Marketing Topics for Small- to Medium-Sized Businesses

Shape Your Marketing Strategy by Conducting a Marketing Communications Audit

November 2018

Businesses conduct several types of audits to ensure they are operating soundly and efficiently, including financial audits, compliance audits and operational audits. One type of audit you may not have heard of – and that is equally important – is a marketing communications audit.

What Is a Marketing Communications Audit?

Conducting a marketing communications audit is a critical part of the marketing planning process and is the first step to take when developing a marketing plan. This type of audit helps a business evaluate its marketing program and determine what has worked and what has not. Just like other types of audits your business may conduct, the purpose is to help you improve your bottom line – because if your marketing communications are not on strategy and not consistent, they will not be effective. And when your marketing is not effective, you are wasting your marketing budget.

A marketing communications audit includes a detailed review of all the marketing and communications your business has produced to reach your target audiences including: prospective customers, current customers, investors, media, vendors and employees.

Step 1: Gather

The first step is to gather all your external and internal marketing communications. Typically, these include: brochures, email marketing, website, print and digital ads, trade show materials, PowerPoint presentations, direct mailers, customer communications and internal employee communications. Also gather your corporate identity materials – business cards, letterhead, logo and signage.

Step 2: Review

Next, find a place like a conference room where you can lay everything out on a table or tack to walls. You will also want to have a computer where you can display your website. Set aside time for a detailed review of everything you have identified. While reviewing all of your marketing communications, take note of the following:

  • Target Audiences. Who are the key audiences that your marketing communications intended to reach?

  • Key Messages. What are the overarching messages in your communications? Do you have clear messaging and are you consistently using your messages? Are you tweaking key messages for your target audiences?

  • Visual Branding. How does your marketing look? From a graphic design standpoint, do your marketing materials, website and other communications all look like they are coming from the same company? Having a consistent visual brand is critical in helping target audiences identify your business.

Step 3: Evaluate

At this stage, you should be ready to ask the harder questions:

  • Have your marketing communications been effective at informing your target audiences about your business?

  • What has worked and what has not worked? Can you quantify results from your marketing activities?

  • Is your visual branding where it needs to be? Does your graphic design need to be more consistent or is time for a refresh?

  • Are your marketing communications relevant, compelling and interesting? Are you consistently incorporating a call to action? If not, how does your target audience know what action you want them to take?

It also can be extremely useful to obtain feedback from current customers, prospects, employees and other target audiences and incorporate those findings into your audit.

Moving Forward

After completing the above steps, you are ready to move forward and develop a marketing plan that is informed by the results of your audit and one that will help your business achieve its strategic goals. If you are ready to start spending your marketing budget more effectively, then take the time to conduct a marketing communications audit.

Katherine Taylor