Research plays an important role in marketing your small business effectively. You can use an audit to improve your marketing throughout the life of your business. Don’t just perform an audit when embracing a new tool, such as social media, but also at regular intervals, to help measure your performance.
A marketing audit considers internal and external influences on marketing planning, as well as a review of the plan itself. Scanning your environment internally and externally enables you to identify opportunities and threats and then adjust your company’s position and resources based on the outcome of the analysis. Research can offer valuable insight into what your competitors are up to — as well as how your customers and team members react to your brand.
Begin with an internal marketing audit, which involves having a conversation with all company employees, from management right on down to workers who interface directly with customers or clients. The preferred way to conduct an internal audit is to have an independent auditor conduct an individual in-depth interview with each employee to get their input. The internal audit should focus on your company’s strengths and weaknesses. An external marketing audit examines and evaluates the market, your competitors and the economic environment. Doing so equips you to understand the needs of your customers, identify future needs and develop your marketing mix.
One way to conduct an external audit is through a focus group. This market research option brings together a small number of people (usually about 10 people) and a moderator to focus on a specific product or topic. To ensure that the group is representative of the targeted customer, participants should be screened in advance of the session for brand and competitor awareness. The moderator guides the group in a discussion, as opposed to the IDI approach of soliciting individual responses to formal questions. The goal is to produce qualitative data (preferences and beliefs) that is representative of the general target population. In addition to gaining insights about your brand and your competition, focus groups can also be useful for testing advertising campaigns or new products.
As an alternative to focus groups, IDIs can be conducted by phone with existing and potential customers to explore driving factors and attitudes toward a brand, product or service. A one-on-one conversation with an impartial third party can provide forthright and insightful information that respondents might not otherwise share directly with you.
Internal and external audits should provide you with a list of actionable items that will help you achieve your business and personal goals by delivering an unvarnished look at where your marketing plan is today and the steps you need to take to turn your vision into a reality.
Beth Longware Duff is a professional editor and award-winning writer whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in print and electronic media. She writes on a wide range of topics dealing with electronic payment processing and iPhone credit card processing for Merchant Express.