A marketing audit is the process of examining your marketing department for strengths and flaws with the ultimate goal to improve. You can perform a digital marketing audit, SEO audit, or even full-scale audit based on your needs.
Savvy marketers keep an eye on their marketing operations and goals. No matter the size of your department, if you want to improve your marketing performance, you need to understand your goals, assets, and environment.
Audits can seem intimidating, but they don't have to be. Keep reading to learn the purpose of marketing audits, examples, and what your marketing audit checklist should look like.
What Is a Marketing Audit?
A marketing audit is an in-depth look and systematic investigation of a company's marketing processes and procedures. The purpose is to explore how the company's marketing activities are working—and if they line up with your goals and key performance indicators. During the audit, you:
- Set goals and objectives.
- Collect information about your company's assets, performance, and environment.
- Analyze your results.
- Develop a new plan.
What's the importance of a marketing audit? It can help you address problems early and improve the effectiveness of your marketing. You'll find out if your digital marketing efforts are working or how your content marketing strategy is going. Without a regular marketing audit report, you may waste time and resources on an ineffective marketing campaign and miss opportunities for growth.
There are two main types of marketing audit: internal and external. Both types are intended to help the business understand its current marketing system. However, they work best in different scenarios.
Internal audits are performed by people within the company. As a result, the company benefits from familiar auditors who understand the processes and systems in place. Internal audits are typically performed more quickly than external audits. This is because there's no time taken to hire someone and familiarize them with the company's marketing policies. These audits are great for routine checks and updates.
External or outsider audits take advantage of the objectivity of an outside perspective. An outside auditor is brought in to examine the marketing department's effectiveness. The auditor will sit down with many different people in the company to make sure they understand everything. They can point out problems that someone from within the company may not notice. An outsider audit typically takes longer, but they're invaluable when internal audits aren't solving the problem.
Marketing Audit Examples
There are several different types of marketing audits. Each focuses on specific elements of the marketing process to solve a unique problem. The following three examples show how you can use a marketing audit to improve your business.
The most common type of marketing audit is the marketing strategy audit. This audit examines the current marketing strategy and whether it meets its goals. Marketing strategy audits are typically used to identify opportunities for improvement.
A typical example of a marketing strategy audit is an annual analysis performed within the marketing department. These audits are best for keeping a company's marketing plan effective and on course.
Internal environment marketing audits examine every factor of a company's marketing department. Organization, function, and how the system works are all thoroughly reviewed. It takes a step back from strategy to look at a broader view of the department. These audits are intended to identify problems and opportunities for growth by restructuring or replacing ineffective staff and software.
For instance, if a company has recently undergone a merger or an acquisition, an internal environment marketing audit may be helpful. This audit will help leadership evaluate the old vs. new marketing department's staff, systems, and functions. These audits are best for identifying potential problems within the company itself.
External environment marketing audits examine external factors, such as competition and the economy. The marketing approach that works one year probably won't work a decade later. External environment audits help businesses understand when the market has changed.
Companies perform external environment audits for many reasons. You may complete an external environment audit in the following circumstances:
- Before releasing a new product
- After a significant economic change
- Before going public
- Before any other important event that changes the business climate
These audits are best for reevaluating how the company needs to approach the market.
Most marketing audits include elements of all three of these examples. For instance, an annual strategy audit should examine both internal and external environments. This examination ensures company strategies are appropriate and are being carried out effectively.
Elements of a Successful Marketing Audit
What makes an effective marketing audit? There are four basic requirements your audit must meet if it's going to help you improve your marketing department.
- Regularity: Audits shouldn't be one-time deals. They should be performed regularly to identify problems early. Annual or semi-annual marketing audits are often the best choices.
- Comprehensiveness: An audit should be comprehensive by nature. Cover every aspect of your marketing department.
- Organization: Audits need to be organized. Gather all your data in one place, so you can examine it quickly. Take steps to "clean" your data to make it easy to search and parse.
- Expertise: Whether you choose an internal or external marketing audit, you should ensure that the auditor is an expert. This expert may be your lead marketing employee, a consultant, or even an auditing firm.
Marketing Audit Checklist: What to Expect and What to Accomplish
You now understand the purpose of a marketing audit and its value. The next question is simple: how do you perform a marketing audit? The audit process typically follows these eight steps:
1. List All Your Marketing Goals
Marketing is all about meeting goals. Whether you want to bring in new leads, increase market share, or build brand awareness, every marketing action should have a goal in mind. If you want to understand how well your marketing is performing, you need to compare your current results with your goals. Thus, the first step of the auditing process is to identify your goals.
You may have multiple goals you're trying to accomplish. A great way to organize your goals is to ask yourself some marketing audit questions and create a plan of action.
- What do you want your business to accomplish?
- Is each goal attainable?
- How long will each goal take?
- How important is each goal?
Once you've thoroughly answered these questions, you can move on to the next steps.
- List all of your current marketing goals.
- Brainstorm new goals.
- Revise goals to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound).
- Set priorities levels and timelines for each goal.
- Break down long-term goals (those that last two or more years) into small milestones.
2. Build Customer Personas
Next, you should focus on your customers. What do they want from your business, and how different are their needs? For instance, a cookware company may sell to newlyweds, expert chefs, and new hobbyists. Each of these customers has a different perspective on why they're using your products. The messages you send to each of these subsets should be different.
Try to develop detailed customer personas for each potential market segment. Describe elements like their:
- Pain points (what problem is bothering them that your product can solve?)
- Points of pride
These personas allow you to create more specific marketing messages throughout the customer journey.
- Identify all your customer types.
- Describe who they are and why your product solves their problems.
3. Name the Competition
The other external element to consider is your major competitors. Every industry has competition. Understand your competitive environment and find out what makes you stand out.
You probably know your main competitors, but do some research. Are there any new players who've entered your industry recently? What do your competitors offer? Have they changed their method of operation since the last time you looked into them? List all of your competitors, along with their strengths, weaknesses, offerings, pricing, and anything else you consider relevant.
- Perform research to identify all of your competitors.
- Analyze their current offerings and methods.
4. Describe Your Offerings
Now you can begin to look inward. Just like you examined your competitors, you should objectively analyze your business offerings. What do you offer your customers? Describe it in detail, from features and drawbacks to distribution methods.
Now you can compare your business with competitors in terms of availability, service, price, and anything else you explored in the last step.
- Gather information about your products and services.
- Describe your offerings in detail.
- Objectively describe how you compare with your competitors.
5. Understand Your Marketing Assets
Zooming in further, explore what you have within your marketing department. You should develop a comprehensive catalog of everything your marketing department runs and creates, from your website to brand materials. If you have data from previous audits, you should pull that out, too.
It's not enough just to name each webpage and social media account. You also need to collect information about how each one is performing. The results of this process will deliver a snapshot of your marketing department's performance. The more information you gather now, the better your analysis—now and in the future.
- List all social media channels attached to your business. Include target customer profiles, follower count, average engagement rate, and number of shares.
- List all social media advertising accounts you use, including their average conversion rate and costs.
- Perform a content audit of your site. Include things such as number of views, content type, conversion rate, organic rankings, bounce rate, and keywords used.
- Name other assets, such as white papers, branding materials, guides, and graphics.
6. Analyze Your Results
It's time to explore the data you've collected. You should have a massive collection of information about your business and how your marketing is performing. Examine that data for trends. Where is your advertising strongest? Where does it need improvement? Are there any accounts or initiatives that don't seem to be worth your marketing efforts? Marketing audit tools like SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and five forces analyses are good ways to help you understand the data. Writing a general overview of your current marketing status may also help.
- Perform a SWOT analysis.
- Develop a summary explaining your current marketing status.
7. Develop an Action Plan
You've found your strengths and weaknesses, you've done your competitive analysis, and you understand the customers you're targeting. Now you can develop a plan to guide your marketing into the future. It should have four parts:
- Quick wins: Identifying if and where simple changes—like posting more often on social media—can lead to significant results
- Maintenance: Strategies for maintaining the things that are working well
- Long-term fixes: Plans to address weaknesses, like under-targeted customer profiles or low conversion rates
- Future-proofing: Implementing new marketing channels or strategies based on industry trends and environmental changes
- Identify the issues you need to solve (quick wins and long-term fixes).
- Identify the goals you want to achieve before the next audit (quick wins, maintenance, and future-proofing).
- Describe specific actions, routines, and steps to solve the problems and accomplish the goals.
The last and most invaluable step for marketing audits is to repeat them. It's not enough to audit your marketing once. You need to regularly monitor it to make sure your plans are working as intended.
Set a date for the next audit as soon as you complete your current one. A reasonable audit period is every 6 to 12 months, depending on the size of your company. You can determine an annual or semi-annual schedule right away.
- Schedule your next audit.
Make Marketing Audits Part of Your Department Routine
After you've performed your first marketing audit, they become easier. You'll have past audits to refer to for every subsequent examination. Your very first audit can also go smoothly when you follow this checklist.
A good audit will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and develop a truly comprehensive plan. Whether or not you've done marketing audits before, there's no better time to get started than today. The sooner you get started, the sooner you'll see results.