Want Quick, Useful Ideas on How to Improve Your Marketing? Try a Marketing Audit

Want Quick, Useful Ideas on How to Improve Your Marketing? Try a Marketing Audit
Michele Linn - Tue Aug 04, 2009 @ 01:00AM
Comments: 64

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Culbertson of Looking Glass Marketing. She generously agreed to share her insights on marketing audits, which, as I learned, is a great way for companies to get a fresh perspective on their marketing and campaign materials.

PencilsQ. What is a marketing audit?

A marketing audit is a review of a company's promotional marketing materials. For each audit, I review up to five pieces -- such as direct mail, collateral, email newsletters, web pages, business letters and invitations -- to make sure the materials are compelling and comply with the company's branding guidelines.

Specifically, I look at all of the material and provide suggestions on:

  • Content and messaging: Who is the target audience? How compelling is the message? Is the company really differentiating themselves?
  • Layout and use of graphics: Is the layout effective? Is the logo included? Are there any other design considerations they should be aware of to make the marketing piece more compelling?
  • Call to action: Is there a compelling call to action, and is it clear?
  • Marketing offer: Is the marketing offer applicable to the target audience, and is it strong enough to compel someone to respond?

Having a variety of pieces to review is really key so I can understand messaging and make sure there's consistency in the look and feel as well as understand the overall objective of each piece.

Q. Why do companies decide to do an audit?

Some clients struggle with developing and executing a clear and consistent marketing plan. They look for guidance on how to develop a consistent marketing plan and typically that requires a look at what they have done in the past. As a starting place, I ask to look at their past marketing materials, and that is where the marketing audit comes into play.

The marketing audit gives them a snapshot of how they are doing and where they need to improve, and it also gets them thinking about other things they need to be doing, whether it is planning, being more focused or creating a consistent marketing message.

Q. What are the benefits of doing a marketing audit?

I work with a lot of small and medium-size businesses that do not have a dedicated marketing person, so branding is not top of mind. It's really helpful to have an experienced marketing professional review their materials with a fresh and educated perspective.

Q. How often do you suggest a company do a marketing audit?

At a minimum, I would suggest doing a marketing audit on an annual basis. It's a great way to keep on top of your marketing messaging and overall branding. And, in organizations that lack someone looking at this all the time, things can easily get lost and easily mis-communicated to the market.

Q. When you perform your audits, what are the most common mistakes you see?

I see a lack of consistency. In a small business, they may be tapping into software programs that have templates to create their materials. Although this approach is quick and dirty, each piece looks completely different, and they're losing a lot of impact. Instead, it's better to make a small investment with a designer who can create a consistent look and feel for their materials.

As I review materials, I also get into a discussion on how clients use their materials. A lot of times, they'll admit they're haphazard in their approach and just throw things out there to see what sticks. Of course, it's much better to have a plan that includes priorities and a set schedule on execution.

Time and time again, I see direct mail or email pieces that lack a good marketing offer or call to action. Marketing materials that say "Give us a call", is not typically a good way to get your audience to respond. Instead, clients need to think about what type of offers their target audience would be interested in and then use strong action words to get them to take action. A good example of this would be "Register today for this one-time event. Seating is limited!"

Q. If a company is using an outside resource for a marketing audit, what types of things should they look for?

Ideally, you'd would want to hire someone who has experience in your particular industry, whether it is technology, health care, etc. You want someone who understands your target audience and the nuances of your industry, such as messaging, issues and acronyms.

It's also helpful to use someone who has some background with design and layout. This person doesn't need to be a graphic designer, but they need to understand the basics.

Lastly, it's great to have a professional who has developed and executed successful marketing campaigns themselves because they know what has and has not worked.

Q. Truth be told, before we talked, I thought a marketing audit was a market analysis, but I think this is a great approach for a company that may not have the resources to do a more detailed review.

What's great about the audits is that clients can take the recommendations and start using them right away. For instance, they can add an offer or place the call to action in the right spots in an email (at the beginning, middle and end). They also can use this information when creating future materials.

The marketing audit has been a huge help to my clients who typically aren't marketing savvy. They typically wear many hats in the organization and marketing is important but not their core competency. The audits are a great way for businesses looking for help and direction as well as get a fresh perspective on their marketing efforts.

Read more Savvy B2B posts from Michele.

Comments: 64

Comments

1. Jonathan Kranz  |  my website   |   Tue Aug 04, 2009 @ 03:17AM

Jennifer, I wonder if you could share some insights on diplomacy. In my experience, seeing what's right and wrong about a client's marketing materials is the, well, I won't see "easy part," but at least the easier part of the conversation. (And I'm sure your expert eye catches a lot things I may miss.) But the tough stuff is in the sharing of your observations: being analytical without being "critical." Encouraging the client to be open, rather than defensive. And positioning yourself as constructively helpful, rather than a scourge of "what the other guy/gal did."

Any thoughts on that?

2. Jennifer Culbertson  |  my website   |   Wed Aug 05, 2009 @ 03:33AM

Jonathan -- Good question! Most of my clients who are open to an audit already have the mindset that their materials need improvement, so they typically don't get defensive. The marketing audits can be at times subjective in nature, but my suggestions to them are really based on industry standards and data that I have accumulated over the years. So if I make a suggestion that they need to reach out to a target 7-9 times in order for someone to recognize you, that data is supported by the Direct Marketing Association and research they have conducted.

I also work with clients in similar industries so I have a lot of anicdotal feedback on what's working and what's not working in their industry which they find to be very helpful and invaluable. Why waste your time and money in doing certain marketing tactics when you already know the target audience is not responding to it.

I love working with clients and helping them improve and be successful. The role of a consultant is a delicate balance of be honest and open, and developing a relationship of trust, which sometimes includes feedback that's not as positive as they'd like to hear. Ultimately, the client will do what's in their best interest but if you can have a positive impact on how they get there, that's what it's all about.

3. William  |  my website   |   Wed Aug 05, 2009 @ 08:05AM

Reviewing marketing materials can be hard for a non specialist so in my opinion investing money to hire a specialist for that purpose is more credible rather than buying a software program. Although annual marketing audit is quite necessary to gain a good marketing reputation. One can find the shortcomings by doing audit and add a variety of things to improve it like compelling messages, graphics etc.

4. Jennifer Deal  |  my website   |   Fri Aug 14, 2009 @ 08:30PM

If you are a sales and marketing communications firm, an audit is a great way to give your prospect reassurance about your service capabilities. Often times, prospects want to do business with you; but are unsure about the relationship. These types of audits help give them peace-of-mind about hiring you for the larger communications efforts!

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