[IMGCAP(1)]Like your finances, your firm’s marketing efforts should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that your short- and long-term plans are in order.

A marketing audit is a type of review that examines both your internal and external marketing strategies to make sure that your firm is ready to meet your business goals. A marketing department’s role is varied: from increasing your visibility and improving your brand awareness to supporting your sales efforts and building meaningful client relationships.

A marketing audit will help you and your team stay focused and honest with the marketing strategies you set forth to accomplish your business goals.

What is a Marketing Audit?
A marketing audit is a comprehensive review of a company's marketing capabilities. Specifically, it examines the goals, objectives and strategies of the marketing function and the tactics implemented. The marketing audit identifies operational strengths and weaknesses, and recommends changes to the company's current and proposed marketing activities based on research that is done internally or by an external consultant.

For instance, as marketing budgets continue to be reduced in 2010, you may need to take a closer look at your tactics and determine which ones are producing the results you seek and focus your efforts in those areas. This is your return on objectives — goals and objectives established upfront that are both designed to produce desired outcomes and can be measured for success.

[IMGCAP(2)]In addition, a marketing audit should include a competitive analysis to review competitors’ marketing programs, their Web sites, advertising and messaging. This will help benchmark your current position and external communication programs against what your competitors are and aren’t doing.

Questions to Consider
There are many questions to be asked and answered when undertaking a marketing audit. Below are questions we at Moiré Marketing Partners believe are essential in evaluating the strength of your marketing plan and what opportunities there are for improvements.

Market
•    What/where are your major market(s)?
•    Is the market segmented?
•    What are the current market trends?
•    Are there new competitors in these markets?
•    What are the principal drivers that influence these markets? (rates, quality, client service, etc.)?
•    What influences the market’s perception of your firm?

Internal
•    What are your firm’s long- and short-term objectives?
•    What do you believe to be your biggest strength?
•    What are the brand drivers?
•    What are the key attributes and characteristics (list positive and negative)?
•    What is the brand message?
•    What is your public relations plan?
•    What are you doing better than the competition?
•    What do your key stakeholders think about the firm?
•    What do your employees think about the firm?
•    What metrics do you have in place to monitor the visitors to your website?
•    What tactics are producing results (i.e. sales, new clients, etc.)?

External
•    Who are your competitors?
•    What do you believe to be your biggest weakness?
•    Any there trends within the competition?
•    What are your competitors doing better than you (compare with your internal findings)?
•    What is the perception of your competitors by your clients?
•    What clients do your competitors have that you want?
•    Do you have a niche you can exploit?

Audience
•    How does your audience describe your key attributes and characteristics?
•    What do your clients believe your brand promise is?
•    How often does your target audience visit your Web site?
•    Is your message concise throughout when internal and external audiences experience your brand?
•    Is your audience engaging in conversation with you?
•    How often do your professionals meet face to face with key clients and prospects?
•    Are you often asked to speak at important industry events or trade shows?

Measuring Your Marketing
Once you have gathered all the information from your audit questions, you are ready to analyze and determine the best marketing direction and tactics for your firm. It is essential to build into your process a report card or measurement instruments to assess the effectiveness and value of your marketing tactics. Without measuring your marketing, how do you know you are doing a good job? How do you know you are reaching the correct audience? Most important of all, are you converting prospects into clients?

More often than not, marketing is measured poorly, if at all. We recently read a great analogy to measuring your return on opportunity, as opposed to the traditional approach of trying to measure return on investment. Think of it as your annual physical at your family doctor and use the findings to make changes to your firm marketing.

Don’t hide from the truths of your marketing. If you do, it will catch up to you. Now is the time to grab your marketing by the horns, understand what you are doing well, and where possible changes can be implemented to increase growth and profitability of your firm.

Communicating with Management
Management wants to know that the firm’s marketing efforts are moving the organization in the right direction while driving growth and profitability. A marketing audit is an opportunity to provide analysis and suggestions to management on ways to improve marketing performance. But how do you communicate this to management?

Management likes numbers and statistics — concrete answers to what makes a marketing tactic successful or not successful. For instance, a Google AdWords campaign can and should be monitored through Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides data on your campaign and what keywords are responding well to clicks. It will also share with you your click-through rate, a clear indication that people are or are not responding to your campaign.

The development and implementation of a basic marketing touch point is a good start in demonstrating to management that you have done your homework and that you are executing a plan that is based on sound findings. Don’t expect them to like everything that they hear, however; be honest with your presentation and be willing to offer solutions where improvement is needed and listen to their suggestions and their input.

Consider creating a living document that reports on a quarterly or semi-annual basis how the marketing touch point plan is performing, and where you have had to make adjustments based on early reports from the business development team, your PR counsel or your outside marketing and branding consultant. Rate your success and difficulties on an easy to understand 5 point scale where 1= successful, 2= somewhat successful, 3= no opinion, 4= somewhat unsuccessful and 5= definite need for change.

This yardstick will not only serve to keep the marketing team on track, it will also serve as an excellent report card to management regarding your efforts. And don’t worry when you discover that some efforts are failing. The key is to discover these failures early, correct these efforts, and move on so that the firm maintains a course that is steady and sound.

Jeffrey Morgan is a principal at Moiré Marketing Partners, a strategic branding and communications agency specializing in the success of professional service firms. You can reach him at jmorgan@moiremarketing.com and connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@JeffreyMorganCA).

Jeremy Hoders is the director of client services at Moiré Marketing Partners, a strategic branding and communications agency specializing in the success of professional service firms. You can reach him at jhoders@moiremarketing.com and connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@JeremyHoders).

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