I was fortunate to work with a great marketing company. The marketing and merchandising units kind of drove the ship as they say in the industry for the rest of the company. Now, that is just a saying because every part of the business was necessary for the model to work.
But we’ll focus on marketing and merchandising for this article specifically because one of the great things done at the company was frequent audits.
Marketing Audits: The Basics
Most businesses go through audits whether they realize it or not. I think going through the weekly and monthly numbers whether with yourself or with your team is a type of audit. You’re looking at sales, profit and trends. It gives you a good idea of the current and projected health of the company.
I think it’s good to go through this periodic checklist of things to see what’s working and how you could maybe change things to get better.
Two quick points.
First, I don’t think it’s good to do constant audits. If you’re always looking for problems I think you risk falling into the trap of making changes too quickly and if you’re always flailing about for something that works you lose sight of the long-term strategy.
Second, you have to find a balance of long-term vision and short-term adjustments. When I worked for the last company I worked for they did a really good job of this. They spoke of the vision for the long-term with employees, but we always went in and looked at things in the short-term we could do to experiment and try things.
We’re always shooting for perfection and making changes. That’s a good progress. It’s Masters Week and I’m always reminded of the best golfers, Tiger Woods included, and how they go about chasing perfection. They have staple routines they go through that have worked well in the past, but they know that to get better than they are today they have to change things. Tiger has changed his swings, in major ways, about four times over his career. Each change was done to make him better. Yet there are still basic things Tiger does to continue to be the best. His putting drill where he puts two tees on each side of the putter is one he’s done for much of his life.
Some things change while others stay the same.
The Marketing Audit Checklist
Back to this year and what you can do for your marketing audit. You can always look at numbers, but there are other areas you can examine that affect how you market to your customers.
1. Target Audience
At the top of the list for business are two things. The first is what you’re selling. Ultimately, people purchase products or services. I think you can influence that with your brand, which makes your brand part of the product. You might not have the best actual product, but by adding in great people and a great reputation your overall product becomes superior. The second part of your target audience.
From time to time you want to check in on your audience. See how things have changed since the last time you examined them. See how their habits have changed and how you’ve changed and how you align with them. It can change from time to time. As time goes by we all stay the same in certain ways, but we change in other ways.
Analyze your target audience and adjust accordingly. Maybe you have an older customer that has been slowly accepting email into their lives. Now you can start ramping up your email program to find a new and cheaper way to connect with them.
Maybe your audience is searching for more information online. To capture this new area of their lives you could implement a business blog to provide the information they’re searching for thus giving them more access to your brand.
2. How Are You Reaching Your Target Audience?
The next thing to do is to assess how you’re reaching your audience with your marketing messages. You want to look at the actual message and sales process, but how you’re reaching your audience can change from time to time.
You’re going to have models that work for long periods. For the company I used to work for it was catalogs. That part of the business worked well for a really long time and continues to work well. But within the catalog area there were changes. We would make tweaks with the catalog and how we were reaching the audience.
Maybe there are big changes from outside or inside influences on your channels. It’s good to have a message that is solid no matter what channel you’re using. You want a consistent message that can work across catalogs, video, blogging, face-to-face, etc.
3. Cost to Reach Audience
One area that seems to change is the cost to reach your audience. In the catalog industry we dealt with this all the time. Postage costs were always going up. There were always threats to the way the USPS would deliver catalogs. It’s a worry and it happens to all channels at some point.
Again, focus on how costs are changing. Look at trends and how things will change in the future. Then make adjustments to how you reach your customers.
Low cost customer acquisition seems to be the way to grow a business so adding something like business blogging might be a way to improve your long-term cost to reach your audience.
4. Emerging Audiences
Again, time is a variable that affects us all. Current customers get older. Future customers get older. As a result, our marketing changes and it’s good to pay attention to emerging audiences. It doesn’t mean you stop doing what your doing. You can work with a target audience from the time they’re in their teens all the way up into their later years. That’s a whole lifetime of profits, but it’s good to focus on emerging audiences and how they are getting marketing messages from brands.
5. Team Requirements
Finally, as you look at how things are changing it’s good to assess your future needs in human resources. The people on your team are your biggest assets or resources. If things are changing with the way you do business and the way you market as a result of your marketing audit then it’s good to look at the people you need to have on your team.
This is a basic checklist of how you can go through and assess the state of your marketing. You can get very in depth with these things and you can look at it as often as you would like, but the key is to focus on how things are staying the same and how they’re changing.
Focus on what you’re offering and how you reach your audience. Those are the two barometers for your effectiveness.