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According to the 2019 State of Inbound Report by HubSpot, “40% of brands consider proving ROI of marketing investments as one of their top marketing challenges.” Brands are consistently focused on making sure marking ROI is achieved. One of the easiest ways to accelerate this is through a marketing audit. In this article we will explore what a marketing audit is, best practice approaches to doing a marketing audit and how it can help a brand grow.
What is a marketing audit?
The Marketing Audit and Organisational Performance author Bruce Clark defined a marketing audit as a “comprehensive, periodic, systematic, and independent examination of a brand’s marketing efforts.”
By performing a marketing audit, brands are able to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and any looming issues with their current marketing programme in order to adjust the status quo and accelerate marketing performance for the long term.
More specifically, a marketing audit can help brands to:
- Identify areas of improvement – Marketing audits can enable brands to measure current performance against targets across all lines of marketing activity. This process can immediately highlight high performing (and under utilised) activities as well as those activities that are not working.
- Uncover inefficiencies in the marketing strategy – discover inefficiencies across data, tooling and process across all marketing activities. By forensically examining the operational approach to marketing activities, a brand can identify opportunities to streamline and optimise how the team are working.
- Identify areas where brands can excel and build their strategy – a marketing audit helps brand realign their marketing activities with those activities that are delivering the highest results in order for them to more easily achieve targets.
- Set a list of actionable items that can nudge a brand’s marketing efforts to move forward – The ultimate objective of a marketing audit is to build a roadmap which details and schedules how the marketing team will optimise their current marketing mix, tooling and operations. This is vital in order to put the insights into action.
The elements of a marketing audit
A marketing audit is divided into three segments. Performing a deep analysis and evaluation across all of these areas can really help to drive marketing performance:
Internal marketing audit
- Marketing organisation audit – Brands should evaluate the structure of the marketing team and how various responsibilities are divided. The structure should also be checked against best practice and align with their business model.
- Marketing function audit – This focuses on reviewing the core content and messaging of a brand. Marketing function audits analyse and evaluate the product or service, the brand, promotions and pricing strategy. This analysis also assess the product’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) against the competitor set (competitor analysis is also performed as part of this).
- Marketing channels audit – Evaluating the performance of a brand’s marketing channels. It is crucial to analyse where the business is communicating with potential or existing customers and to know how these channels are performing against competitors and measuring up against the brand’s goals and KPIs. Examples of channels that are typically audited include social media, landing pages, blogs, and newsletters but (depending on the business) can include offline channels as well.
External marketing environment
Once the internal factors are reviewed, brands should also consider looking at external factors that are influencing the performance of their marketing.
- Task environment audit – A brand should review the current state of the market depending on what industry it belongs to. Understanding shifts in attitude, outlook and needs of their target customers is crucial in order to maintain relevancy (and avoid disruption).
- Macro-environment audit – By evaluating changes in the macro-market, a brand can factor in changes in regulation, geo-politics, economics, demographics and cultural aspects that may be impacting the brand’s marketing performance.
Current marketing strategy
Current marketing strategy is the third pillar of a marketing audit. A brand should evaluate their marketing strategy and productivity to see which campaigns, processes and tactics are working.
- Marketing strategy audit – Brands should look at the business from a macro perspective. Are they selling to the right audience? Is the product the right price? Do their promotions deliver a favourable return on investment? Do the competition offer something comparable yet cheaper? Is the brand tired versus new market entrants?
- Marketing productivity audit – Reviews the effectiveness of every channel and campaign.By evaluating the cost of each piece of marketing collateral, the brand can get a sense of how (financial and staff) resources can be adjusted to maximise productivity and return on investment.
Digital marketing audit
Now that we have covered the overarching marketing audit, we will run through a more digital-centric approach to performing a marketing audit. A digital marketing audit focuses on the brand’s digital competencies and the effectiveness of its digital presence. A digital audit can help ensure that even from the start, a brand makes the right decisions in their digital investments and strategy. In a digital marketing audit, there are four main areas that should be analysed.
1. Online benchmarking and competitor set analysis
By bench-marking its performance against the performance of its competitors, a brand can identify areas that they are under-performing and and learn the weaknesses of their competitor’s strategy. A brand should benchmark all of their digital KPIs against the competitor set. From the benchmark results, brands can identify opportunities to strengthen their existing approach to ensure their long term success.
2. Digital Channel audit
Auditing each individual digital channel can help brands identify their lowest hanging fruit (and those channels that are taking an unfair share of the overall budget as per their performance). Digital channel audits should ideally go deep into platform specifics and analyse best practice against the current approach. Is the brand using the right hashtags and sharing stories on Instagram? Are they tagging blog posts to get featured on Google’s search results as a search snippet?
3. Audit Digital Content
Auditing the brand’s digital content is about more than just quality of video or copy. Performing a deep dive across content topics, channel formats and distribution strategy can enable a brand to optimise their current approach and drive significant improvements in content performance. Does the content provide value to the target customers? Is it configured in the right format for a Facebook page? How is content distributed? Does the content align with the brand’s values and aesthetic? Is the content mix diverse (video, photo, social posts, infographics, emails)?
4. Tooling audit
A tooling audit is the evaluation of a brand’s current marketing technology stack and the approach that the team are currently taking with the tech. Based on the brand’s market, target customers and marketing strategy, the current tools (and the approach to use) is evaluated and a road-map is built to optimise the current marketing tech stack and streamline how tools are used to increase marketing performance.
What are the building blocks of a best practice digital marketing audit?
A robust digital marketing audit should include a variety of analysis methodologies and approaches. A few of these are outlined below:
- Quantitative analysis – this is the core of any digital marketing audit. Through the performance metrics that are available from marketing analytics, a brand should be able to identify what is working and what is not. Some examples of marketing analytics that brands should analyse include Google Analytics data, PPC ads reports, social media metrics, CRM data reports etc.
- Qualitative analysis – Performing a qualitative analysis involves evaluating the quality of a brand’s current digital marketing initiatives. This might include evaluating a site’s layout, imagery, calls to action, video content, user experience, brand messaging, email design etc. By evaluating and scoring these against best practice (and competitors), a brand can get a solid sense of how they can optimise and improve their digital marketing performance.
- Website crawl – a website crawl helps identify any part of the website that is not working. Some of the things to look out for are missing title tags, poor site load time, broken links, duplicate content, technical errors, missing H1 and page title tags amongst other things.
- Competitive analysis – By developing competitor intelligence about the strengths and weaknesses of a competitor’s digital strategy, a brand can develop a highly competitive marketing strategy that wins in the market.
- Channel specific tactics – The current tactics should be evaluated against the latest features and functionality available on each platform to make sure that the brand is maximising the potential of each of their channels. A set of recommended tactics should ideally accompany a digital marketing audit to ensure that the brand is using the most up-to-date tactics.
- Recommendations and strategy – A full and comprehensive set of recommendations should accompany a digital marketing audit which outlines a strategy and a roadmap which turns those recommendations into a project that empowers the marketing team to optimise their current approach.
- Roadmap for the next 24 months – a high-level strategic timeline should be prepared to help brands plan where they can get to in the next two years. The timeline should identify when and where brands should make crucial investments such as paid media or website redesign.
- Key Performance Indicators (KPI) – an audit must include a review of the brand’s KPI, as well as a roadmap for the brand to achieve its KPIs.
Tools for a digital marketing audit
There are literally hundreds of tools and frameworks to perform digital audits for clients. Some of the tools that we use are:
- SEMrush – SEMrush is a versatile and powerful tool that can help surface insights about search. It allows brands to evaluate their performance, their competitors performance and identify the right keywords that will drive their target customers to their website.
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics provide a myriad of metrics that can help understand the digital marketing programme’s performance. Some of the information it can yield include bounce rate, user flow, device category, demographics, referral traffic, content drill-down and most popular topic of the week.
- Social Media Networks – Social networking platforms like Facebook Page Insights can help understand who is engaging with a company’s page.
Overall, a marketing audit has the power to transform the performance of a marketing team and the profitability of the business by introducing new tactics, optimising current approaches and building highly competitive strategies that help a brand grow market share.