As I read through Amber Naslund’s “The Culture of Good Enough” post this morning, I realized why we get so excited to execute the discovery phase of Interactive Shift, our version of a marketing audit. Much like people, no business is perfect. No marketing strategy is perfect. No marketing campaign is perfect.
Finding those imperfections, and more importantly finding solutions to get closer to some form of perfection, is what drives the most successful businesspeople I know. While we all know that reaching perfection for more than a fleeting moment is impossible, if we’re not striving for constant improvement in all facets of life and business, then what are we doing? I’ll tell you what we’re doing, and I’ll use Amber’s words.
We’re mailing it in. We’re satisfied with acceptable. We’re content to check the box.
Even within the way our company executes our marketing audit, we’re on a constant search for improvement. Improvements in the questions we ask, and how we ask them. Improvements in the data we collect and evaluate. Improvements in the way we deliver recommendations. In my mind, there is no other way to operate a business.
While a marketing audit can and typically does contain dozens of pages, slides, charts, recommendations and visuals, it all starts with the five essential questions:
1. Does the marketing plan match up with the overall goals of the business? If so, how? If not, why not?
One group we’ve worked with had a simple, but great system. The CEO of the company set the broad goals for the company, and then the department heads were asked to submit their goals and how those goals would support the CEO’s goals. Everyone should plan in a similar fashion, but they don’t. Trust me.
2. Do the individual marketing tactics or campaigns support the overall marketing plan? If so, how? If not, why not?
In a world where the success of a marketing strategy or individual tactic is more measurable than ever, dealing with the “soft” stuff is difficult. You have to build in the unmeasurable or intangible into every marketing plan, but it’s still challenging when you’re dealing with design or copy tweaks, or even entire campaigns, that you’re fairly certain are not going to contribute to the goals you are being measured on.
3. What are we measuring and why?
The why part is more critical than the what part of this question. I encourage you think hard on the why, but don’t overthink it. You can always start with measuring ten metrics or trends, and then whittle that down to three or four once you realize what really moves the needle.
4. Do we have the right people in place, and if not, how do we address the holes?
Last I checked, people still ran businesses, marketing departments, search marketing engagements, public relations campaigns and other pieces of marketing. If you don’t have the right people in place, and you’re not systematically evaluating those people, then constant improvement may be far from what you get.
5. What is our plan for consistent improvement – specifically efficiency improvements – over time?
Whether the challenge is doing more with the same resources, or doing more with fewer resources, we should all be asked to become more efficient over time. That may translate into something as simple as using time more productively, or something more concrete like driving a lower cost per lead every quarter. Regardless of the type of improvement, there should be a plan in place that outlines how you’ll reach those improvement milestones.
While most audits go on to evaluate individual tactics – as they should – it all starts with these five questions. I take it back – it all starts with getting concrete answers to these five questions, or at least a promise to find concrete answers.
As a business, if you’re not willing to take a look in the mirror, and have someone external look with you, then you’re likely not in the business of constant improvement.