Working in marketing is not all fun, games, and business expos.
Sometimes, even the most functional organizations need to examine marketing and sales data, figure out what is and is not working, and modify to meet new market challenges.
The easiest way to do that is through a marketing audit.
Here is what a marketing audit is, what it covers, how it works and why one is vital for every marketing department to complete.
What Is a Marketing Audit?
In the simplest terms, a marketing audit is the method-driven collection of pertinent data and analysis of the collected data to identify strengths and weaknesses.
Its purpose is not to tear anyone or any program down but rather to identify:
- Areas that are working
- Areas that could improve or need to be modified
- New opportunities for traditional and digital marketing success
Occasionally, that analysis leads to the discontinuation of specific marketing efforts, particularly if management does not feel modifications will fix what is wrong.
However, without the marketing audit, a business would not know that a problem existed and what marketing strategy or marketing activity would fix it.
At the end of the analysis phase of an audit, auditors draft a report with findings, recommendations, and an action plan to achieve all desired changes.
That action plan is implemented, with benchmark evaluation points on which progress is tracked.
What Does a Marketing Audit Include?
A marketing audit can include just about anything connected to marketing within an organization.
Most marketing audits cover all marketing activity, but some focus more narrowly, especially if the purpose of the audit is to fine-tune marketing strategy, tactics, or program elements, fix initiatives that are not working, or further leverage successful programs.
What the marketing audit covers is not as important as the audit being clearly defined, particularly any criteria that assess performance or marketing activity.
Marketing Audits are Not Just For Crisis
Too often, marketing audits only get done when a business is in a downward cycle.
In most cases, barring extreme measures, conducting an SEO audit, or a traditional or digital marketing audit at a moment of crisis impedes implementing any improvements based on audit findings.
An annual marketing audit should be a regular part of the marketing schedule.
The Basics of a Marketing Audit
The basics of a marketing audit are as follows:
- Establishing evaluation benchmarks
- Gathering data relating to budgets, marketing programs, and performance
- Analyzing the results and identifying shortcomings, strengths, and ways to improve
- Developing a new plan with findings and recommendations
Who Is Responsible for Conducting a Marketing Audit?
There are two methods a business will utilize to conduct a digital marketing audit or marketing audit:
- Internally managed
- Externally managed
The type of marketing channels to select depends on the reason for the audit.
Building upon existing success usually will prompt organizational leaders to use an internal or hybrid model.
For content marketing plans or program problems and sales-related issues, subpar marketing performance, or other programmatic challenges, a business will opt for an external audit or an external audit with internal facilitators.
Reasons to Conduct a Marketing Audit
There are several situational and standard reasons for a marketing audit.
The general framework for all audits, however, is the same.
To See What Is Working
An organization cannot capitalize on market conditions if it has no idea what content marketing efforts and programs work.
When a company does not know what works, time and money get wasted unless the business gets extremely lucky.
An audit helps establish clear evaluation standards to review all marketing programs and initiatives and gauge the effectiveness of each.
To See What Isn’t Working
As important as knowing what works is, it is equally important to understand what is not working.
Discovering a failing marketing program, however, does not automatically mean discontinuation.
Programs can be modified, reevaluated using different criteria, or tailored more to attain specific marketing goals.
To Realign Marketing Activities With Goals
A marketing plan can help establish whether marketing programs and efforts further the business mission.
Often, company goals get forgotten, especially if the marketing department is large, unwieldy, or particularly fast-moving.
To Better Understand the Competitive Landscape
Knowing what works and what doesn’t can provide insight into your competitors, customers, and the overall condition of the market you function in.
The Different Types of Marketing Audits
There are four types of marketing audits:
A strategic audit and marketing plan helps get a better idea of the state of the marketing department and the performance of its various components.
Strategic audits also provide input into new programs.
The results help formulate strategies and tactics that get the best response from particular audiences.
The staff of the business conducting the audit performs internal audits.
Often, the auditors work in marketing, although sometimes internal audits are performed by other management figures.
The benefits of an internal audit are:
- Knowledge of internal processes, systems, and background
- Timing is generally quicker than external audits
- Political knowledge about the organization and its management
- Meeting marketing goals through your very own marketing operation
There are, though, several drawbacks to an internal audit strategy if the proper controls are not in place:
- Auditors can know too much sometimes to be objective
- Favoritism can be an issue
- Reluctance to make tough decisions
- Internal audits work best when:
- The audit is routine and scheduled
There are strict controls such as peer and external reviews
Parties that are not part of the company conduct the audit when it is external.
At most, a company will designate one or two contacts to help facilitate the work of the third-party auditors.
Usually, unless it is a requirement of the corporate structure of the business in question, external audits are implemented when marketing performance is poor or the audited company is looking to make budget cuts.
The benefits of an external audit are:
- The auditors practice objectivity.
- Recommendations are usually slightly more honest.
- Marketing and sales program performance drive recommendations.
- An external review can uncover things that internal personnel miss.
There are several drawbacks to external audits as well.
- Objectivity can affect internal morale.
- Internal politics can become an issue.
- Resistance is difficult to overcome, leading to incomplete data.
External audits work best when:
- Parameters and benchmarks are defined before the audit begins.
- Management makes support clear.
- Recommendations are flexible but based on irrefutable data.
Hybrid Marketing Audit
A hybrid marketing audit is a combination of internal and external.
Internal personnel collects and analyze data.
External consultants add value to the process by objectively reviewing the results and making recommendations.
The benefits of a hybrid marketing audit report are:
- It avoids the downsides of strictly internal or external audits.
- Perspectives tend to be more comprehensive.
- The findings and recommendations factor internal concerns and external audit pragmatism into any recommendations.
The only real downsides of a hybrid audit are:
- Internal staff feels threatened.
- If the internal and external personnel do not get along.
- There is a learning curve on the part of the external personnel.
Hybrid audits work best when
- Everyone is on the same page and understands the purpose of the audit.
- Benchmarks are clearly defined.
- A unified front of internal and external personnel present findings and recommendations.
Components of a Successful Marketing Audit
The presence of several core competencies determines the success or failure of an audit.
The audit will likely have profound flaws if these competencies are not present.
The risk is that a business will waste time and money pursuing something based on audit findings that lack backing by actual data.
The full scope of a marketing audit can vary, but the most effective audits cover the entire marketing department and all its programs and activities.
The focus is not just on problem areas or success stories but also on the operation as a whole.
Auditing can highlight potential areas of strength, and previously hidden areas can be brought to the surface.
An audit not grounded in a systemic approach runs the risk of being ineffective at best and incoherent at worst.
The review and analysis must have a process-driven system that is methodic to avoid overlooking components or making decisions not based on the entire picture.
Scheduled and Recurring
The audit will be meaningless if it is not followed up with regular reviews of findings, modifications, and changes in outcomes.
Once the initial audit is performed, another should be scheduled when it makes sense based on the business cycle, but at least once a year.
More frequent audit checks are probably in order if you initiate an audit because of a crisis.
These need to be frequent, even if only one or two elements of a marketing department are covered.
Benefits of Doing a Marketing Audit
A successful audit adds to a company’s bottom line.
It helps identify ways to expand sales, customer base, or product offerings.
It also helps identify areas that need to be changed or even discontinued.
It recognizes cost centers that can help with budgeting and programs that customers expect or prefer.
Does My Business Need a Marketing Audit?
Every business that does any type of marketing should have a marketing audit at least once a year.
This audit should include nonprofits if the organization has any membership drive or programs.
How Do You Do a Marketing Audit?
For an audit to be successful, it must:
- Document all marketing efforts, programs, and initiatives
- Document tangible measurements of success, static results, and results that fall short
- Document what initiatives are working
- Document what initiatives are not working
- Makes recommendations for change
- Develop review benchmarks for monitoring and documenting change results
Another role a marketing audit plays is identifying areas of opportunity the Marketing Department could leverage for tremendous success.
These opportunities could be increasing or decreasing budgets, adding promotional efforts, targeting marketing materials, and more.
To correctly set up a marketing audit, the following must be in order:
- Set audit goals
- Identify target areas, even if the target is a comprehensive review
- Collect data including successful program data, unsuccessful efforts, and a business’ competition
- Review marketing goals with the programs and items included in the marketing department
- Analyze the data to determine what works and what needs work
- Pinpoint areas that should be capitalized on, modified, or scrapped
- Document all findings and make recommendations
- Execute the revised marketing plan
A marketing audit can show a business where it can succeed by showing what works.
It can also show a business where it needs to modify to ensure even greater success.
However, the number one key to a successful marketing audit is that management and marketing employees are all on board and working in unison no matter what type of audit is being conducted.
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