As we’re approaching the end of the year, many of you are wrapping up your marketing initiatives and preparing for the coming year. As part of those planning efforts, have you completed a thorough Marketing Audit? An audit will provide a valuable foundation — proof points and rationale — to fuel your marketing strategy and plans going forward. By taking a careful, objective look at existing marketing activities and recent-past results along with examining competitors, customers, prospects and the marketplace as a whole, a Marketing Audit ensures your ability to craft marketing and campaign plans that are more likely to maximize results.

Here’s a closer look at the valuable questions a Marketing Audit will answer and exactly when a Marketing Audit is necessary.

You may feel that you know the marketplace and have a good handle on what you’re doing, so why should you take the time to conduct an audit? I would counter, it’s easy to get into a routine where you feel you are facing the same environment and competition, but in reality it’s continuously changing. Often, during an audit, we are able to uncover information about products, markets and competitors that reveal new insights or even new niches, opportunities or directions.

An audit will help you answer questions about market share, distribution channels, brand and product positioning, competitors, pricing and tactical implementation. While we sometimes undertake tactical audits where we look at a specific medium such as public relations, interactive or direct marketing, a comprehensive audit will cover the following areas:

Marketing Environment Review

  • Markets
  • Customers
  • Competitors
  • Macroenvironment

Marketing System Review

  • Objectives
  • Implementation
  • Organization

Marketing Activity Review

  • Products
  • Prices
  • Distribution and Service
  • Advertising
  • Direct Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Interactive
  • Other Activities

Besides using an audit for annual planning purposes, it can also be used at check points throughout the marketing process. Other times when it will be useful to initiate an audit include:

When launching a new product

Whether you are entering new territory or simply adding another product to your line, a marketing audit can help you hone in on the best strategies and tactics to make your launch a success.

When you are growing rapidly

If your company is undergoing a growth spurt you probably feel like you don’t have time to slow down and assess things. However, an audit can help you determine how to best manage the growth and prioritize to keep things manageable.

When business is stagnant

If you have the opposite problem and no matter what you do, it seems like it’s not working, an audit can help you determine what the issues are and how to overcome them.

When your competitors are beating you

You feel the pressure to catch up, but you’re not sure how or even when you fell behind. An audit will help you determine the best strategies to catapult your company ahead, not just “me too” reactionary tactics.

When there are changes in company structure or leadership

When the internal environment shifts, it’s often a good time to review where you are and where you want to go. An audit will help you provide solid direction. Founded on current information and insights, it will help you move ahead with confidence.

Conducting a systematic, structured review of your marketing will help you guarantee your efforts are in sync with the current environment, you are measuring the right things and your budget is allocated to strategies and tactics for optimum efficacy. Once you have this information, you can create a plan that will serve as a roadmap that will keep your team on course for success.