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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 14, 2013 • Issue 13:01:01

Take stock with a brand and marketing audit

By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

I frequently confer with payment companies that are in some way frustrated and dissatisfied with marketing. Some say they don't have good marketing collateral, or they think their websites stink. Others believe the image they're projecting isn't professional enough, and their messaging is off the mark. And still others believe they should be better at reaching prospects to generate leads, adding new methods like advertising, email blasts or social media to their repertoire of tactics.

Although these organizations want to improve, they frequently err in rushing to repair the perceived problem du jour. These efforts are no more than bandages that provide temporary fixes to problems, which can help a business in the short term.

But to achieve real and lasting results, companies must find the underlying causes of their dissatisfaction, rather than take one-off, haphazard approaches. To get to the root of the problems, I usually suggest taking a step back from the day-to-day hustle and bustle of business to conduct a thorough brand and marketing audit.

Giving your marketing dollars a workout

An audit is a good way to see how well marketing efforts and dollars are working. It provides a current-state analysis of brand and marketing effectiveness, identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Results of an audit include recommendations to improve brand equity, brand positioning and messaging, brand management, marketing campaigns and tactics, and marketing communications. The results also clarify where organizations should focus future marketing efforts.

Brand and marketing audits can be performed by an organization itself, or by a professional marketing consulting firm. In either case, the evaluation should be as objective as possible. If you're interested in conducting a marketing audit and want to do this project yourself, this article provides a brand and marketing assessment framework for you to use.

Framing your value proposition

Brand is your company's promise of value to customers, prospects and the marketplace. Brand is expressed through verbal and visual communications indicating company positioning and value proposition. To assess brand, examine your brand value and equity, clarity, integrity, and consistency. To properly assess marketing, examine channels, communications, campaigns and tactics from the standpoints of cost, effort, effectiveness and results.

Conducting an audit begins with a multitude of questions to ask and answer. Here are important ones to get you started:

  • Does my company's brand have intrinsic or extrinsic value? Do I understand my company's brand equity in terms of awareness, preference, usage, accessibility, relevance, differentiation, vitality, emotional connection, loyalty, associations and personality? Can my company's brand value be measured financially?

  • Is our "marketing-speak" simple and clear? Do we properly reach our target audiences? Do outsiders readily understand who we are, the value we deliver and how we're different from the competition? Is our messaging consistent, memorable and distinctive?

  • What's our professional image? How do we look? Is our business and brand message reflected properly by our corporate identity, which encompasses logo, color scheme, fonts, graphics, photography and overall company style? Is it visually appealing?

  • What do our customers, prospects and market participants think of our company? Do we know who our best customers are and understand their needs so that we deliver what they want?

  • Where are we, relative to the competition? Are we a market leader or follower? Do we sound alike - as a "me too" service provider - or have we adequately differentiated ourselves? Are we better than, worse than or on par with our competition?

  • How are our marketing materials? Do our collateral, signage, advertising, tradeshow, publicity and merchant materials consistently support or conflict with our brand messaging and corporate identity? What about our online website and social media presence? Is our site easy to navigate? Do visitors get the information they want, or do they leave frustrated? Do we engage online visitors, providing valuable content and getting them to respond to our calls to action?

  • Do we know the costs to obtain both a lead and a customer?

  • Do we have a formal process to create an annual marketing plan, budget and execution calendar? In terms of time, money, skill sets, outside expertise and bandwidth, do we have the resources to properly execute the plan? Are we realistic?

  • Are our marketing channels, tactics and strategies effective? Are we focusing on the right things at the right time? Do we know what's really working and what isn't?

  • Do we have a lead-nurturing process to move leads through sales by first turning them into prospects, then customers? Where are we dropping the ball? Are we leaving revenue-generating opportunities on the table? Where does the sales funnel leak?

  • Have we established metrics to measure the performance of each marketing activity and tactic?

  • Are our marketing plan and strategy aligned with our sales team?

  • Are our marketing goals aligned to organizational goals?

Building for the future

After much research and contemplation using the questions above as a guide, give your organization a macro-level grade on a scale of A to F. This sets a baseline score for ranking future year-over-year improvement. Then, prepare a detailed report of your findings to document the results of your audit. This should include an overall brand and marketing assessment section, including the grade you assigned, plus ample detail noting individual successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses.

In the document's conclusion, specifically highlight recommendations for what you'd like to do more of, what you would like to do better, new strategies you'd like to try, and what you would eliminate going forward. Then go make it happen.

Conducting a formal, methodical, top-to-bottom examination of your company's brand and marketing efforts through an audit will help your business develop a solid foundation for the future. Start the year off right by laying the groundwork to turn today's marketing dissatisfaction into tomorrow's success and accomplishment. I know you'll be happy with the results. end of article

Peggy Bekavac Olson is founder and principal of Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payments. She serves on the Board of the Women's Network in Electronic Payments and on the Program Planning Committee for the Electronic Transactions Association. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or peggyolson@smktg.com. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.

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