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The Role a Marketing Audit Plays in Business Growth

We live in a hyper-connected world where competition knows no borders, and the stakes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have never been higher.

The marketplace is not what it was a decade – or even a year ago. It’s more volatile, complex, and, perhaps most crucially, it’s saturated.

ARE YOU READY FOR A MARKETING AUDIT?

And, as the 21st century marches on, we are witnessing continual advancements in technology, an increasingly sophisticated customer base, and the relentless acceleration of digital transformation.

But what does this mean to business owners? It means the approach to marketing needs to be more strategic and more considered. From the outset, it requires a better understanding of the purpose and goals – the precise drivers behind the marketing.

If you’re engaged in marketing for your own business, whether it’s just you, you have an in-house individual or team, or you’re working with an external agency, ask yourself whether what you’re doing is truly helping you reach your goals. If the answer is no, or you can’t confidently answer the question, it would be prudent to consider a strategy review (or at least begin with a strategy health check).

If the answer is yes, and you’re clear about your goals and how you’re working towards them, a marketing audit will be a great eye-opener and may well surprise you.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

Michelangelo

Who is a marketing audit for?

For SMEs with a turnover in the region of £0.5m to £20m, having a detailed, objective understanding of your market is more than just good business practice – it’s essential for survival and sustainable growth. The turnover range above is not meant to exclude smaller businesses, but the mindset of business owners who operate within that range and above typically accept marketing as being fundamental to their business growth plans. The cost is seen as an essential investment, not an expense.

By providing a holistic view of your marketing activities across multiple channels and platforms, internally and externally, a marketing audit will empower you to make informed decisions that will significantly, and positively impact your business, both on long-term growth and short-term bottom line.

Why SMEs Often Neglect Marketing Audits

The majority of business owners have never even considered a marketing audit. The mere mention of the word ‘audit’ conjures up a team of straight-faced, besuited individuals rifling through the company’s financial records with an unhealthy determination to find fault or wrongdoing.

That’s not what we’re suggesting in the context of marketing, but it goes a long way towards painting the negative picture associated with the word, audit.

The problem is that the utility of a marketing audit is often underestimated. It’s seen as an unnecessary expense and is often relegated to the ‘nice-to-have’ category rather than being seen as a necessity. And when you’ve worked hard to create what you believe and hope will be an effective marketing campaign for your own business, who wouldn’t be reluctant to risk those efforts being criticised or undermined?

Contrary to what you may therefore be thinking, a marketing audit is a positive, proactive step towards improvement. And improvement means growth and success. A marketing audit aims to identify both strengths and weaknesses in your marketing activities and to provide the structure for a plan to make your marketing more focused, meaningful and effective.

Another misconception is the notion that marketing audits are only of any real benefit to large, complex organisations that engage in massive, multi-channel, multi-platform, fully integrated marketing campaigns. And if you’re running a small or medium-sized enterprise, you might think there needs to be more marketing activity to warrant an audit.

But here’s the thing: even if you don’t have a fully fleshed-out business or marketing strategy, you probably have a good sense of where you want to go, and a marketing audit ensures your marketing is in sync with that vision. Think of it like a compass for a ship – it helps you remain on course and heading in the right direction.

If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.

Steve Jobs

The Key Components of a Marketing Audit

A marketing audit is significantly more than just a checklist for identifying gaps or weaknesses; it’s a strategic tool that highlights opportunities and new ways to grow to get ahead of your competitors.

Marketing audits come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of complexity, but if they’re too complex, they’re moving into strategy territory, and that’s not what they’re for. A marketing audit is a snapshot report that covers the fundamentals of your existing marketing activities.

That said, the marketing audit should be tailored to the size and type of your business and may also be tuned to your specific needs, below is an outline of what a marketing audit typically includes:

  • Outline: A review of your current marketing and the goals you have in place.
  • Audience: A review of your ideal client profiles to ensure that your content is speaking to the correct audiences.
  • Social Media: A map of all the platforms and channels you use and how you use them.
  • Metrics: A report on typical metrics such as followers, likes, shares, engagement rates, etc.
  • Website Data: A review of your website’s analytics to determine views, bounce rates, keyword usage, etc.
  • Website Functionality: a review of the user experience of visiting your website. Is everything clear and consistent? Are there any design issues or broken links?
  • Content: An evaluation of the content you create for your website or other channels, such as LinkedIn newsletters and email marketing.
  • Collateral: Identifying all marketing assets, such as branding materials, flyers, white papers, etc., and evaluating if they are still on message and how they fit into the overall strategy.

Expanding the marketing audit to be more comprehensive:

If you want to be thorough about your audit, you could add three further areas of analysis to give you a much bigger picture of where your business currently stands with its marketing:

Market Situation Analysis: This is more than a review of sales data. It includes evaluating market trends, customer segments, buying behaviour, and overall market needs. Knowing whether your product or service aligns with the demands of your particular market enables you to make better business decisions. It helps you understand if you are ahead of the curve, merely keeping up or lagging behind.

Competitor Analysis: Understanding your competition is vital in carving out your unique market position. This may involve a thorough examination of competitor product ranges, pricing strategies, marketing approaches, and even their own customer reviews. Such insights allow you to understand their strengths and weaknesses, which can be invaluable in shaping your own strategies.

SWOT Analysis: Originating from business management studies, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

While this might sound straightforward, a detailed SWOT analysis delves into the nitty-gritty and scrutinises your internal organisational capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) and external market conditions (opportunities and threats) to offer a balanced perspective on your current standing.

It’s possible to run through a SWOT analysis yourself, but a facilitated, impartial SWOT analysis frequently reveals hidden gems that will surprise or even shock you. Again, it’s all good – as the purpose of a SWOT analysis in marketing terms is to help you create actionable steps to strengthen your business.

Conclusion:

Not everyone truly appreciates that the world of business is neither static nor forgiving. Consumer preferences shift, new competitors enter the market, and external factors such as economic downturns can have a profound impact, where even the worst of situations, such as the global pandemic, can create winners and losers.

A marketing audit serves as your navigation system through these challenges, providing the initial, crucial snapshot of where you are now. It also provides invaluable feedback that will inform your future strategies. A marketing audit is not simply about identifying problems; it’s about capitalising on untapped opportunities.

However, it’s important to understand that a marketing audit is not a one-time effort or an operational task to tick off; it’s a strategic asset and an investment in the future of your business. But more than that, it’s a conversation to understand where you are now, what the next few years look like and where you want to get to.

Marketing is not about technology, techniques or trickery; it’s unequivocally about people and relationships, and a marketing audit helps cement the crucial relationships between your business and your customers.

Next Steps.

Understanding the positive impact a marketing audit can have on your business is only the beginning of your journey. The first step is to embrace the likelihood of change – but change that will be tailored to your precise needs and desired outcomes.

The step after that is to take action, and a great place to begin your journey is to run through our Marketing Audit Health Check to establish where you are now and how an audit might positively impact your business.

Also, think about being inclusive – engage your team, whether one other person or all the people involved in sales, marketing, content creation and, ultimately, decision-making. This journey is about elevating your business, rising above your competitors and attaining your predetermined goals. That is, after all, why you’re in business.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin

With more than 30 years experience in business and marketing, Clive is the visionary behind The Marketing Alliance, launched in 2018. Clive leads a curated tribe of accomplished marketing and business support professionals who consistently delight clients through their creativity, innovation, strategy and an unwavering commitment to excellence.
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