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Marketing Audit: What Is It, How To Do One, & Best Practices

What is a marketing audit, and could your business benefit from one? The answer is likely yes.

A marketing audit is a systematic evaluation of all marketing elements and practices of a business. With a marketing audit, you can find out how effective your efforts are, where your strategy might be lacking, and a variety of other insights that can help you improve your business’s return on investment.

If you are a small business, then every dollar spent on your marketing efforts makes a difference. If you are a major corporation, you undoubtedly make a considerable investment in marketing, and accounting for and maximizing those dollars is no small matter. From small businesses to big businesses, regularly scheduled marketing audits are an essential component of any good strategy.

Unsure if it’s a worthwhile use of your limited budget? That’s understandable—plus, it’s just good business to make sure all spend is well-thought-out. Learn more about marketing audits, how to do a marketing audit, and why you should consider using them to the benefit of your business.

What Is a Marketing Audit?

A marketing audit is an assessment that is performed to analyze your current marketing strategy from top to bottom. The goal of a marketing audit is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing efforts and to help you devise a plan to improve effectiveness and performance.

A marketing audit can answer important questions such as:

  • How effective is your current marketing strategy?
  • Are you targeting the right channels?
  • What are the strengths of your current marketing efforts?
  • What are the weaknesses of your current marketing efforts?
  • Are you missing out on opportunities to reach your audience?

With an in-depth evaluation, you’ll learn this and so much more about your marketing performance.

Illustration of a thumb’s up with text that reads, “Audits are usually performed by a third party to avoid bias and provide the best results.”

Who Performs a Marketing Audit?

If you want to get the most out of your marketing efforts, an audit is the best place to start. This type of audit is often referred to as an external marketing audit because it is typically performed by a third party.

There are a few reasons why using a third party for a marketing audit is a typical and standard practice.

  1. Using a third-party auditing service ensures unbiased assessments and answers.
  2. An audit should be performed by someone who is experienced. Not only will this ensure a thorough analysis, but it also means they can provide actionable insights.

There are many service providers who perform marketing audits and have well-established processes to do so effectively. While you don’t have to hire someone to perform a marketing audit, it will likely provide far more value if you do.

When Should You Do a Marketing Audit?

Have you been running your marketing program for at least six months? Do you have one or more marketing campaigns you are currently running? Then it is advisable to perform a marketing or advertising audit.

There was a time when marketing was much less sophisticated, especially when it comes to technology and the internet. Today, marketing is so much more than billboards and newspaper ads. With all the potential channels you can use to reach your customers, it’s important to be able to focus on the ones that will be most effective. Whether you’re still trying to figure that out or aren’t seeing the results you’d like to on certain channels, a marketing audit can help.

Additionally, if you need to learn more about your customers, including their likes, needs, and wants, you can gather that information through a marketing audit with the use of customer personas and competitive analysis. Need to reign in your budget? A marketing audit can help you determine where your dollars will go the farthest.

And in general, marketing audits are recommended on at least an annual basis, if not every six months. This allows you to ensure your marketing strategy is as efficient as possible at all times.

How to Do a Marketing Audit

Having a better understanding of what marketing audits generally entail will help you get a better understanding of their value.

So, what’s involved in a marketing audit? Here’s an overview of the basic components, however, it’s important to emphasize that audits are typically very in-depth. This overview is simply scratching the surface of what auditors will evaluate.

Graphic featuring marketing audit steps with icons of a check mark, target, woman, shop, bar graph, and magnifying glass with corresponding text that reads: 1. Decide what elements to audit; 2. Identify goals; 3. Establish customer personas; 4. Identify competition; 5. Gather data; 6. Evaluate results.”

1. Determine What You’ll Be Auditing

Will you need a comprehensive audit or a systematic audit? Choosing the type of marketing audit will also determine what exactly you will be auditing.

Many companies that run internal marketing audits will seek out third-party assistance to perform a comprehensive marketing audit. These audits help businesses see and understand aspects of their marketing campaigns, such as ROI, lead generation effectiveness, or customer engagement rates, for example.

Fledgling companies or those who don't have the resources or defined marketing departments will often benefit from a systematic marketing audit. These audits typically go deeper than assessing the data from channels like email and organic marketing.

Systematic audits evaluate a company's marketing infrastructure, processes, and marketing plan. Deciding on what you need and what your marketing goals are will help determine the type of audit you need.

2. Identify Goals

You know what the goals for your marketing campaign are, and an audit is how you determine if they are being met. That also means that before you begin, it is also necessary to define the goals of the audit.

Do you find out how or where to improve the customer journey aspects of your marketing program? Do you want to see which of your social media campaigns are performing well, and those that are not? Do your customer personas need an update? A systematic marketing audit offers detailed information and answers to questions like these.

Comprehensive audits are most often used to get definitive and insightful data regarding the overall performance and environment of a marketing program. If you want to see how your customer acquisition campaign is doing or what your ROI for the year is, run a comprehensive marketing audit.

When setting your goals, they need to be well-defined. That means they should be clear and measurable. For example, is X marketing channel meeting the threshold of X leads in order for it to be a worthwhile investment?

3. Establish Customer Personas

Who are you marketing to? What does your audience like? What don't they like? Those are questions that lead back to understanding more about your audience, customers, and potential clients. It is also a great way to save time, energy, and resources from being spent on fruitless marketing campaigns that are being served to people who wouldn’t be interested in your offerings in the first place.

These are also the reasons why it is important to establish customer personas for your business and marketing plan. In fact, an effective audit needs well-developed customer personas. But what is a customer persona exactly?

A customer persona is a character created as a representation of a company's target audience. Generally speaking, there are several customer personas created to represent the various segments of the target audience. These personas can also be cited as primary, secondary, and so on.

Depending on your audience, customer personas commonly center around the following traits:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Income range
  • Education
  • Occupational status

These are only a few of the characteristics that can make up a customer persona. Once you have your customer personas set up, it is time to look at the competition.

4. Identify Your Competition

For an effective marketing audit, you need to know who you’re competing against. This can help you get a baseline for where you need to be, what channels you should be looking at, where your marketing efforts should be focused, and ways you can stand out.

Some questions that you may want to consider when completing a competitive analysis audit include:

  • What is your competition doing that works?
  • How are they positioning their offerings?
  • What channels are they putting most marketing efforts into?
  • Who are the new competitors to keep an eye out for?

While the marketing strategy audit is about you and how your business is doing, evaluating the competition is another source of data that can help you draw those conclusions.

5. Gather Data

The most important element in the marketing audit process is data. How and where you collect data will depend on your systems, marketing plan, and resources.

This data might look like the number of hits per ad, the percentage of customer engagement, or the number of organic leads from specific campaigns.

From the outside, these might simply appear as interesting facts or trends. For those who understand and who know how to use this data, though, this information tells an entire story. How are your customer conversation rates looking? Are you experiencing greater traffic and increased revenue from your latest marketing campaign?

Without information like this, it is difficult to determine the success of your marketing program. The data and information you collect from your marketing program will unveil key insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your current strategy.

6. Evaluate the Information Gathered

All of the data that’s gathered throughout the course of the audit should then be analyzed. A successful marketing audit should yield key takeaways. Auditors will consider each piece of data individually as well as how it all works together in terms of big-picture performance.

Generally speaking, the different components of your marketing efforts are all interrelated. This is another reason why working with an experienced third-party auditor is key; they understand those relationships and can make recommendations accordingly.

How the data is evaluated will be guided by the goals of your marketing efforts and your marketing audit. Once you begin to understand the data and what it is saying, it is time to take the actionable steps that make it count.

What to Do Once You Have Your Audit Results

Now that you have your audit results, you have access to insights into how your marketing efforts are performing and where improvements can be made. Your audit provides actionable insights, eliminating a lot of the guesswork about how to move forward to create a more effective marketing strategy.

For example, if campaigns on a specific channel aren’t bringing in leads, one of the takeaways may be to redirect that spend to a channel where you tend to see a lot of results. You may also find that there are missed opportunities that you’d then want to incorporate into your strategy going forward.

With your audit results, you’re empowered to make informed decisions about marketing.

Illustration of a calendar with “1X-2X” on it, accompanied by text that reads, “Generally, audits should be conducted 1x or 2x a year.”

How Often Should You Complete a Marketing Audit?

The best marketing plans are re-evaluated regularly. The sooner you understand what is and what isn't working, the sooner you can correct or capitalize.

Generally, marketing audits should be performed on an annual basis. However, some may recommend one every six months. How often your business completes marketing audits may depend on your budget, how complex your marketing strategy is, and other factors like whether your priorities have recently changed.

One thing to consider is that when you do audits more frequently, you have the most up-to-date information to go off of, which will allow you to make highly informed decisions throughout the year.

Marketing Audit Best Practices

If you want to learn more about how to do a marketing audit, there is help available, along with reliable auditing services.

Here is a quick look at the marketing audit best practices:

  • A marketing audit should highlight the techniques and marketing strategies that are effective.
  • A marketing audit should suggest solutions that include both short-term and long-term solutions.
  • Good marketing audits will lead to and define specific actions and steps to solve problems (such as low conversion rates) and meet your marketing goals.

Here are some items that marketing audits should include:

  • Outlined plan of marketing program and marketing audit goals.
  • Specified target audience, including target customer personas.
  • Record of all the social media platforms used.
  • Active accounting for followers, engagement rates, shares, etc.
  • Data detailing conversion rates and costs.
  • Content audit details (views, bounce rates, keyword usage, etc.).
  • List of other marketing assets such as branding materials, flyers, white papers, etc.
  • Finding suggestions, from increased postings to diversifying social media strategies.

Make the Most of Your Marketing Efforts

There is nothing more effective than a successful marketing plan. However, getting the most out of your marketing efforts will require a little help along the way. In most cases, that help looks like a solid marketing audit program.

How is your email campaign doing? Are your latest advertisements driving traffic? Does your social media marketing strategy reach its intended audience? Getting answers to questions that define the success of your marketing plan is key to creating a successful marketing campaign.

From the smallest details like content performance to big-picture answers like what your ROI is, make the most of your marketing efforts with a marketing audit that works for you.

Read more on our pro tips for auditing client Mailchimp accounts.

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