In last week’s blog, we explored the topic of marketing audits – what are they and why are the important for marketing teams of all sizes. We also did our best to make a case for why the time has never been better to tackle a year-end audit (hint: it’s because the best time to conduct an audit is before you finalize your marketing planning and budgeting for next year!). Hopefully that article piqued your interest and inspired you to tune back in this week to gain some insights into how to get started with the process.
The Risks and Costs of Skipping an Audit
If you’re still on the fence about conducting an audit because of the perceived hassle involved, let’s pause for a moment and consider the negative consequences that could befall your marketing team if you opt to forego this proactive assessment:
1. Inefficient Resource Allocation: Without a marketing audit, you risk inefficiently allocating your resources – both money and staff time. This means that you may continue investing time and money in marketing channels and strategies that are not delivering results, or assigning work to team members whose time and talents could be more efficiently used on other projects. Such inefficiencies can lead to wasted budget and missed opportunities.
2. Ineffective Content Strategies: Your content is a powerful tool for engaging and informing your audience. Without an audit, you risk running content campaigns that are not resonating with your members and other stakeholders. Ineffective content strategies can lead to low engagement, reduced brand authority, increased opt-outs, and immeasurable missed opportunities to educate and connect with your audience.
3. Inconsistent Brand Messaging: A lack of regular audits can result in inconsistent brand messaging. Inconsistencies can confuse your audience and weaken your brand identity. This may lead to a loss of trust and credibility among your members and potential members.
4. Stagnant or Declining Member Renewals and Engagement: Member engagement is critical for associations and professional societies whose value is measured through the breadth of its membership base. Without an audit, you risk stagnant or declining engagement levels due to unaddressed issues in your messaging, the quality of your content, and the communication channels through which you’re connecting with your audience. This can lead to member attrition and decreased revenue.
5. Member Churn: Perhaps one of the most significant risks is member churn. Without insights from a marketing audit, you might not identify the factors leading to member attrition. This can result in a continuous loss of valuable members, negatively impacting your organization’s sustainability.
6. Missed Growth Opportunities: Failing to conduct a marketing audit can result in overlooking growth opportunities. You may miss out on emerging trends, new channels, or untapped audience segments that could significantly expand your organization’s reach and impact.
7. Competitive Disadvantage: In a competitive market, standing still means falling behind. Without an audit, you risk losing ground to competitors who are continuously optimizing their marketing efforts. You may find it challenging to keep up or outperform others in your industry.
8. Inaccurate Data-Driven Decision Making: Whether you’re selling widgets or extolling the value of paying to join a professional organization, data is the backbone of modern marketing. Failing to audit the process you’re using to collect and analyze the efficacy of your marketing initiatives, as well as your customers’ data, can result in inaccurate – or absent – insights. Relying on flawed data can lead to poor decision-making and misguided strategies.
9. Compliance and Legal Risks: Marketing regulations and data privacy laws are continually evolving. Without periodic audits, you risk unknowingly violating these regulations, which can result in legal penalties, reputational damage, and loss of member trust. If your organization represents members in a credentialed or regulated profession, compliance risks carry even more weight.
10. Budget Overruns: A lack of auditing can result in budget overruns. You may not have a clear understanding of the return on investment (ROI) for each marketing initiative, making it challenging to control spending and allocate resources efficiently.
The bottom line is this: Neglecting a marketing audit can expose your organization to a myriad of risks, from wasted resources and missed growth opportunities to decreased member engagement and legal compliance issues. It’s a strategic imperative to regularly assess and optimize your marketing efforts to ensure long-term success and sustained growth.
If you’re nodding your head, “Okay, okay! You’ve convinced me I need to do an audit,” you’re in good company. New data published earlier this year on SEO software giant Semrush’s blog found that nearly 60 percent of the marketing teams they surveyed conduct an audit at least once – and sometimes twice – each year. Among those organizations that reported engaging in the marketing content audit process, over half saw an increase in the engagement rate (53 percent) with their digital content, while nearly as many (49 percent) said they saw a boost in SEO rankings and website traffic after implementing tweaks to their tactics based on the findings in their audit.
That’s all good news, but where do you even start the process of a marketing audit?
How to Conduct a Marketing Audit
While the word audit can strike fear into the hearts of the numbers-averse creative community, the process isn’t as daunting as it sounds if you follow a methodical, step-by-step approach. There are many ways to go about the process, but these 10 steps have worked with our clients:
Step 1: Define Your Audit Goals and Objectives
The journey begins with setting clear objectives for your marketing audit. What do you hope to achieve through this process? Are you looking to optimize your marketing ROI, enhance brand visibility, or improve member engagement? By defining your audit’s goals, you create a roadmap that directs your efforts towards the most critical aspects of your marketing strategy.
Example: Let’s say your organization has been struggling to increase member retention rates. Your audit goal might be to uncover the factors contributing to member attrition and develop strategies to boost retention.
Step 2: Assess Your Marketing Team’s SOPs
To build a strong foundation for your audit, delve into the existing processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs) being utilized by your marketing team. This includes evaluating budgeting practices, project management workflows, software tools in use, automation capabilities, staffing expertise, and budget allocation. Understanding the individual strengths of your team members and understanding how your staff operates collectively provides valuable insights into potential areas for improvement.
Example: You discover that your current project management software lacks automation capabilities, resulting in manual, time-consuming repetitive tasks. This assessment highlights the need for investing in a more efficient tool to streamline processes.
Step 3: Perform a SWOT Analysis
Once you have insight into how well your team’s SOPs are performing (or not), conducting a thorough SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis will identify internal and external factors impacting your marketing efforts. For a small nonprofit, this might involve recognizing that limited staff resources (a weakness) can be mitigated by forming strategic partnerships (an opportunity) to reach a wider audience.
Example: Your assessment identifies that a weakness could be limited resources, but an opportunity might be collaborating with other allied nonprofits to share resources and reach a larger audience.
Step 4: Competitive Analysis
To stay ahead of the competition, you must understand what your rivals are doing. Conduct a competitive analysis to gain insights into their strategies, strengths, and weaknesses. By studying your competitors’ moves, you can position your organization to make strategic decisions that capitalize on market opportunities.
Example: Your audit reveals that a competing membership organization has successfully leveraged influencer marketing to engage an audience of prospective members you want to attrat to your own organization. You decide to explore similar influencer partnerships to tap into this trend and gain a competitive edge.
Step 5: Analyze Your Target Audience and Map Your Customers’ Journey
One of the fundamental pillars of effective marketing is understanding your target audience. Your audit should include a thorough analysis of your current member base – plus your target prospects and any adjacent stakeholders you regularly communicate with – segmenting them based on demographics, behaviors, and preferences. This step is vital in tailoring your marketing strategies to resonate with different audience segments, ultimately driving better engagement and conversion rates. Once you’ve clearly identified your audiences, it’s time to map out your members’ journey, identifying touchpoints and opportunities for improvement. For a trade association, this might entail analyzing members’ demographics, and how your current members connect with your brand. For instance, you may discover that a younger segment of your member base engages more with video content specifically related to networking opportunities to advance in their career. This insight alerts you to incorporate more video marketing into your strategy for this specific group. By identifying how your current members have connected with your brand, you can define new areas where you can enhance the member experience.
Example: Customer journey mapping helps associations understand member interactions, leading to improved engagement and retention. For instance, through your audit, you notice a spike in new member commitments immediately prior to your annual conference and Expo – because members receive a substantial registration discount. This information can inform your messaging and the discounts you offer for future events.
Step 6: Evaluate Your Content Strategy
Content is king in today’s marketing landscape. Evaluate your content strategy, focusing on the quality, relevance, and engagement levels of your content. Are your blog posts resonating with your audience? Is your e-mail newsletter driving member interaction? Assessing your content’s performance helps you fine-tune your messaging for maximum impact.
Example: Your audit reveals that long-form blog posts are driving more organic traffic compared to shorter articles. This prompts you to allocate more resources to creating in-depth, informative content.
Step 7: Analyze Your Digital Footprint
In an increasingly digital world, your organization’s online presence plays a pivotal role in reaching your audience. Scrutinize your website, social media profiles, and email campaigns. Are they aligned with your brand’s value proposition? Is the content consistent across all channels? Do you have opportunities to re-purpose existing content to reach a wider audience? A deep dive into your digital footprint helps you identify areas that require enhancement.
Example: You notice that your website’s home page has a slow page loading speed and lacks a responsive design, leading to a high bounce rate among mobile users. As a result, you know you need to prioritize redesigning the website for improved mobile accessibility. In this step, you also discover that your ‘about us’ bio page on LinkedIn contains outdated branding language that was sunset from your website several years ago. This confuses your readers and dilutes your brand.
Step 8: Assess Your MarTech Stack
Evaluate the marketing tools and technologies you use, ensuring they align with your objectives. Evaluate the marketing tools and technologies you use. For small nonprofits, this might involve assessing your donor management software to ensure it efficiently tracks donor contributions and engagement. Or, for membership associations, this could involve analyzing how effectively your Association Management System integrates with your marketing automation platform.
Example: Assess if your members’ e-mail addresses are being updated in one platform but not the other. This will result in missed connections and is an easy gap to fill. The right technology integrations can save time, enhance effectiveness, and deliver more accurate data about your marketing performance.
Step 9: Review Your Budget Allocation
Effective budget allocation is crucial for maximizing marketing ROI. Analyze your marketing budget, assessing the return on investment for various activities. Are you overspending on low-performing channels? Are there untapped opportunities that deserve a larger share of the budget? A financial review ensures your resources are allocated intelligently.
Example: Your audit shows that a significant portion of your budget goes into print advertising, which yields minimal results, particularly with your younger target audiences. You decide to reallocate those funds to digital advertising, where the ROI is significantly higher.
Step 10: Putting it All Together – Recommendations and Action Plan
Based on your findings from all of the above steps, develop a clear set of recommendations and an actionable plan to enhance your marketing strategy, tactics, and tools. The level of detail and extent of the recommendations will vary depending on the findings of your audit. For example, a marketing team that conducts a biannual audit will likely find fewer areas for improvement than will a team that conducts its first-ever comprehensive marketing audit.
The Value of Unbiased, Outside Consultants
From start to finish, conducting a thorough marketing audit can be a time-consuming and challenging process, which can put constraints on resource-limited teams. Likewise, these in-house teams may be reluctant to shed light on a litany of ‘weaknesses’ in their planning and processes. For these reasons, it is good practice to bring in outside help. Engaging the services of a consultant to conduct a comprehensive marketing audit ensures an objective evaluation of your marketing strategies, devoid of internal biases, and provides valuable expertise, efficiency, and customized recommendations that contribute to improved marketing strategies and overall organizational success. Perhaps even more importantly, though, is that it allows your organization to leverage the consultants’ specialized knowledge and resources, while freeing up your internal team to focus on the execution of action items identified during the audit process.
Whether you opt to take a DIY approach or to engage with experts from outside your organization, a year-end marketing audit is your key to success in the coming year. By conducting a thorough assessment of your marketing efforts to date, you’ll be well-prepared to develop a strategic marketing plan that drives growth, engagement, and member satisfaction in the year ahead.
Are you ready to unlock the potential of a well-executed marketing audit to transform your marketing strategies for sustained growth? We can help. Contact Vuma’s marketing strategy team today.
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