Getting the Most Out of Your Marketing Efforts

, Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of performing a usability audit, you’re probably wondering, “What else can we do to improve the reach and effectiveness of our organization’s Web presence?” The answer might be to apply those same audit principles and steps to your online marketing and engagement programs.

“Marketing audits are similar to usability audits, but marketing audits have the more focused goal of getting people to complete a transaction,” noted Ali, Beaconfire’s Online Campaigns and Marketing Director, in a recent conversation.  “A marketing audit includes setting up a ladder of engagement, choosing the steps you want people to ascend, ordering them (setting priorities), and identifying tactics to get your target audience to progress up the ladder.”

John Brian, a member of Beaconfire’s online campaigns and marketing team, advised, “Start by looking at your 12 month stats.  If your metrics are stagnant or declining, it’s definitely time for a marketing audit.  Even if they’re growing, but not at the former or expected rate, it might be time to do an audit.  Marketing audits are like preventative maintenance for your car.  You may have gone in for an oil change, but the service appointment also provides the opportunity to check your tire pressure, refill your windshield wiper fluid and change the blades, and change your air filter.”

Much like usability audits, the main benefit of a marketing audit is that it allows organizations to step back from the day-to-day details of running their businesses and engage independent experts to evaluate their marketing programs against nonprofit industry best practices with an eye towards making choices that will produce the greatest Return on Investment (ROI).  John Brian noted, “A marketing audit gives the organization an opportunity to ‘push the reset button’ on choices that may have been made during initial program development for reasons that no longer hold.”

However, Ali cautioned, “It can sometimes be difficult to offer solutions that will make a difference but that won’t require a total overhaul of the client’s marketing efforts.  It’s really easy to open up a can of worms.  It’s hard to know which worms to take out while maintaining the ability to put the lid back on the rest.  But that’s the value of working with a consultant – you can’t just analyze forever.  Consulting engagements are defined and limited by the scope of work.  Eventually, you have to say, ‘Enough data gathering – we need to make some decisions here.’”

“The biggest benefit I notice for organizations in doing marketing audits is that they’re able to refocus transactions on the mission of the organization rather than the mechanics of the process,” John Brian remarked.  “A marketing audit provides an organization the opportunity to institute best practices, optimize the user experience, and correct technical issues without the hassle and expense of going through a full program redesign.”

Ali added, “The best advice I could provide an organization that’s considering a marketing audit is to know what you want to improve and what numbers you want to change, and to be clear about that from the start.  You must have concrete goals in order to measure success.”

John Brian had one final, critical piece of advice, “I cannot overemphasize the importance of getting stakeholders to commit to being open-minded about the audit recommendations before you start.  Nothing is more dispiriting than when organizational staff gets excited about proposed recommendations and changes, only to have a key stakeholder say no because she wasn’t involved or consulted during the process.”

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