How and Why to Conduct a Marketing Audit for Your Brand

By Kathryn Hawkins. Content Marketing Content Strategy
How to Develop a B2B Marketing Content Strategy Plan
Compass on a road map   Credit:  Demian via Depositphotos  License: 

Conducting a comprehensive marketing audit can help you gain recognition as the champion of the business you are, and set you up for success in 2024.

As most marketers know, marketing is often misunderstood and underappreciated by the rest of the company. (One of the lucky exceptions where marketing is championed? Rejoice!)

The marketing team isn’t the group crafting code to build products — they’re crafting the campaigns that compel customers to use or buy those products. It’s a key part of the ecosystem for any enterprise, large or small, to help build the company’s reputation, attract new customers, and retain existing customers.

Marketing’s role is just as essential to the company as every other part of the organization — but sadly, marketing roles are often among the first in line for layoffs, with 27% of marketing departments impacted this year. With executives looking more closely at every budget line item to find ways to cut costs and automate processes, marketers are being asked to do more with less, and may be judged harshly if they fall short of target goals tied to sales.

So, whether you’re a one person marketing team or work on a specialized area within a larger group, how can you present the best case for your work, and ensure that you have the resources and marketing strategy you need to ensure success for your brand in 2024 and beyond?

Take the time to conduct a marketing audit. By analyzing the past year’s marketing efforts and results, you’ll be able to showcase your successes, explain what didn’t work and why, and come up with a business case to get the tools and resources you need to optimize your marketing performance in the year to come.

Here’s how to get started.

Analyze the past year’s marketing efforts and performance

Whether you’re analyzing a particular area of your team’s marketing strategy or your company’s marketing plan as a whole, it’s important to consider all of the different marketing activities that fall within your domain and evaluate the past year’s performance, tied to benchmarks and key metrics of success, to determine which aspects of your marketing strategy were most or least successful, and why.

Let’s say you head digital marketing at a software company that specializes in real-time translation, overseeing a team of 10 staff and several marketing agencies. As you conduct your marketing audit, consider questions such as:

Which digital marketing channels did we spend the most on, and how effective were they?

What was the return on ad spend (ROAS) and total return on investment (ROI) for each advertising channel?

The cost of online advertising across platforms like Facebook, Google, and YouTube has gone up exponentially in recent years, with jumps of 89 to 108 percent from 2020 to 2021, and rising. Rather than blindly throwing money into digital advertising platforms, it’s important to continually measure your performance and analyze whether you’re achieving your goals with your target ad spend.

Make sure that you’re analyzing your spend across each digital advertising channel, and carefully tracking your cost-per-impression (CPM), cost-per-click (CPC), and most successful keywords, audiences, and campaigns. Use the audit as an opportunity to shut off poor performing marketing campaigns, and even consider whether certain marketing channels are no longer a good fit for your brand. You can then free up this marketing budget to put towards other activities that may do a better job of meeting your goals in the coming year.

What is the industry benchmark for each metric we’re tracking? Did we beat it or fall short?

Evaluating your team’s success in comparison to industry benchmarks will help you put your successes and shortfalls into context, making it easier to showcase your success or make a case for more resources to help you shore up your team’s efforts. You can peruse a variety of benchmark reports across different types of marketing activities, from SEO to content marketing to paid social, grouped by industry, so you can see where your company falls along the spectrum.

How are we measuring marketing attribution? Does our data show the whole picture?

It often takes multiple touchpoints across multiple marketing channels to land a new customer. Whether your conversion metric is closing a sale, booking a demo, or signing up for your email list, the conversion is often the result of months of marketing efforts — but all too often, only the first or the last touchpoint is used for attribution. Make sure that you’re leveraging your CRM and analytics data to help you track the entire customer journey from start to finish.

A customer may have finally clicked on an ad and signed up for a demo last month — but it’s important that you also weigh the value of the three blog posts she read on your site in the previous quarter, helping her build trust in your brand before she was ready to make the leap. Make sure that you set up a multitouch attribution model that gives the right weight to each part of the journey that led your customer to their conversion path — and if you don’t have the data to do that now, make it a priority for 2024. (Keep in mind that recent changes in data privacy laws and company practices have made marketing attribution more difficult, but not impossible if you have the right tools and tactics in play.)

How does our performance track across each channel compared to the previous year?

Beyond looking at industry benchmarks, it’s also important for your marketing audit to evaluate performance against your own benchmarks — track YoY data for everything within your domain. Depending on where you sit in your marketing organization, that might include metrics such as SEO keyword rankings; web traffic volume and repeat visitors; social media follower growth and engagement; email marketing sign-ups, open rates, and unsubscribes; and conversion rates from digital ad campaigns, to name just a few.

When evaluating marketing performance, it’s also important to weigh up the impact of unplanned events — in 2020, the pandemic derailed everyone’s forecasts, but your business or industry may have had its own unanticipated event (the unexpected exit of your CMO, or crushing new industry regulations?) that impacted your team’s ability to meet goals. Whether your marketing efforts beat projections, went according to plan, or fell short, pay attention to trending performance across each metric and analyze why they went the way they did.

How does our marketing strategy compare to other companies in our space?

Don’t just look inward — a marketing audit presents an important opportunity to consider what you can learn from other companies in your industry. Conducting a competitive analysis will help you get real benchmarks for what other companies are doing and how well they’re doing it. Look at publicly available data, as well as information they’ve shared in investor reports if applicable, to understand the scope, budget, and success of their marketing efforts.

Depending on your role, you might look at factors such as their social media presence (number of followers across different platforms, level of engagements, average daily interactions, etc.), their content marketing strategy (type and frequency of content, engagement metrics, SEO, etc.), or their digital marketing efforts (monthly ad spend across different channels, average placement on page, etc.). When possible, analyze their spend level to calculate how their ROI compares to your brand’s, and look at what differentiates them. If they’re performing well, pay attention to marketing efforts you’d like to emulate.

How does our marketing technology stack compare to other companies in our space?

Competitors may also be making use of new technologies that could benefit your company — use tools like BuiltWith or 6Sense to analyze the technology products they’re leveraging on their website. Even if your role isn’t specifically focused on technology, you’ll be able to build a better case to take to your CIO or the stakeholder responsible for making tech decisions at your organization by illustrating how competitors are successfully using the solutions you’d like to adopt.

What are we missing in terms of marketing resources and marketing assets?

As part of a comprehensive marketing audit, it’s important to look at the factors in the marketing environment that may have kept you from meeting your goals, or that you believe could help your team optimize its marketing strategy in the year to come.

In terms of marketing resources, look at the benefits of both adding headcount to cover certain marketing functions, such as a dedicated social media manager, and using external resources, such as an experienced marketing agency that can provide the necessary bandwidth to support your marketing plan with high-quality support. Consider what makes sense with your marketing budget: Some companies may benefit from an initial consulting session with an agency or consultant to build or refine their 2024 marketing strategy and then handle deliverables with an in-house team, while others may have the resources to hand off large components of their marketing plan to an agency team.

When it comes to marketing assets, you might consider talking to variety of stakeholders within your organization to understand what marketing content they need for their own use cases: Sales teams may need access to solution briefs and case studies, your social team may need more video content, your Talent team may need employee spotlights to showcase different roles in the organization, and your executive team may be ready to see a completely rebranded website. By making sure you have accurate data on how your marketing assets are used throughout the organization, you’ll be able to make sure that you can plan a comprehensive marketing budget that will move the needle for the entire organization.

Are we measuring everything we should be measuring?

This last question might be the most important, as far as I’m concerned. Marketing activities don’t always translate immediately into sales — and that’s OK. Beyond looking at direct conversion rates, you should be looking at metrics such as engagement levels (time spent on page, interactions with your social channels, etc.), brand reach and recall, and brand reputation — all of which create lasting value for your brand, increase organic visibility, help boost customer retention and employee retention, and are a direct result of your team’s marketing efforts. Make sure that marketing gets its time in the spotlight by showcasing that it’s not just about driving sales — it’s about showcasing your company’s culture, and helping you win over customers, employees, and the general public with campaigns and content that appeal to each persona.

Build a case to champion your marketing team

    An in-depth marketing audit should go far beyond checking the boxes on whether or not you’re meeting your quarterly KPIs. By investing the time to conduct deep research — using both an internal and competitive analysis — you’ll be in great shape to present your success stories from the past year and prove your team’s unique value to the organization, with the insights to help you optimize your marketing strategy to increase performance in the year to come.

    By diving into the hard data and relevant benchmarks, you can also more accurately forecast future trends that will help support your case for budget increases and resource allocations. With an audit of your marketing efforts, you’ll be able to easily spot potential areas of improvement and ensure that each dollar spent goes towards the initiatives that are most likely to drive success. From there, you can use your newfound insights to develop a cohesive marketing strategy that improves visibility, strengthens brand recognition, and increases customer loyalty. With specific suggestions on where to allocate resources for maximum impact — backed up by hard data — you’ll be able to confidently present a case for increased performance in the year to come.

    Equipping your team with the right tools and technology will ensure they are working as efficiently and productively as possible. With analytics programs that provide real-time insights into marketing efforts, it will become easier to identify bottlenecks and quickly develop solutions that optimize performance.

    Finally, having a clear understanding of what resonates with your target audience is key to driving growth and engagement. Utilize AI-powered analytics to track customer behavior, identify areas for improvement in your website design and content, and deliver a personalized customer experience that helps each customer persona get access to the content and marketing channels that are most relevant to them.

    All of this may sound like a lot to do, and it is — but the payoffs of taking a deep look at your marketing strategy in a broader context can offer immeasurable benefits for the future of both your company’s marketing performance and your team’s perceived value within the company.

    Plus, you don’t need to do it alone. Just as many companies bring in external financial auditors, you can leverage experienced marketing consultants to help you dig into the data and come up with recommendations for optimizing your marketing strategy. Get in touch for a free initial consultation with me to see how we can support you in refining your marketing strategy and optimizing your budget to surpass all your marketing goals in 2024.

    Kathryn Hawkins

    Kathryn Hawkins

    Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.

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