How to Conduct a 4-Step Audit of Your Marketing Materials

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Most small businesses cannot afford to consult a marketing professional at every turn. Still, conducting a periodic audit of your marketing materials is a great way to ensure your brand has a memorable presence in the marketplace. This simple four-step process will allow you to ensure your materials measure up to the task.

Before you begin, review your business objectives. Consider your mission and vision, and review long- and short-term goals. Have these at hand for easy reference as you conduct your audit. Ultimately, it’s these objectives your marketing materials are intended to support. Also have in front of you your marketing plan and any information about how and when the materials are used. Be clear about all of this going into the audit.

Check for Consistency

Read through all the materials once to get a fresh overview of how they work together. Consistency is key. Look for consistency in two different ways: a) are the materials consistent among themselves; and b) are all materials consistent with the brand? Starting with the first question, review the materials to make sure that the design, style, language and images all tell a consistent story. For example, the color scheme should be consistent from your website to your business cards to any flyers you distribute.

If you are reviewing multiple campaigns, do they connect to each other, and what do they have in common? What they should have in common is a consistent representation of the brand. And by brand, we don’t just mean the design and logo. This brings us to the second point. Your brand includes not only the logo and design, but also the content. The content should be consistent with the brand identity and clearly convey the brand promise.

Keep Materials Current

Keeping your target audience in mind, ask yourself if the colors and messaging feels current or outdated. Today’s customers are savvy and culturally literate. They know outdated when they see it. As in the fashion world, trends dominate the marketing landscape. Keep up with them. Ideally, your company should be on the leading edge, setting trends instead of following them. No matter what you decide, having an understanding of current marketing trends will keep you from appearing passé or just plain tired. Just imagine how the burgundy and navy design combinations favored by the corporations of the 1990s would play with audiences today.

Make Your Messages Memorable

Your materials need to have an impact that lasts. Any American who was a child in the ‘80s is sure to remember Wendy’s famous “Where’s The Beef?” campaign—it’s unforgettable. So, too, is the new Häagen-Dazs Marketing Campaign for their limoncello Gelato. At once unbelievably irritating and completely unforgettable, this campaign is the epitome of “sticky” campaigns.

As Häagen Dazs demonstrates, a campaign needn’t be enjoyable to wedge itself into the collective memory. Just be sure it’s consistent with your brand and doesn’t turn off your target audience.

Inspire Action

Your brand must touch the customer personally, or they won’t buy. Your marketing materials are your opportunity to make contact with your customers. Brain research tells us that motor imagery (the visualization of taking an action) has a measurable impact on actual behavior, improving practice and increasing motivation. It stands to reason that if you can get customers to imagine using your product or service, you’re one step closer to a sale.

Irritating or not, the Gelato campaign achieves this goal by presenting the viewer with a host of attractive mouths repeating the product’s name in an overtly sexy tone. It’s likely many people who watch the video even end up repeating the name of the ice cream themselves. And once the viewer’s imagination is primed, the tagline “even the name tastes good” reinforces the association between the product’s name and deliciousness.

Of course, companies don’t just rely on catchy slogans or brilliant marketing ideas. If you want to know whether your materials inspire action, keep statistics on their effectiveness. Testing your materials by tracking their effectiveness (via sales data and social media response) may or may not give you a perfectly accurate picture of what customers will do in response to future efforts, but it will provide invaluable information you can use to target your content more effectively. As you go through your materials, be sure look at your sales compared with the date and scope of release for each piece of marketing. Check social media responses to the piece; are reactions positive? Negative? Non-existent? Being proactive about data collection and management is likely to give you a much better grasp of your materials’ impact.

Conducting your audit will not guarantee success. Often you will be left, at best, with an educated guess about what will capture the attention of your target audience and motivate them to buy. Being thorough in your analysis will allow you to be as educated as you can.

Whatever you do, don’t take your foot off the pedal. Once your materials are released, be vigilant about tracking their effectiveness in every location and medium, and be ready to shift course if the situation calls for it. With these measures, and a little luck, your marketing materials will translate to better and bigger sales.

Janis Bookout is a freelance writer and branding facilitator from Austin, Texas, with experience in social media. She has written manuals, curricula, web content, and blogs. Janis has more than ten years of experience in the field of personal and professional development, training others in accountability, team management, leadership and brand implementation. She is also a professional artist and co-founder of a teaching software company, and is a regular contributor to ChamberofCommerce.com.

4 comments
Wade32
Wade32

Creating action is the most important thing in a brand.  Getting people to take notice and do something is what makes you susccessful!

mayurgudka
mayurgudka

Love the article. Thank you for sharing these tips. I don't believe most small businesses track the effectiveness of their marketing materials. Question for you ... How would a local small business track the effectiveness of it's brochure? Any ideas would help. Thanks!

janisbookout
janisbookout

@Wade32 Wade, thanks for the comment and well said! And your second comment here has me thinking about what ultimately gets people to take notice. I think in the moment they take notice, there is a noticeable connection between the customer's wants/needs and the presence of the brand. That's the slippery fish we are all trying to catch. My personal philosophy is, be authentically interested in what your customer wants and authentically inspired about what you provide, and the rest will come. 

What are your thoughts on this?

janisbookout
janisbookout

@mayurgudka You are welcome and thanks for the feedback! I agree with you that most small businesses track the effectiveness of their marketing materials. I've been thinking about this since I saw your comment yesterday. Here are some thoughts I have...

--You'd have to create a strategy for tracking well in advance. I always try to think ahead about the big picture with every marketing opportunity. The problem is, most small businesses are so busy putting out fire that it seems like the best they can do is use a shotgun approach to marketing. It results all too often in a waste of time and money. The trick is to create times to slow down and think. 

--Backing further out, I am a big proponent of small businesses creating a brand document that fully articulates the elements of their brand. It makes decisions about where to market much easier. I have much more to say about that topic than what I can include here.

--Try creating a variety of discount codes for the various markets you wish to track. This could be determined by area (like zip code) or by use. Thoroughly train your marketing team to track the number of brochures distributed in each circumstance. Then set up your sales process to include tracking the discount codes. After that, its just a matter of some data analysis. This is just one idea, but thinking from that view point will likely give you others.

Hope that helps! 

-Janis