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According to Hubspot’s 2019 State of Inbound Report, “40% of brands consider proving Return on Investments (ROI) of their marketing spends as their top marketing challenge.” Brands are consistently focused on making sure that marketing ROI is achieved. One of the easiest ways to accelerate this is through a marketing audit. In this article, we’ll explore what a marketing audit is, best practice approaches to completing a marketing audit and how it can help your brand to grow.
What is a marketing audit?
The Marketing Audit and Organisational Performance author, Bruce Clark, defined a marketing audit as a “Comprehensive, periodic, systematic, and independent examination of a brand’s marketing efforts.”
By performing a marketing audit, brands are able to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and any looming issues within their current marketing programme. Armed with this information, they can then adjust the status quo and accelerate marketing performance long term.
More specifically, a marketing audit can help brands to:
- Identify areas of improvement – Marketing audits can enable brands to measure current performance against targets across all lines of marketing activity. This process can immediately highlight high performing (and under-utilised) activities as well as those activities that are not working.
- Uncover inefficiencies in the marketing strategy – Discover inefficiencies across data, tooling and processes across all marketing activities. By forensically examining the operational approach to marketing activities, a brand can identify opportunities in order to streamline and optimise how the team is working.
- Identify areas where brands can excel and build their strategy – A marketing audit helps brands to realign their marketing activities with those activities which are delivering the highest results, in order for them to more easily achieve targets.
- Set a list of actionable items that can nudge a brand’s marketing efforts forward – The ultimate objective of a marketing audit is to build a roadmap which details and schedules the way the marketing team will optimise their current marketing mix, tooling and operations. This is vital in order to put the insights into action.
The elements of a marketing audit
A marketing audit is divided into three segments. Performing a deep analysis and evaluation across all of these areas can really help to drive marketing performance:
Internal marketing audit
- Marketing organisation audit – Brands should evaluate the structure of the marketing team and the way that the various responsibilities are divided. The structure should also be checked against best practice to align with their business’s operating model.
- Marketing function audit – This focuses on reviewing the core content and messaging of a brand. Marketing function audits analyse and evaluate the product or service, the brand, promotions and pricing strategy. This analysis also assesses the product’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) against the competitor set (competitor analysis is also performed as part of this).
- Marketing channels audit – Evaluating the performance of a brand’s marketing channels. It is crucial to analyse where the business is engaging with potential and existing customers. A marketing channel audit also measures how these channels are performing against competitors and against the brand’s internal goals and KPIs. Examples of channels which are typically audited include social media, landing pages, blogs, and newsletters but (depending on the business) can include offline channels as well.
External marketing environment
Once the internal factors are reviewed, brands should also consider looking at the external factors which are influencing the performance of their marketing.
- Task environment audit – A brand should review the current state of the market depending on what industry it belongs to. Understanding shifts in attitude, outlook and the needs of their target customers is crucial in order to maintain relevancy (and avoid disruption).
- Macro-environment audit – By evaluating changes in the macro-market, a brand can factor in changes in regulation, geopolitics, economics, demographics and cultural aspects which may be impacting the brand’s marketing performance.
Current marketing strategy
Current marketing strategy is the third pillar of a marketing audit. A brand should evaluate its marketing strategy and productivity to see which campaigns, processes and tactics are working.
- Marketing strategy audit – Brands should look at the business from a macro perspective. Are they selling to the right audience? Is the product at the right price point? Do their promotions deliver a favourable return on investment? Does the competition offer something comparable yet cheaper? Is the brand tired compared to new market entrants?
- Marketing productivity audit – Reviews the effectiveness of every channel and campaign by evaluating the cost of each piece of marketing collateral. This allows the brand to get a sense of how (financial and staff) resources can be adjusted in order to maximise productivity and return on investment.
Digital marketing audit
Now that we have covered the overarching marketing audit, we’ll run through a more digital-centric approach to performing a marketing audit. A digital marketing audit focuses on the brand’s digital competencies and the effectiveness of its digital presence. A digital audit can help ensure that, even from the start, a brand makes the right decisions in its digital investments and strategy. In a digital marketing audit, there are four main areas which should be analysed.
1. Online benchmarking and competitor set analysis
By bench-marking its performance against the performance of its competitors, a brand can identify areas of under-performance and identify the weaknesses in their competitor’s strategy. A brand should benchmark all of its digital KPIs against the competitor set. From the benchmark results, brands can identify opportunities to strengthen their existing approach; ensuring their long term success.
2. Digital Channel audit
Auditing each individual digital channel can help brands to identify their ‘lowest hanging fruit’ (and those channels which are taking a disproportionate share of the overall budget as per their performance). Digital channel audits should ideally go deep into platform specifics and analyse best practice against the current approach. Is the brand using the right hashtags and sharing stories on Instagram? Is it tagging blog posts to get featured on Google’s search results as a search snippet?
3. Audit Digital Content
Auditing the brand’s digital content is about more than just quality of video or copy. Performing a deep dive across content topics, channel formats and distribution strategy can enable a brand to optimise their current approach and drive significant improvements in content performance. Does the content provide value to the target customer? Is it configured in the right format for a Facebook page? How is content distributed? Does the content align with the brand’s values and aesthetic? Is the content mix diverse (video, photo, social posts, infographics, emails)?
4. Tooling audit
A tooling audit is the evaluation of a brand’s current marketing technology stack combined with the approach that the team are currently taking with the tech. Based on the brand’s market, target customers and marketing strategy, the current tools (and the approach of use) are evaluated. From here, a road-map is built to optimise the current marketing tech stack and streamline how tools are used to increase marketing performance.
What are the building blocks of a best practice digital marketing audit?
A robust digital marketing audit should include a variety of analysis methodologies and approaches. A few of these are outlined below:
- Quantitative analysis – This is the core of any digital marketing audit. Through the performance metrics which are available from marketing analytics, a brand should be able to identify what is working and what is not. Some examples of marketing analytics that brands should analyse include Google Analytics data, PPC ads reports, social media metrics and CRM data reports.
- Qualitative analysis – Performing a qualitative analysis involves evaluating the quality of a brand’s current digital marketing initiatives. This might include evaluating a site’s layout, imagery, calls to action, video content, user experience, brand messaging, email design and more. By evaluating and scoring these against best practice (and competitors), a brand can get a solid sense of how they can optimise and improve their digital marketing performance.
- Website crawl – A website crawl helps identify any part of the website that is not working. Some of the things to look out for are missing title tags, poor site load time, broken links, duplicate content, technical errors, missing H1 and page title tags amongst other things.
- Competitive analysis – By developing competitor intelligence about the strengths and weaknesses of a competitor’s digital strategy, a brand can develop a highly competitive marketing strategy that wins in the market.
- Channel specific tactics – The current tactics should be evaluated against the latest features and functionality available on each platform to make sure that the brand is maximising the potential of each of its channels. A set of recommended tactics should ideally accompany a digital marketing audit to ensure that the brand is using the most up-to-date tactics.
- Recommendations and strategy – A full and comprehensive set of recommendations should accompany a digital marketing audit. These should outline a strategy and a roadmap which turns those recommendations into a project which empowers the marketing team to optimise its current approach.
- Roadmap for the next 24 months – A high-level, strategic timeline should be prepared to help brands plan where they want to be in the next two years. The timeline should identify when and where brands should make crucial investments such as paid media or website redesign.
- Key Performance Indicators (KPI) – An audit must include a review of the brand’s KPI, as well as a roadmap for the brand to achieve its KPIs.
Tools for a digital marketing audit
There are literally hundreds of tools and frameworks for performing digital audits for clients. Some of the tools that we use are:
- SEMrush – SEMrush is a versatile and powerful tool that can help surface insights about search. It allows brands to evaluate their performance, their competitor’s performance and, identify the right keywords that will drive their target customers to their website.
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics provides a myriad of metrics that can help brands understand their digital marketing programme’s performance. Some of the information it can yield includes bounce rate, user flow, device category, demographics, referral traffic, content drill-down and most popular topic of the week.
- Social Media Networks – Social networking platforms like Facebook Page Insights can help a brand understand who is engaging with a company’s page.
Overall, a marketing audit has the power to transform the performance of a marketing team and the profitability of the business by introducing new tactics, optimising current approaches and building highly competitive strategies which help a brand grow market share.