Many people I speak to have heard of a marketing strategy, but never a marketing audit. This article explains what a marketing audit is, and why it is invaluable to your organisation. I’ll take you through the process step by step, decode the (copious amount of) jargon involved, and show you how the outcomes of a marketing audit can have deep implications across your whole business.
In short, a marketing audit investigates the internal and external factors that could affect your organisation’s success.
It seeks to answer the following questions:
- What threats and opportunities exist?
- How do we compare to competitors?
- Who are our customers or clients?
- What do we offer, why and how?
- Are we fit for purpose?
There are four main sections to a marketing audit, and at the end, we are able to summarise the key points into a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), which is nice, neat and visual for those who are overwhelmed by the detail.
Section 1: Macro Environment
The ‘Macro’ environment simply means the environment we have no control over. There are loads of acronyms us marketers use for this analysis, which are all a variation on a theme. I tend to use STEEPLE: Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, Ethical – especially when working with charities or social enterprises. However, some of these factors will be more important than others depending what your organisation does and what market it sits in. For example, uncertainty over Brexit would go under political factors for all of us at the moment; e-commerce companies must keep a keen eye on technological advances; and charities will need to stay abreast of legal fundraising regulations.
Failure to analyse your macro environment could land you in all sorts of trouble. Keep monitoring it to make sure you take advantage of opportunities and manage any risks.
Section 2: Micro Environment
We’re moving from the wider, macro environment to the closer, micro environment. These factors are still external, but you may have some influence on them. The micro environment encompasses your customers, competitors, partners, suppliers and distribution channels. Marketers will use a variety of techniques to analyse these including surveys, interviews, focus groups, secret shoppers, online forums, social media and web research.
This section of the audit will help you identify your audiences and what they want from you, how you’re positioned in the market, any issues in the supply chain, whether your distribution channels are effective and what buying power you have.
Section 3: Internal Environment
So many organisations struggle to find the time to analyse themselves. Resource pressures mean they’re constantly striving towards the next goal, keeping their heads down and ploughing on. However, carrying out a review of the internal environment can be an uplifting and therapeutic experience; a time to reflect, regroup and re-energise. Using a framework like the ‘McKinsey 7S’ (pictured), helps you analyse your organisation’s structure, strategic aims, management style, staff, skills, systems (and resources and processes) and see if they’re all feeding into shared values and direction. It will unearth the strengths you need to shout about and the weaknesses you need to work on. It is an essential piece of work to ensure your organisation is resilient, proactive and able to fulfil its ambitions.
Section 4: Marketing To Date
This section is probably what most people would guess to be a ‘marketing audit’ – yet as you can see, it is just one part of the puzzle. It will appraise the ‘4Ps’:
- Products (or services)
- Place (where your business is conducted – e.g. physical premises or online)
- Promotion (what you communicate and which channels you use)
All of this will help to build a picture of your brand’s health. Is it consistent? Does it conform to your brand’s values? Are you reaching the audiences you care about? Are you delivering what you promised?
This is the perfect opportunity to discard what isn’t working, build on your successes and trial new ways to attract your ideal customer.
Finally, you can summarise this rich, robust research into a SWOT analysis to be used across the whole organisation. It will provide a snapshot of where you are now, so that you can plan for an even more successful future.
Final Word of Advice
A marketing audit is not a one-off piece of work that is completed then left to gather dust for the next 10 years. It should be edited and updated every year to ensure you are armed with the latest information to sustain your success. Just think what the last year has thrust upon us in the world of politics! Make sure you keep your eyes and ears open so that you can flex and adapt to the inevitable changes that your organisation will experience.