We’re nearing the end of 2018, and for digital marketers that means it’s a perfect opportunity to review the past year’s efforts, and review how you want to change those efforts in 2019. Unfortunately, many new marketers aren’t sure how to audit their strategies—and some experienced marketers are stubbornly convinced that they don’t need to do a deep dive.
But if you want a better chance of success in 2019, you’ll need to tear down your old strategies, examine the strategies of others, and outline key areas for improvement in the coming year.
Why an Audit Is So Important
Let’s take a look at why performing a strategy audit is so important:
- Critical awareness. You may believe you perform adequately in each of several different categories, but in reality, you’re probably better than average in some areas and worse than average in others. An audit is your opportunity to think critically about your situation, and identify those areas accurately.
- Opportunities for improvement. This is also an opportunity to find areas for potential improvement. For some businesses, that means sharpening up strategies that failed to pan out. For others, it means adopting new strategies to compensate for their underperformers.
- Keeping up. The marketing world is always changing, with new consumer preferences, new technologies, and of course, innovative new strategies to experiment with. If you don’t take the time to evaluate your own strategies and look to the strategies of others, you could easily fall behind the curve.
How to Analyze Your Efforts
Fortunately, the steps to a digital marketing audit are fairly straightforward:
- Review the efforts of top marketers. You stand to learn the most from marketers who are doing better than you are because clearly, they’ve got something figured out. Take a look at the top 10 companies in various categories, noting how each company rose to prominence, how they communicate with their customers, and what advertising channels they’ve harnessed. Chances are, you’ll see some key themes apparent throughout 2018; take note of these, and determine how your own business adopted, neglected, or passed on these.
- Document your top-level strategies. Record some of your top-level strategies, and analyze them. In other words, what were you specifically trying to accomplish this year? Were you trying to build awareness of the brand? Were you trying to improve how customers communicate with you? Were you trying to push a specific product? Take note of whether or not you were able to achieve these goals, and how you attempted to achieve them.
- Note key qualities of your best and worst performers. Make a list of all the marketing strategies you adopted over the past year, getting as specific or as broad as you feel comfortable; for example, you might lump “PPC advertising” into a single category, or list every PPC outlet you used as separate instances. Then, sort them from “best” to “worst” in terms of their overall marketing ROI. What did your top-performing channels have in common—was it an underlying message, a specific medium, or a level of investment? And what about your worst-performing channels?
- Identify areas of strength and weakness. From there, it should be easy to analyze a few of your business’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might find that you’re perfectly capable of reaching your customers, but your brand isn’t as memorable as you expected it to be. Or you might find that your messaging works well, but it never reaches your target demographics. This will help you shape next year’s strategy much more appropriately.
- Cut your underperformers. Sometimes, some strategies just aren’t worth saving—especially with so many other options on the table. If one of your tactics is severely underperforming, cut it from your budget in 2019.
- Invest more in your top performers. Use the extra money leftover from your cut strategies to put more money into the strategies that seem to be working best. Not all marketing strategies will yield an inherently bigger return simply by investing more into them, but if you’re already seeing a positive ROI, it’s an experiment worth making.
- Add some experimental avenues. Speaking of experiments, make it a point to add a few new experimental channels, strategies, or tactics. Learn from your contemporaries and/or try a new technology; you don’t have much to lose, and you could learn a lot from the experience.
You can dig as deeply or as lightly into these steps as you see fit; obviously, bigger companies with more complex and far-reaching strategies will require more time and manpower to accurately assess themselves. After you’ve done one audit, and made some hard decisions for your business, it will be easier in subsequent years.