campaigns, and you're overspending and underperforming as a result.

When your processes are unclear, or your staff isn't allocated to the appropriate roles, you'll find they enjoy higher levels of burnout. In fact, a recent Forbes piece noted that more than 80 percent of marketers are experiencing burnout today. Burnt-out staff are less productive and more likely to leave when they see an opening. And a sudden loss of talent and institutional memory can seismically impact your marketing operations. It's best to identify where clarifying processes, reassigning personnel, and tightening internal controls can alleviate pressure on staff before you lose them and time trying to replace them.

C-Suite Alignment

Finally, you should assess how your marketing performance aligns with your company's broader strategic business goals and other departmental goals. To provide your customer with the seamless, frictionless, and engaging experience that will keep them coming back to you depends on your ability to ensure such alignment.

And doing so is often not as easy as just convincing the CEO of the merits of your marketing plan. You need to work in tandem with all of your internal stakeholders. Ensure that expectations are clear and realistic goals are set. Many marketing initiatives fail because other stakeholders are unclear about how long certain outcomes will take to achieve, or the exact steps needed to achieve them.

The first step begins with mapping out where and why you and other departments deviate. Be candid so you can subsequently identify viable solutions. Consider whether other stakeholders, like Sales, know your company's marketing plan. Think about how frequently you have cross-departmental meetings where you share progress and plan together. You may need to build stronger internal relationships to achieve this, but you can't afford not to. A significant reason 70 percent of organizational change projects fail is a lack of internal buy-in.

Getting Started with Your Audit

Evaluating your marketing activity is essential, but it's not easy, even for seasoned professionals. And if you're relatively young in your career, pitching and taking ownership of a marketing audit can be daunting. If doing so feels beyond your current capabilities, we're here to help. We provide marketers just like you the skills they need to succeed and thrive in all facets of their role. Our team helps marketers understand how to work effectively and alleviate confusion when their department isn't working effectively. And we give you the tools you need to transform your marketing, improve revenue, and reduce work-related stressors.

If you feel your company may need a marketing audit or other serious transformational change, we can help you become the change agent they need. Start by taking our free Confident Marketer Scorecard to see where the biggest gaps are in your marketing approach.
And if you're ready to dive deeper into becoming a strategic marketer, enroll today in our 8-week cohort-based program, The Confident Marketer Playbook to gain the skills and confidence needed to take your company and career to the next level!

← Read Step 1: Develop the Mindset of a Confident B2B Marketer

→ Read Step 3: How to Gain New Insights to Grow your Business

A marketing reviews metrics on a tablet during a marketing audit.