What is a marketing audit and why do you need it?
The very words ‘marketing audit’ can be enough to send shivers down any business owner’s spine. Heaps of paperwork, exhausting processes and significant expense all spring immediately to mind at the prospect of taking a deeper look into the marketing mix.
But just as with final exams, trips to dentist and filing taxes, marketing audits are an essential part of a successful life. Not only do they keep your marketing efforts on track, they can also save you an awful lot of wasted time and money.
So let’s jump right in with the basics of the marketing audit– what are they and why should you be doing them regularly?
What is a marketing audit?
A marketing audit is a comprehensive examination of your business’’ marketing efforts. It is a system designed to determine whether your marketing methods, strategies and teams are having the desired effect on your target audience and are aligned with your business goals.
A professional marketing audit usually includes a SWOT analysis, competitor evaluation and insight into your brand identity. The driving concept being that a regular and thorough analysis of your marketing efforts will ensure that your campaigns and processes are always working. This prevents wasting effort on promotion that will ultimately be ineffective.
Marketing audits are usually conducted by a separate team, often from outside your company. This allows them to be fully independent and impartial. Audits should be:
- Systematic: When analysing your marketing efforts top to bottom you need to be ruthlessly organised. The most useful insights come from systematic and strategically accrued data.
- Comprehensive: Effective marketing audits cover every aspect of the marketing process. No stone should be left unturned.
- Independant: There is no getting around the fact that a fresh set of eyes can highlight problems that may never have been noticed by staff acclimatised to them. The general consensus is that external auditors are most reliable when it comes to seeing what is really there.
- Regular: Marketing audits are not a one-off process. Just like finance audits they need to be done regularly enough to ensure that problems are being dealt with before they impact the business.
Crucial components of a marketing audit
Marketing audits are involved processes and consist of some fundamental factors. These are:
The SWOT analysis (marketing strategy)
At the centre of every marketing team is the strategy that directs it. Therefore the central part of your audit should be investigating the overall marketing strategy and how successful this is.
Marketing strategy investigation is often done using a SWOT analysis, which looks into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats present and how they affect your business. SWOT analyses are particularly effective as they force you to focus not only on the internal situation, but also the external business opportunities and threats.
To conduct a SWOT analysis you need to look at:
- Strengths: What is going well? Your strengths are things that your internal teams and processes achieve to give you the marketing edge. This helps you to understand what you already have to work with when planning improvements. For example, excellent marketing research or design skills.
- Weaknesses: This refers to any essential skills or assets that your internal teams are currently lacking. It is also important to understand how these weaknesses are impacting your overall strategy and returns.
- Opportunities: Understanding where your market opportunities lie is fundamental to achieving growth. For marketers it is particularly useful to focus this analysis around potential target markets.
- Threats: What are the threats that could prevent your business’ marketing efforts from succeeding? This could include competitor efforts, environmental factors or incoming regulations.
Looking at your marketing strategy allows you to get an initial grasp as to whether your current direction and campaigns are succeeding.
The macro-environmental audits
Auditing your macro environment focuses on the external factors that will implicate your marketing performance. This means zooming in on the threat and opportunities sections of your SWOT analysis and building a more detailed and higher level understanding of these factors.
A good way to focus this investigation is using a PESTLE analysis. This should look at:
- Political: This looks at influences such as the national government, local governments, trade associations, regulatory bodies and large conglomerates such as the EU.
- Environmental: Includes factors such as waste disposal, conservation and natural resources.
- Social: Looks at demographics, culture, attitudes and current issues.
- Technological: Investigates any innovations that will impact products, materials, components, processes, distribution and administration.
- Legal: Includes aspects like general legislation and regulatory bodies
- Economics: Deals with market structure, government policy, trading bodies, taxation, interest rates and trading blocs.
The micro-environment audit
With the external evaluation done, it’s then important to delve into any internal factors that impact your businesses’ marketing performance. This is a deeper dive into the strengths and weaknesses parts of your SWOT analysis.
Looking at your internal efforts is crucial to achieving your goals as it ensures your teams are doing everything they can. Many businesses find the micro-environment audit the most challenging or sensitive part of the whole audit system as it requires putting your own teams under the microscope.
A thorough micro-environment audit will explore the:
- Marketing environment: How is your promotion currently carried out? What platforms and channels are you utilising? How effective are these at reaching your target audience and can there be improvements?
- Tools and systems: What tools are you using to enable your marketing efforts? Are there any that aren’t contributing or can be made more effective? Similarly are there any tools available that would significantly increase current performance?
Teams and engagement: How well are your teams engaging with processes and strategies? Is there any need for better people processes, new roles or more training?
Why should every business do a marketing audit?
Regular marketing audits have many wide reaching benefits for businesses of all types. Here are some of the key reasons why they are essential.
- Realign with your business goals
The world of business moves fast. In this landscape of constant adaptation companies need to make sure that every department is kept on board and moving in the same direction. Marketing audits are a great opportunity to reassess how strategies are performing and whether they are still creating benefits for the business at large.
- Saving time and money in the long term
There are no bones about it – misdirection is costly. Without regular check up on how activities and campaigns are performing it is likely that your business is pursuing tactics that are simply not working. Audits allow you to maximise your budget so that every aspect is used effectively to promote your offering to an audience that is likely to connect with you – anything else is a waste of time and money.
- Expose your business to new methods and ideas
The research and investigation that goes into a marketing audit can be leveraged to discover new methods and ideas that may not have been obvious before. Regularly taking the opportunity to stand back and asses your marketing strategy alongside a fresh pair of eyes can breathe a whole new life into your work and, importantly, its outcomes.