Do-it-yourself marketing audit

Icelandic horses looking down at the camera

Ongoing marketing is essential for a viable business, especially during a slow economy. With increased competition it is more important than ever to be clear about who you are targeting, what they care about, and how your business can meet their needs. Your clear messages tell your potential clients about you, and help them decide whether they want to work with you. For more about target audiences, try this blog post.

Ideally, we have an ongoing marketing program that brings a steady flow of clients and projects maintain our momentum. But what if we don’t?

Delivering excellent service – or product – and maintaining good client relationships are still the most important ways to promote your business. Keep them happy, and they come back. If you have an unhappy client, it takes time to repair your business reputation.

At the start of the year, it’s a great time to review your existing marketing activities. Take stock of what works, and what needs tuning up. Answering the questions below will give you some quick ideas about where to focus.

But first a word of caution: the purpose of this post is to offer you some guidelines for reviewing and planning your marketing activities, NOT to create overwhelm. If you are a solo business owner, you can’t do everything at once. Just know this.

A kinder way to engage with this list might be as a reference to help you set priorities. For example, if your web site and newsletter are up and running, and you’ve got a good mix of ongoing networking happening, you might find ideas here about additional ways to increase the effectiveness of your marketing.

There’s a certain amount of the old chicken and egg dance going on here. Many of us launch our businesses with just enough marketing materials to get some cash coming in. As we mature in our businesses, we become more grounded in what we really offer through our business.  From this point, we can see the value and the answers to these tricky questions about mission, message, position, and brand.

1. Do you have ongoing ways to meet new people who might become customers or refer you to potential clients? Every business loses some clients to natural attrition. How do you replace them?

2. Do you regularly take time to build relationships with your contacts? It takes several connections or contacts to develop an acquaintance into a relationship. In the process, you generate familiarity, trust, and eventually, referrals or work.

3. Do you nurture your existing client relationships and sources of referral? Do they know you appreciate their business and referrals? Everyone likes appreciation, and saying thank you is a way to remain top of mind.

4. Do you understand your clients’ business from the inside? If not, how can you learn? This will help you to skillfully show them how your business fits well with theirs. Want to read how you can learn about your clients’ businesses? Check out this blog post and also this one.

5. Do your clients know how you are different in terms of what concerns them? Do they know the full range of services you provide? Don’t assume — and make it easy for them to find out.

6. Does your business – or you — have a clear brand to support these efforts? Besides a graphic visual identity, your brand carries messages that help sell services through all your marketing activities: web site, mailings, publications, presentations, brochures, as well as in networking and social media.

7. Does your business have a mission statement? A purpose (or description of what you do for your clients, including unique qualities) guides your marketing. It tells people why you are in business.

8. What is your position in the marketplace among your competitors? Size, type of clients or projects, and location all contribute to how you differentiate yourself, as does mission, message, services, and your most unique asset: you and your people.

9. Do your marketing materials (web site, brochures, press releases, etc.) clearly tell your story — incorporating your core message and position? Using a consistent message throughout your marketing will proactively tell the marketplace what your business stands for — what you promise to deliver. With repeated exposure people remember your business and what you promise — a great return on your investment in marketing.

10. Do you have a clear outline of proactive marketing activities? Call it a marketing plan or a to-do list for the coming months; it will help focus your efforts beyond the day-to-day demands of business, and ensure you have mapped the steps necessary to reach your goals.

What is one thing you will add to your marketing this year for better results?

Comments

8 Responses to “Do-it-yourself marketing audit”
  1. Patty K says:

    Thank you for this list, Barbara!

    I *really, really, really* appreciate your word of caution about overwhelm. One of the things I’ve been learning over the past few weeks is how much thought and effort goes into each one of the items you listed. It might look fairly simple and straightforward at first glance, but once you sit down to do it…not so easy!

    My focus this year is on developing relationships. As an introvert, I prefer having fewer people in my network and having deeper connections with them. I tend to gravitate towards non-personal marketing – like blogging and social media. So meeting face to face and having more phone/skype conversations will also be a bit of stretch for me. (Yay for personal growth!)

  2. Barbara says:

    Patty – Good for you for understanding how execution can be everything. You are not alone in your preference for a smaller network. Someone told me this week that in Europe, social media success is measured by how exclusive your network is, not by how large. And you are right that your phone/skype conversations will deepen the connections you have. Yay for you!

  3. Judy Dunn says:

    Barbara,

    A very helpful list—for the novice and the experienced alike. Sometimes we do these things, but don’t always see the connections between them. In my work ( as opposed to the marketing firm Bob and I had for so many years), I don’t always get that continued relationship thing going on. A lot of my clients hire me because they want to do this blogging thing right—from the ground up. So they go for my business blogger startup package, get their blogging legs and then continue on by themselves. But #3 still rings true for me because I work very hard to be worthy of their referrals.

    I think that this year, my bold thing is stepping up to more workshops and hosting my first webinars. (First one is March 15!) Like Patty, I have some serious “introvertness” to work through. : )

  4. Tshombe says:

    I find this list HIGHLY valuable, Barbara, including the links you provided to additional support materials you’ve created. What’s great about this list is that it can be used again and again at various ‘tune-up intervals,’ say, once a quarter, as a sort of marketing activities assessment.

    For me, this year, I will add a clearly defined editorial calender and marketing calendar for both inbound and outbound campaigns. My pattern has been the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method, which is the recipe for overwhelm and insanity. No wonder I’m so crazy! :-) LOL!

    Thank you for the simple, yet helpful list, Barbara!

  5. Barbara says:

    Judy – Hurray for your first webinar! This is a great example of having established marketing basics in prior years so that you can give your time and attention to creating new content in a new platform this year.

  6. Barbara says:

    Tshombe – An editorial calendar and marketing calendar will be enormously helpful — even if you don’t use it — because you’ve taken time to generate ideas and when you want to implement them. For many of us that is the first step away from seat-of-the-pants marketing. There is always something to go and do, and you can be busy indefinitely if you don’t define what you are going to do. There are reasons so many of us operate this way, so know that any progress is real movement. Once you remember that you made a plan, and you check in with it once or twice, you might find yourself referring to it more frequently. Even if you don’t follow the plan, having planned, you’ll be in a much better place to evaluate the things you are doing to see whether they further your goals. Have fun creating your calendars!

  7. Al Foxx says:

    In searching for the first article of yours that I read, loved and fully intend to comment on, I stumbled across another one I loved and then stumbled across this one. Your articles are incredibly helpful as I plan to enter the biz world as the captain of my own ship. I had an agent and webmaster who did everything for 10+ years and so I feel like a small fish who spent his entire life in n aquarium and is then set free in the ocean. It’s overwhelming!

    The guidance I found in this article came toward the end and was to select one marketing strategy and do it. My tendency is to get so overwhelmed by all the options that I don’t do any of them.

    Another helpful tidbit I picked up is to develop the depth of my network and not just the size.

    Thank you much.

  8. Barbara says:

    Thanks for your very kind words, Al. In running one’s own business there is lots to learn and do, and lots of great people and resources to find and meet along the way. Welcome to the journey!

    You’re absolutely right about trying one thing. When we are a solo business, we can rarely do more than one thing at a time besides doing the work of our business. It also helps to do one thing at a time because if we stick with it, we can see how it works or tweak it until it does.

    Since all business is about relationships and based on relationships, our network is our most important asset, especially when we are selling our services.

    Good luck to you, Al!

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