Are you ready for your next round of marketing campaigns? What will you do differently in 2017?
Perhaps the more important question, however, is WHY will you do things differently? What information are you basing your changes on?
If you can’t give a specific answer to that last question, there is a problem. Strategies, including modifications to existing campaigns, need to be based not on intuition or instinct, but on facts and figures. That is the kind of information you gather through a comprehensive audit.
Marketing audits—whether focused on media presence, the effectiveness of marketing tactics, content inventories, or analyst relations—are an essential part of gathering the information you need to develop your next strategy.
(Find a list of five different audit types, and the results you should expect, in our Media, Messaging and Marketing Audit Checklist.)
6 Ways Audits Inform Marketing Strategies
1. Inventory current marketing and messaging efforts.
Digital marketing has grown rapidly, with many marketers quickly adding tools, tactics and platforms in an effort to keep up, until they are sprawled across the digital landscape. It can be overwhelming just keeping track of all of the different programs, especially when responsibilities are spread amongst internal marketing, public relations and sales teams, and external agencies.
A digital marketing audit will help you wrap your arms around just what is being done and where. By detailing each program’s messages and target markets, you can get a more accurate picture of how each element impacts the others.
Take the audit deeper to track what impact each channel and program has on lead generation and ROI. An audit can pinpoint precisely which of your efforts are effectively driving the sales you expect, and which are lagging.
2. Identify top performing programs to ensure they continue
Whether you are auditing digital marketing programs or reviewing your PR team’s media presence, an audit will show you which programs are performing well, enabling you to continue to prioritize those efforts that are generating leads and sales.
“Top performing” can take many forms, depending on the type of audit you conduct. A media audit would identify those outlets and contributors your brand can rely on to provide coverage when warranted. A marketing success audit would identify those programs, such as blogging, email marketing, or specific social media platforms that consistently return high conversion rates.
3. Identify underperforming efforts so they can be adjusted or eliminated.
You also need to know which programs aren’t living up to expectations. Are you dumping money and time into projects that are not producing a positive ROI in terms of leads and sales?
Use your audits to identify those lagging areas and then look for clues about why they are underperforming. Is that platform just a poor fit for your brand and target market, which might mean it should be eliminated from your marketing mix? Are you not putting enough focus on a promising platform, which means it could turn around with increased attention and spending? Or are certain efforts simply not being tied into your core marketing programs as well as they should be, and slight changes could yield big results?
4. Identify competitive strengths and weaknesses.
While the first order of business in most types of marketing or media audits is to look at your own brand’s performance, a comprehensive audit should also give you a clear picture of how your marketing and messaging efforts compare to those of your top competitors.
Using an audit to uncover your strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your competition sets up opportunities to bolster your strengths and address weaknesses. This focus on the broader marketplace also shines a light on areas no one in your industry is addressing well, giving you the advantage of being the first and controlling the conversation on those topics.
5. Inventory and rate your marketing content.
A marketing content audit takes a slightly different approach, but is an effective way to identify gaps in reaching all of your key topics, customer personas and stages of the sales funnel. Many organizations have plenty of “awareness” stage content, along with the tightly-focused “decision” stage materials utilized directly by sales, but are missing important nurturing content to guide leads through the “consideration” stage. A well-done content audit will identify if your company has a similar gap in content and will recommend specific content topics and types to address the weakness.
Content audits should also review your existing content with a critical eye to ensure that it is actually doing the job it is meant to do. Whether you conduct the audit with internal staff or commission an audit from an agency, include in the expectations a request that the content be “graded” on the five elements of quality content:
Quality content tells a story.
Quality content is useful.
Quality content is shareable.
Quality content is findable.
Quality content is technically sound.
(Use our Content Quality Report Card to grade your content on a 101-point scale.)
6. Use the information to determine strategy, both in messaging and in budgeting time and money.
Now that you KNOW (as opposed to guessing) what is working, what isn’t working, where your strengths and weaknesses are in comparison to the competition, or what gaps are hampering the effectiveness of your marketing content, you can put that information to work.
Plan new digital or inbound marketing campaigns focused around the topics and platforms that generated the most leads and sales in the past.
Create new content that addresses opportunities in the market and fills in your lead nurturing plans by reaching all stages of the sales funnel.
Use actual, fact-based ROI figures to back up budget requests and to justify changes in your marketing plan to reluctant executives.
While you won’t be able to tackle all of these areas in a single audit, determine which type of audit can be most beneficial to you now, and use it as a starting point for continual review and revisions to your marketing plans. Leading national brands understand the value in evaluating their current situation to better plan for the future. You can do the same.
See how four different national brands have used media, marketing or messaging audits to inform their strategies. Download our Best Practices: Audit Case Study for the details.