Audits are boring. The benefits they can create for your team—not so much
Marketing audit. Gross.
Even just the mere word “audit” is yawn-inducing.
Most people tend to associate audits in general with a lot of complicated, boring paperwork, and possibly a really stiff white collar and a tie that gently chokes you throughout the workday.
Financial audits are pretty commonplace, but a marketing audit? Not really necessary, right?
Wrong. It’s crucial.
Because even if things are “fine, I guess” when it comes to your marketing—you’re making money, attracting new customers—a marketing audit, even a simple one, can point you towards new opportunities for growth and improvement that you had no idea even existed.
And if things are not so great and your machine is running a little slow for your liking, it will help you pinpoint the strategies that are not working, and help you make decisions about whether they’re even worth the effort.
A marketing audit can be complicated and fatally boring, but it doesn’t have to be.
This post is going to run you through the components and actions of a simple, easy going audit that won’t eat up months of your time, but will give you insights as to how you’re really doing.
What is a marketing audit?A marketing audit is the act of summarizing, reviewing, and analyzing a company’s marketing goals, strategies, and results. Click To Tweet
Essentially, you will compile a summary of all the marketing activities your company does and see whether these activities are actually producing the results you expected them to.
(We’ll talk about what a “real” result is and what it isn’t later on).
To make it actually useful, a marketing audit needs certain characteristics:
Recurring: doing a marketing audit just once will give you one push, but that push won’t last forever—you’ll have to refuel at some point.
Marketing is never stagnant. People change, your product changes, your channel mix changes.
Doing an audit regularly (we recommend at least twice a year) will make sure that you’re not letting your guard down and are constantly chasing and fixing the cracks in your marketing strategy.
Unbiased and honest: an audit of any kind isn’t the place to conveniently sweep things under the rug or beat around the bush.
You’re putting in the effort to do this, in expectation of it actually helping your company’s bottom line. But—it’ll only, only work if you’re completely honest about everything.
Also, unbiased means that the things you decide to dissect shouldn’t be based on the opinion of the person conducting the audit since they might think certain areas of your marketing machine are more important than others.
For example, as an SEO expert, you might think display advertising is useless. This isn’t the time to practice your biases.
Actionable: everything you look at in a marketing audit needs to be followed by “Does anything need to be done about this, and if yes, what?”
The whole point of an audit is to improve. If you don’t include a clear action plan along with your audit, you’ve just wasted your time.
Now—what do you get out of all of this?
Why should you do a marketing audit?
We briefly went over this earlier, but let’s go into more detail on the main reasons to do a simple marketing audit in your company ASAP.
Identify what is working and what is not
This is a simple case of ROI (return on investment). Are your efforts actually paying off?
For example, if you’ve hired a content person (aka you’re giving them your money) who are producing a lot, but the traffic that content generates doesn’t convert into actual users and make you any money back, is it worth it?
That doesn’t mean you have to stop doing it or fire the person responsible, but you will know that you need to do something about it.
Identify new opportunities
It’s easy to come up with an initial marketing plan or strategy and get a little too attached to it.
Ideas are like babies—people tend to be very protective of their ideas and the resulting everyday, routine tasks, which means that we often miss out on new ideas and new opportunities because all we see every day is our firstborn.
It’s a comfort zone thing.
It’s a good idea to get out of it.
Seeing what is and isn’t working means that you’ll be more open to finding opportunities and trying new things that might work better.
(Re)evaluating your marketing goals
If it turns out that you’re not hitting the goals you thought you were, it’s time to think about why, or even if you have to adjust your goals to be something more reasonable.
If it turns out that you are hitting your goals, can you set them higher?
Becoming more cost-effective
This comes back to the simple ROI.
A marketing audit will help you identify the scratchy points in your strategy that aren’t working very well, but that you’re still spending time and money on.
If you know they’re not working, you can either ditch the strategy or come up with a plan to make it work.
Either way, you’ll stop wasting time and money. Who doesn’t like that?
There are multiple other reasons, such as:
- getting a more holistic, high-level view of your entire strategy rather than focusing on individual bits of it;
- understanding your target group better;
- gaining more transparency…
…and so on—a lot of these reasons also depend on your specific company and case.
Long story short: it’s worth it. Do it.
The components of a simple marketing audit
These are the steps of a basic marketing audit:
- Identifying your marketing channels/strategies/activities
- Identifying your goals and objectives
- Gathering data
- Identifying issues and gaps
- Creating an action plan
- Rinse and repeat
Let’s walk through all of these steps in more detail.
Identifying your marketing activities
Go ahead and open a Google Sheets document (or whichever spreadsheet software you have).
We’ve made a very simple template spreadsheet for this whole process that you can use, so if you’d like to use that, click here to download your own version of it (Click File > Make a copy…).
This where you create a list of every. single. one. of your marketing activities—everything you do that can be in any way called marketing.
This includes (but isn’t limited to—depending on your company):
- Content: blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, podcasts, videos, guest posts—everything that you create to deliver your messaging, information or anything else
- Social media: social media posts, campaigns, community posting, etc
- Paid marketing: ads, PPC, all of that jazz
- Email marketing: whether to already existing customers or simply newsletter recipients
- Influencer marketing: all of your efforts to build a network to get the word out
Think about this for a good while, and make sure to write it all down. Like this:
Then, have a snack and a break, and think about it again. It’s easy to miss out on little things like “we post on Twitter twice a week” or whatnot—make sure you get everything if you want to make real improvement.
Identifying your goals and objectives
For some of your marketing activities, you probably have very specific goals set.
For example, you might have a goal of getting a certain amount of traffic to your blog every month. Or a number of social shares. Or a number of backlinks.
For some, you might not. Many marketers make the mistake of conducting filler tasks that they haven’t really set a specific goal for.
Social media posting tends to be one of the most common examples of this.
People spend hours every week setting up a social media posting schedule, and that’s where their social media efforts end. What’s supposed to be the real result with this? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If you have marketing activities that don’t have a specific goal, try to approximate one, just to have something to compare to actual results. If you can’t even approximate one, it’s probably not something you should keep doing.
Now, here’s possibly the most important thing:
Not all goals are created equal.
In the marketing world, many people place too much importance on vanity metrics—things that are very hard to tie to your company’s actual bottom line.
Here are examples of some of the worst vanity metrics:
- Traffic volume
- Facebook shares or likes
- Email open rate
We’re not saying these metrics are completely useless. They can be incredibly valuable when combined with other data.
However—they should not be your sole measures of any kind of success.
What’s your job as a marketer?
It’s to do your research so well that once you get your polished message out to the world, it’ll bring people back to you without having to drag them.
Not just bring them back, either, but bring them back with cash in their pocket they’re willing to hand over because they want what you offer really bad— because it’s valuable to them.
And then they’re happy and give you their money and your business grows and you hire even more and better marketers and they get more people to be happy and give you their money and…
So, all of your marketing goals should ideally be tied to your bottom line.
Let’s look at those vanity metrics we discussed before:
- Traffic volume: traffic is nice, but if out of a million people that visit your site (that you spent a lot of time on acquiring), only one converts to a paying customer, is it worth it?
- Social media shares or likes: brand value and shareability are awesome, but if these people who share your Tweet never even end up on your site, is it worth it?
- Email open rate: this can give you some idea about how catchy your subject lines are, but someone opening an email isn’t really much of an indicator otherwise, is it?
Examples of good goals tied to these examples would be:
- Conversions from traffic: either to actual product usage or your newsletter/any other way you’re keeping traffic stuck to you (this depends on how your desired marketing funnel is set up)
- Traffic from social shares: (and from there, how that traffic converts to product signups)
- Email click-through rate: how many people are actually clicking on the CTA and the links in your email
We’re not your mom, so you can technically do whatever you’d like with your goals.
However, just a word of warning—think about whether your marketing goals or objectives are the ones you should really be worried about.
Either way—put all of your (approximate) goals down in the same document you used when identifying your marketing activities, like this:
This will come handy when you collect real data about your performance and want to compare it to your goals.
Gathering data for your audit
Now that you’ve got your goals and objectives written down, it’s time to actually look at what’s up—through cold, hard data.
This, mind you, assumes that you have some kind of marketing analytics solution in place, whether it’s Google Analytics, Heap Analytics, or a more complete solution like Hubspot.
If you don’t have one… well, you’re a bit screwed for now and it’s time to get on it—without any sort of analytics in place, it’s basically impossible to evaluate anything. How about you go set that up and then we can chat again?
If you do have an analytics solution in place—take all the goals and objectives that you had, whether they’re from earlier or something that you came up with on the fly, and look at what the actual numbers are.
Write them down.
When it comes to which time periods to look at, it depends on how deep you want to go. Our recommended maximum time period is a month.
If you want to dig a little deeper, you can go for weekly, too—just make sure that your goal time period matches your data time period (so, for example, conversion rate goal in a month vs actual conversion in a month).
Going for much more time than a month means that you’re looking at the big picture and it’ll be hard to pinpoint any dips or heights in activities to a specific event/campaign/season/whatnot.
Make sure you take your time with this and don’t mess up with simple data mistakes such as not using the same time period for all metrics, or not filtering out stuff like logins from your website traffic.
Now it’s time to take the data you have gathered and compare it to your goals.
You have your goals and actual results written down in your spreadsheet. This is where a super cool formula comes in. You’ll like it.
Basically, you take your actual results, divide it with your goal, and then subtract 1. Like so:
…and then convert the result into a percentage.
Basically, this formula tells you how much better or worse your actual results are from what you expected.
Highlight your results for an easier overview—we do red for bad and green for good like the basic traffic light enthusiasts we are, but you can do whatever you like:
…and now it’s time to get serious.
Identifying issues and gaps
Now that you have your expected results vs actual results, it’s time to be critical.
Look at the things that aren’t performing. Start with the worst ones, and then move on to room for improvement items.
Write these problem children down on a separate page, and start thinking about why they’re not doing well.
You don’t have to back this up with any data just yet—it’s a simple hypothesis setting exercise.
For example, if your conversion rate from content is lower than you’d like, then:
- Is it because you’ve set your expectations too high? What’s the average content conversion rate for your industry?
- Is it because your content isn’t compelling enough to make people want to learn more about who you are?
- Is it because there’s no clear CTA’s or opt-ins in your content to tie your visitors in?
- Is it because of bad UX in your content?
- Is it because you don’t put much effort into SEO?
- Is it because your content person spends most of the day taking naps instead of working?
Remember—these don’t have to be solid, concrete ideas yet. Just think of all the possible options, and write them down. It’s simple brainstorming.
Also, look at the things that are performing, and think about how you can do better. Could you make your goals a bit higher for things that are hitting the ones you have now? Do you want to? Do you need to?
Create an action plan
Now that you have identified your problem points, you can start thinking about how to solve them.
For most things, this might require another deep dive into finding out why something is wrong.
For the content example above, you’ll most likely have to go and look at where people drop off in your content.
- What’s the bounce rate?
- How far in your articles do people even get?
- Where do they click, what do they do, who are they?
- Is the content even relevant?
So, again, you’ll have to go into all of these items and take the first step in your action plan—figuring out a way to find out why something sucks.
And then, once you’ve got a pretty educated guess about what’s going on, you’ll have clear next steps on how to improve.
This audit should help you set the priorities for each quarter of your marketing team’s existence (or each month, depending on how often you look at results in your company).
Rinse and repeat
Remember—every action you take to improve your efforts should be measured.
Once you’ve got your action plan in place for improving the things that are lacking in your marketing strategy, you need to set a time to come back to it.
Marketing is quite a bit of hypothesis and guesswork.
You can think that you’ve got the solution to an issue, but if you don’t come back and check whether it actually worked and things improved, your whole audit shebang has been a fail and a waste of time.
After putting together an action plan, set yourself a concrete next date for all of the items (yes, you’ll need to go on a second date with your spreadsheet) when you will come back and check whether the results have changed.
The time frame for these next dates depends on the severity of the issue, or, in case you’ve adjusted your goals to be higher, the time that you approximate will take you to get there.
For example, if you’ve realized that you get tons of traffic but none of it converts to email list/trial/whatever you want to happen with your traffic, you’ll probably have to come back with a plan that involves some time-consuming activities.
And, when you’re done making the changes you hypothesize will help you, you need to also allow some time for the results to kick in.
Don’t Be Scared Of Audits
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, the mere idea of an audit of any kind evokes mostly two types of emotions: boredom and fear.
A marketing audit shouldn’t do that. It does take a good amount of work, digging for data and some hard deliberation, but it’s there to help you do better.
If you’ve never done a marketing audit before then it makes sense that there will be areas of your business that you didn’t even know you should fix—and that’s fine—don’t beat yourself up about it.
As long as you’re honest, thorough and constant with your audit(s), it’ll be your next secret weapon in really targeting your marketing efforts and starting to make a difference to the bottom line.
So, be easy on yourself and don’t set unrealistic timelines—as long as you know where to go, you’ll get there.
Again—if you’d like to use the specific spreadsheet template we used as an example in this post, feel free to grab it right over here!