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Conducting A Marcom Audit: See Yourself As You Are

Get Under the Hood and Tune Up Your Brand - Part 2 of 2

To create an effective and valuable brand, you have to present your business to your market in a way that matches up with their expectations. How well are you doing? Conduct an independent audit of your marketing communication, and find out the truth.

Kevin Walker, President - Boardwalk, Inc.

Image - Magnifyer - SoCal BMA

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we addressed the importance of clearly understanding the image your company brand is projecting. In this part two, we show you how to run a marcom audit for effective insight into how your company is perceived by the outside world.

Your marketing communication is the face of your business. Before you ever know they even exist, perfectly qualified customers are checking out your website, your presence on social media, your appearances in trade publications. They check out your booth at the trade show. They nab a brochure and a business card while your booth staff is looking the other way.

So how does your market see you? Is your marketing dollar being well-spent? It’s so easy to fall into the habit of doing things the way we’ve always done them because … well, just because. In 2017, let’s try not to be complacent. Let’s review our marketing communication and ask what’s working and what’s not.

Start by remembering the purpose of marketing communication is to make a brand promise to your market. Ideally, you have just one brand promise that is as relevant to your employees, vendors, financial backers, etc., as it is to your customers or clients. Multiple messages to multiple constituencies are not only expensive, they are confusing and dilute the effectiveness of your communication. So, if your messaging needs to be simplified and unified, address that issue first. Next, take a look at what marketing channels you’re currently using.

Is your visual identity working for you?
Compare your logo, your stationery, your brochures and other collateral material to those of your competitors. Which company looks old and dated and behind the times? (If you’re not sure, ask your teenage children.) In many B2B sectors, the answer will be “All of the above”. In that case, the first competitor to invest in a fresh visual identity system will gain the advantage of appearing renewed, modern and relevant. The market places a high value on businesses that look like they’re going to stick around for a while. Not so much on businesses that look like they peaked in the eighties.

Are you advertising?
If so, what is your media mix? Every year, those venerable, old trade magazines become less and less relevant while their websites become more and more important. Make sure you’re taking advantage of all new media opportunities available and not getting stuck in old placements that no longer provide ROI. Everybody shops online now, including the decision makers in your industry.

Do you engage in media relations?
There are journalists and influencers out there who live to spread the news about the latest, most interesting developments in even the most arcane B2B sectors. You may not have any current news to report yourself, but you can still be a source of expert commentary. So make sure you’re in regular contact with the press in your field.

Do you publish a blog/newsletter?
Posting usable, shareable information on your website is an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise and prove your worth. Publish to your email list as well – and to your social media connections – but only send the first paragraph with a link back to your website for those who want to read more. You can be fairly certain at least one of your competitors is already doing this, if only occasionally. Make a commitment, this year, to publish weekly. This will improve your visibility to search engines too.

What events do you attend?
Review the trade shows, conventions and industry retreats that are available to you. Determine which ones seem worthwhile this year. Sometimes, the tried and true old events just aren’t what they used to be. Abandon the tired old shows that don’t provide ROI anymore and test new opportunities. Careful, though! Make sure people know your intention. If you’ve been a regular attendee and then disappear without explanation, it may seem your business is suffering. Also, you don’t have to have the biggest booth on the floor. It’s better to choose a modest size you can sustain year after year. Again, downsizing will reflect badly on you. It is important, though, that your booth look clean, undamaged and well-integrated into your overall visual identity system.

What events do you sponsor?
Considering all the events you attend, there is bound to be an effective sponsorship opportunity or two out there for you. Examine them all carefully and see where you can get meaningful exposure for a reasonable cost. By meaningful: getting your name exposed is nice but you really want your name shown in a context that will have some relevance to your market. If there is no such opportunity, propose one to the show’s organizer.

How do you and your key employees network?
The way you rub shoulders is a critical component of your marketing communication. So what makes sense? Chamber of Commerce? Country Club? Charity functions? This is too important to leave to whim. So gather your key players and make a plan. Divide up the responsibilities and make sure that no fertile ground is left uncovered.

How’s your inbound marketing?
Traditional advertising pushes your message to those who don’t necessarily want to receive it. That’s why we think billboards are eyesores and why we fast forward through the TV ads. These days, when your perfect customer wants your goods or services, they go online to find them. An inbound marketing campaign, that includes “free” content marketing and social media, will pull your most-willing prospects towards you. Make sure you’re exploiting this powerful tool to the best of your ability.

What about your other touch points?
Above, we’re examined the typical ways B2B companies reach out to their markets. But every business is different. Every business will have points of contact with their market that are unique to them alone. Examine yours; make sure they are optimized at every level and in sync with your other marketing. If your customers come to your premises for tours or for training, you’ll even want to extend your visual identity system into the areas they visit so as to provide them an enjoyable, on-brand experience.

How do you measure up to the competition?
You’ve already compared your visual identity systems but that’s not enough. What else are they doing? If they’re making contact with the market in ways that you haven’t thought of, you need to seriously consider emulating them. Better yet, outdo them.

Are you really leveraging your website?
This is left for last because it’s the most important point. All your marketing activities, listed above, whether done online or out in the “real world”, should draw your market into your website. Your website should be the hub of all your marketing and sales activities. It’s where you engage your market and answer their questions. It’s where you capture email addresses and build your database. We’re long past the day when a website was a static, electronic brochure. Your website should be a continual work in progress, a place of constant activity. It should be a revenue generator, not a money pit. And it should be attractive and functional on every platform, including mobile devices.

As you examine all your marketing communications tactics, you will, of course, be measuring each one’s cost-effectiveness. But you’ll also want to ensure that you’re being perceived the way you want to be perceived, that you’re telling the same story with all these tools, that your messaging isn’t drifting off-brand here and there. That can happen when we create each component, one by one, over time. The marcom audit, if conducted without bias, will reveal your brand to you as your market sees it. And, if changes need to be made to improve that perception, it will show you what to do.

The marketing communication audit should be a part of a regular brand tune-up. It’s through all these marketing communication channels and touch points that your market experiences your brand, and as we mentioned in Part 1 of this two-part series, 80% of B2B customers base their buying decisions on Customer Experience rather than price. A regular brand tune-up that includes a comprehensive marcom audit, will keep your business shining in your market’s eyes, driving awareness, interest, demand, and ultimately, revenue.

I welcome your comments, and invite you to share this information.

Photo - Kevin Walker - Boardwalk, Inc.

Kevin J. Walker, President
Boardwalk, Inc.

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