Podcast episode: How can a small business use a marketing audit?

The second episode of the Marketing Room podcast is about marketing audits. And I know it doesn’t sound like a very interesting subject – with all due respect to auditors everywhere! But in marketing terms, this is simply a process of looking at what you are doing in your marketing. We want to find out what is working so you can do more of that.

A marketing audit is a thorough review of your marketing plan and all your different marketing activities. It should be straightforward step but when I did a quick online search for the term as part of my research I discovered 393 million responses! When I looked at some of these, they were actually very in depth. They were much more of a complete marketing plan, and more suitable for big businesses with multiple product lines.

I’ve drilled down to what a marketing audit needs to be for a small business. So the seven step plan below is my framework for a small business. The overall goal is to work out what is working, what isn’t working and what you need to improve. A marketing audit should ask “have you done what you said you were going to do?” It should look at what your customers think and say about you, and if that is converting to sales. It will look systematically at what your competitors are doing and give you a firm foundation to plan for the future.

How often should you do a marketing audit?

I would suggest every 12 months but if you are about to start a new campaign, it’s worth benchmarking so you can compare the results of the campaign with your business as usual.

Step 1 Did you have a marketing plan?

If you didn’t, don’t panic, I’m going to help you develop one as you listen to this podcast! If you did, what did you say you would do? Did you deliver the plan and achieve what you wanted to achieve? Whether you did or didn’t, why do you think that is? Has anything unusual happened in the business over the last year? Do you have new staff or did you introduce new products? What has happened if the results aren’t what you planned?

Step 2 Gather the sales figures

If you can analyse your sales figures by product or service, that is extremely helpful. You need to be able to find out which is the most profitable. Ultimately you need to know if your marketing is generating the sales figures you wanted. Many marketers would miss this step, because they prefer to focus on the brand or the content. In my opinion it’s not enough to know those things are working, it really needs to translate to the bottom line.

It is worth saying that not every marketing activity needs to be linked to sales. Sometimes marketing activity is about adding numbers to your database or contacts in a new sector. But the bottom line is the sales figure and there needs to be a relationship between marketing activity and sales figures.

Step 3 Do you really understand your customers?

Go back to the first episode and this blog post for more detail about why you need to understand your customers and what you need to know about them. In a marketing audit, you can go into more detail. Do you know what your customers are telling you, do you have a systematic approach to gathering their feedback and acting on it and responding to it.

Do you ask your new customers how they found your business? That’s a really good way to work out what is working. It’s also a great way to see what isn’t working. This in turn shows you where you can save budget for next year.

Step 4 Who are your competitors?

In this step, articulate who your competitors are and look at what they are doing in their marketing. How successful are they and are there any good ideas you can borrow from them? It’s useful to have a regular process for checking in with your competitors, maybe via social media, or through sales people if you have them. All that information is really useful in planning your own activity.

Step 5 How are your channels performing?

This is a really big step. Look in detail at the different marketing channels you are using and working out what is successful. There are a huge number of metrics you can use for example, clicks to a website, open rates on your email marketing, social media engagement or followers rates. Beware, some metrics are useful and some are just vanity metrics. Social media followers as an absolute number is less important than the engagement rate. Are your followers communicating with you and are they clicking through to your website.

Do also think about time you are spending on all these different channels. Social media channels particularly can be a real time suck. Try and assess the time you spend planning, posting and scheduling vs how much meaningful business they bring. At this stage I would go back to your customers and where they come from and compare that with your channels. It’s no good having a really engaged audience if its delivered not one customer.

Step 6 Take a look at your marketing budget

Compile your marketing budget information and ask what you spent on these areas. The biggest area of spend should be on the most successful – the most customers, most profit. If that isn’t the case, make a note and see where you can adjust in the future. Also see where you spent money that you didn’t plan to and if that was successful or not. Every small business has spent an ad because it looked like a good idea but it didn’t actually bring in any business.

Step 7 What can we improve?

What could we do differently if we had more time to plan, or if we had different skills in our business? What can we do differently next year to make a step change in the business?

Following those 7 steps should give you a great deal of really useful information, to make your marketing more effective in future.

If you would like a template to help you with your own marketing audit, you can download one here. And you can listen to Episode 2 of the Marketing Room which explores Marketing Audits on Apple podcasts.

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Jenny Procter Bondfield Marketing

Marketing for experts and introverts.

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