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Self-Auditing 101: Where to Begin

Auditing. It sounds like a scary word, but don’t worry – this is a good kind of auditing. A marketing self-audit is your chance to take a step back and take stock of what your marketing department has been doing in an objective, data-driven way.

Why Should I Do a Marketing Self-Audit?

Think of a marketing audit as an employee’s performance review. The object is to take stock of goals, milestones, and big-picture ideas that are easy to lose track of in the course of day-to-day operations.

An audit will help you find things that might have fallen through the cracks. Did you brainstorm some great ideas in a meeting a while back, but never followed through? Hopefully, those will turn up again.

You’ll also be able to fine-tune your buyer personas, or even make new ones. By examining who’s buying your product, who’s reading your content, and who’s engaging with your web presence, you’ll have a firm grasp on who your ideal customer is.

Finding out what your competitors are doing is another great benefit to an audit. All the research is time-consuming, but it’s worth it to take stock of the market and maybe get some new ideas out of it.

And finally, an audit will save you money. It takes time and resources to perform one, but all that is outweighed by the savings from cutting ideas that aren’t working and streamlining your whole operation.

I’m Convinced! How Do I Go About Auditing My Business?

Set clear objectives. First things first: are you looking at the entire marketing operation? Maybe you’re focused on social media specifically, or even just Facebook. Establish clear-cut goals — “we want to make sure we’re boosting posts on Facebook as efficiently as possible” — and write them down.

Once you’ve done that, identify the stakeholders in your audit. Whose work is under scrutiny the most? Maybe it’s the whole company, or maybe it’s just designers or just your sales team. Whoever it is, they should be kept in the loop about your goals and findings.

Start to conduct research and gather data. This is the hard, slow, time-consuming part of an audit, but it’s the part that everything else is built on.

Look into your competition and the market you’re in as a whole, and see if anything jumps out. In 1983, Domino’s Pizza noticed that ordering food over the phone was unpredictable and slow, so they introduced their “30 minutes or less” promise. They dropped the policy 10 years later, but it helped vault them to the top of the pizza world.

Look inward, too. You may think you know what’s going on inside your own company or department, but bringing it all into the open will expose inefficiencies and overlap. Look at your tactics, your budgets, your products, and your goals.

Make note of every communication channel you have, whether it’s direct mail, blogs, social media, cold calling, or anything else.

Take stock of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Which ones do you care about? How are you measuring them? Are there KPIs you don’t have a good way of measuring, and are there tools you can buy to track them more closely?

Don’t just pick communications channels and KPIs because they’re current and trendy — use them because they’re right for your business and your buyer persona. Not every social media site is right for every business.

Organize and analyze all the data. You should be examining your results from a quantitative standpoint — bounce rate, time on site, load times, conversion rates, etc. — and from a qualitative one — user feedback, blog quality, and so on. Are your photos resonating? Are you getting leads from your landing page? Are you spending money on a channel that’s not generating clickthroughs?

If you can find the data, compare your results to industry standards. To the untrained eye, it might seem like a bad thing that only 20% of your mailing list is opening the email you send, but when you know that the average is more like 12%, it seems pretty good!

Hopefully, you’re using tracking software that will show you your results on various KPIs over time, but if not, now’s the time to start. You’ll be able to compare your results to your past efforts to see what’s working, what’s stagnating, and what strategies need to be put out to pasture.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve got a good sense of what’s working, what’s not, and where your time and resources are going, you can start to make changes.

Follow the numbers. Don’t be afraid to cut programs or stop using channels just because you like them. That’s the whole point of an audit: figure out what’s worth keeping. Try to be neutral, too. It can be especially difficult to cut out strategies that you yourself came up with, got excited about, and were convinced would push you into the stratosphere. But you have to be willing to trust the data and redistribute your time and energy into the ideas that are working.

Don’t worry! There will always be time for new ideas, and your next audit will tell you if they’re working. Sooner or later, something will stick. But without an audit, you’ll never figure out which ideas are gold and which ones are just shiny rocks.


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