Marketing Audits, the Perfect Strategic Tool

Marketing audit, the missing link?

In order to survive in today’s highly unpredictable and competitive environment, business leaders cannot leave one stone unturned in their search for excellence! The marketing audit may just be the missing link!

A marketing audit is an invaluable instrument to help an organization to establish its unique competitive position and to identify its superior skills, resources and capabilities. This is a prerequisite for achieving a sustainable competitive advantage for your product, business unit and/or business.

Conducting a marketing audit is one of the best and most sensible decisions an entrepreneur and businessman (or -women!) can make.

What is a marketing audit?

Philip Kotler describes a marketing audit as a –

o comprehensive,

o systematic,

o independent, and

o periodic examination of an organization’s or business unit’s marketing environment, objectives, strategies, and activities with a view to identifying problem areas (and opportunities) and recommending a plan of action to improve the organization’s marketing performance.

The definition clearly confirms the strategic and operational relevance of a marketing audit, making it an indispensable research instrument – dissecting, analyzing, assessing, proposing, and advising.

About the audit process

The audit process should be thoroughly planned so that auditing time and cost are kept to a minimum, since carrying out a marketing audit can be quite expensive. It is usually done by highly skilled, experienced, and specialized marketing professionals. Kotler’s cardinal rule when conducting an audit is: “Do not rely solely on the organization’s managers for data and opinions. Employees, customers, retailers, agents, and other stakeholders must also be interviewed and be involved in the process.”

Asking the “right” questions is in actual fact the key to conducting a successful marketing audit. Questions unlock an individual’s or a group’s creative instincts and serve to stimulate the thought processes. If the right questions are asked in the right manner, refreshingly new marketing insights and ideas come to the fore.

The marketing audit also provides the auditor with a clearer picture of the organization’s marketing function and business environment. It will help him/her to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an organization’s internal and external (marketing) environment.

Some final thoughts

Unlike a financial audit, a marketing audit has a strong dualistic character. On the one hand it has a scientific and structured side, and on the other hand it has a “chaos” side that invites and provokes intuitive, creative and “out-of-the-box” thinking.

I believe that the marketing audit process should encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking, since competitive advantage rarely comes from sameness. When businesses offer the same product and service to the same market by performing the same kind of activities no business will prosper in the long run. Information obtained from a thorough and skillfully conducted marketing audit will enable management to develop a market focused strategy that is directed by its unique capabilities, ensuring sustainable competitive advantage for their product, business unit and/or business.

Lastly, the marketing audit plays an important role in developing a (successful) strategic marketing plan. A well conducted marketing audit can provide corporate and marketing decision-makers with quality information that is relevant, practical and constructive. As a strategic instrument, the marketing audit is indispensable when developing a marketing strategy.

Tips To Creating Your Own Marketing Strategy

Developing and creating marketing strategy is an essential for any types and forms of business. If you do not have one, it is a must that you create one, your efforts, time and money are likely to be inefficient and useless.

You should create your strategy which focuses on making sure that your products and services meet what the customers want and needs. This is important in order to develop a long-term and profitable relationship with your customers.

The main goal of a marketing strategy is to identify and to communicate with what benefits of your business could offer to your target market. Quite genius!

In order to achieve those goals you have set in your mind, you will need to create a smart strategy which can respond to customers’ perceptions and demands.

Tips below could help you define your key objectives and goals in reaching your customers, on the other hand, this could help you identify which customers you should focus on. Smart list for smart and effective action.

  • Identify your Key Elements. The acknowledgment that your existing customers will fall into particular groups or segments is one of the key elements for a successful marketing strategy. Characterize them by their “needs” and “perspective”. Market research could help you identify these groups and especially their needs, address them in a more fruitful way than your competitors, this should be the center of interest of your strategy.
  • Strengths and Weaknesses. Your strategy takes account of how your business’ pros and cons will affect your marketing. A genuine Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis could be a great start, to begin with. This one is a substantial idea to conduct market research on your existing customers, it will also help you to build a more genuine portrait of your reputation.
  • Developing your Marketing Strategy. Understanding your business’ pros and cons and the other external variables to consider, you could develop your strategy that engages to your own strengths, match them to the transpiring opportunities. These questions below could possibly help you develop your marketing strategy:
  1. What changes are taking place in the business’ environment?
  2. Are these opportunities or threats?
  3. What do I want to achieve?
  4. What are the customers’ demands and needs?
  5. How do I target the right potential customers?
  6. Which are the best way to connect with my customers?
  7. Is there something missing with my customer service? Do I need to improve it?
  8. If I change my products and services, could it be possible that it will be more profitable?
  9. How do I price my products?
  10. Which is the best way to promote my products?
  11. When can I finally conclude that my marketing is effective?
  • Tips and Drawbacks. Think about how you can get the most out of your existing customers before looking at new markets. It’s more economical and swift than finding new customers. Take time to think and consider, could it be possible to sell more to your existing customers? You could always search for ways of improving the possession of customers. Your marketing strategy document should:
  1. Examine the different needs of different groups of customers
  2. Focus on a market niche where you can grew rapidly
  3. Goal to put most of your efforts into the 20 percent of customers who provide 80 percent of profits

Avoid these:

  1. Makes assumptions about what customers want.
  2. Ignores the competition.
  3. Trying to compete on price alone.
  4. Relies on too few customers.
  5. Trying to grow too quickly.
  6. Becoming complacent about what you offer and failing to innovate.

Rude Questions You Must Answer Before Your 2010 Strategic, Marketing & Leadership Planning

Strategic planning and decision-making is tough but when personalities, politics and biases are involved it becomes even more complicated. It takes courage to confront conventional thinking. Someone has to ask those uncomfortable questions that people think about… but never have the guts to raise. Sometimes there is a strong temptation to be quiet, don’t challenge the process and just get it over with.

Okay, I’m going to ask the tough questions. As my grandmother said, “The only way to change is to do things differently.” If you want to stimulate some real, measurable, relevant change then be bold, step up, man up and ask. Every process needs to be challenged from time to time. Start kicking the scared cows with questions like these.

15 Rude Questions You Must Answer

  1. Why are we doing this? Do we have compelling reasons?
  2. If we were starting all over would we do things this way?
  3. If there were no company politics, rivalries or biases involved how would this project or decision change?
  4. Who are the people who are conceiving, driving and doing the work and who are just watching?
  5. Why do we need the people who are just watching?
  6. What are three big things we can do with our customers that would have the greatest positive impact on their business and ours?
  7. Are our products and services really different and do they offer real, measurable value?
  8. Whose solution are they using while they are waiting on our solution?
  9. Are we easy to do business with and are we easy to buy?
  10. Is our Unique Value Proposition actually unique and valuable?
  11. What is our company doing to steal business from our competition?
  12. Is our department developing strategies to grow the business or just to protect our budget?
  13. Is our marketing attracting the business we want or just the business that wants us?
  14. Are the customers/clients we have today the ones we want and need 3-5 years from now?
  15. How do we change our business model to get the customers/clients we want and need?

Why you have to ask

No one sets out to make a bad decision. Actually, every bad decision begins as someone’s attempt at a good decision. Most of the problems stem from not having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and how to make it happen. So the great corporate tap dance begins, the process gets longer and longer until all the best options fade away. Remember, the last available option is never the best decision.

Every change begins with questions and answers. If you never ask the tough questions – nothing positive happens. So have courage, ask, challenge and grow the business in 2010.