Marketing Communications Audit – What is It, and Why is it Necessary?

As a product manager or marketing director a key responsibility is to develop and implement an effective marketing communications strategy. One place to start is with a communications audit.

An audit is a review of all current marketing and other communications vehicles to answer some basic questions:

o What are we saying about our company/brand/products?
o Is the message consistent across formats and audiences?
o How are we presenting the information?
o Who are we talking to?

The results of the audit should help clarify the communications strategy and provide a framework for future projects.

The simplest way to begin is to gather all existing materials and lay them out on a big conference table. Materials would include product and corporate brochures, product packaging, business cards and letterhead, annual reports, advertisements, direct mail pieces, investor kits, and website screen shots. Even things like internal memos, press releases, promotional items, company t-shirts or hats, and PowerPoint templates should be included.

Once everything is laid out, some basic questions can be answered. First, do all the items look like they are from the same company? Is there some consistency in layout, use of color, and fonts?

Second, is the company positioning clear? In other words, if you asked several people to review a number of your communications and tell you what they perceived to be the company mission or value offering, would the answers be consistent? Or would it depend on what pieces were reviewed?

Third, what are the key messages that are being communicated? Are those messages coherent, or fragmented? Are the messages consistent with your intent?

For many businesses, the answers to these questions are not encouraging. Fragmentation and inconsistency are common, especially as an organization grows and as communications responsibility becomes dispersed.

Unless there is someone within the company charged with maintaining an overall vision, and empowered to enforce guidelines and standards, it is often unavoidable that the communications water gets muddied.

Some may say, “So what?” There is a feeling that as long as each entity within the firm is communicating effectively with its own constituency, there shouldn’t be a problem except for marketing purists. The fallacy with this argument becomes obvious once you begin talking to various stakeholders within the organization, as well as customers and investors who are either getting the wrong message, or aren’t sure about what the message is in the first place.

The communications audit is really only the first step. Understanding the impact your messages are having requires research, and developing a process for ongoing review and implementation integrity requires dedication.

It’s one thing to give lip service to communications consistency, but quite another to put in place the means to make it happen. By regularly reviewing your communication strategy, and evaluating your materials to ensure they are meeting your goals, you will improve message clarity and better meet the needs of your customers, investors, and employees.

Broaden Up Your Business Scope With Good Marketing Communications

No one in the business arena can argue about the prominent character that good marketing communications portray in every achievement that a company can get. There would be no true and lasting success when a company neglects this particular area of importance. Tools as they are, they may cost you a remarkable amount of money. But when properly guided, they can help empower your brand so it will work towards meeting your business goals. They may help boost your company’s productivity and establish its roots.

People may have known about your company’s existence for a long time now. But they may have known only a little about your brand or your products and services. As a person whose company is on your shoulder you know that your company lives until now and will continue to make a difference in the future because you are convinced that you have got so many things to offer. And you want that people will come to know your brand, believe of its benefits, and have their lives transformed for the better through it.

Transmitting your thoughts to your clients and those who you would want to reach for your brand requires that you use certain forms of good marketing communications, the ones that have been tested and proven to bring positive results. And they include a variety of things because there are not only few but many ways that you can send the message to people regarding your brand. Yes, ways to communicate your message are almost limitless. But they serve the same purpose and are geared towards accomplishing the same things; for your brand to have a strategic place in the market and in the hearts and minds of the people, influence their will and emotions, and stir up their loyalty to your brand.

Good marketing communications may appear in different styles and approaches and can be delivered through an assortment of mediums such as radio, TV, print, Internet, mobile, and many more. One particular style may work effectively when used to a certain group of people. For example; audio advertisements through radio and mobile promos through telecommunications network may work well with people who are always on the go like business executives, medical representatives, marketing agents, and others. While on the other hand, TV commercials and print ads may work best for those whose lives and works are fixed at one place.

Communications through prints can be brochures through which you can give your clients fresh updates of your latest products and discounted sales offers. When items and the corresponding offers are eye-catching, they may accomplish your purpose of getting more sales. Brochures can be placed at some strategic locations in the malls, hotel lobbies, school campuses, and other places which are frequented by people, or they can be sent through email as e-books or e-brochures. Communications through the Internet can be through sponsorship banners that can be placed at major search engines and websites that when clicked will lead your target clients to your official website where they can get to know about you and your brand.

As mentioned earlier, there a variety of ways so you can send your messages to your desired audience. So broaden up your mind and expand your marketing horizon with good marketing communications.

Small and Midsized Company Marketing and Marketing Communications – Important Forecasts For 2017

2016 ended with Americans exhausted by emotionally wrenching politics, stories of foreign entanglements and violence at home. Businesses, too, have struggled with modest economic growth and a turbulent stock market. As 2017 begins we all, consumers and organizations alike, face uncertainty in a variety of arenas.

With this as backdrop, businesses still have to develop, plan and execute strategies for profitable growth. After speaking to various colleagues and clients, and reading the comments of a number of pundits and prognosticators, here’s my take on what’s in store for small and midsized B2B and B2C businesses in the coming year:

1. A significant number of marketers – both large and small – will conduct agency reviews in 2017. The current report from Advertiser Perceptions (based on 420 marketers representing about 90 percent of the Top 100 US advertisers) reveals a staggering number of planned reviews:

· 66% plan creative agency reviews;

· 65% plan to review search agencies;

· 64% plan to review media agencies;

· 61% plan to review digital agencies.

Why? Beyond the lack of trust in authorities in society as a whole, rightly or wrongly trust has also been lost between marketers and their agencies. So if you’re feeling concerned about your agency relationship, recognize that you’re not alone.

2. There will be major increases in the number of companies hiring “contingent workers”, i.e., independent contract workers and freelance specialists. Faced with rises in the minimum wage, increases in healthcare costs and increasing payroll taxes, companies are obviously doing everything they can to cut their fixed labor costs. But the ability to hire top notch talent for the short or long term is also a practice gaining much momentum. In fact, a recent survey by Deloitte University Press showed a “7 percent significant increase” plus a “44 percent increase” in planning to hire contingent workers in the next few years.

Keep in mind that these “outsiders” bring fresh energy and fresh ideas to any type of organization while also perhaps providing some savings to your bottom line.

3. Media fraud and ad blocking will increase in 2017. Much was uncovered by the Association of National Advertisers’ eight month investigation of undisclosed rebates flowing from digital media companies to agencies. However, there’s incentive for fraudsters to keep doing what they’re doing because of the ability to circumvent fraud detection systems. This widespread practice can influence agencies’ media recommendations (and bottom lines), while obviously not being in the best interests of clients.

Perhaps more importantly, the stunning growth of ad blocking across markets poses a huge threat to digital media. At least 419 million people worldwide are blocking ads on their smartphones, nearly twice the number blocking on desktops. That’s 22 percent of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users (PageFair – Ad Blocking Goes Mobile).

Digital and mobile media aren’t going away but using them effectively is challenging. Find trusted professionals to make sure you get what you bargained for.

4. As customers and supporters are the life blood for any business or nonprofit, organizations will need to significantly increase their efforts to gain insight into their real world wants and needs. A recent McKinsey & Co. study of about 700 senior executives concluded that: 1) only 6 percent of companies felt they understood the needs of their customers extremely well; and, 2) seventy-two percent considered customer insight budgets inadequate.

There has been an explosion in the amount of customer data available, with new software programs mining all sorts purchase and opinion information, including social media. To be competitive, organizations will have to keep expanding their knowledge using this new information. It just doesn’t seem smart to even consider developing a targeted strategy or plan without knowing your customers, so make sure you have the skills to obtain and interpret the right information.

5. Developing and maintaining a positive customer experience will become the new king of marketing. Distrust of institutions appears to be rampant — products are recalled, passwords are stolen, on-line tweets have as much credibility as government agencies. Starting with employees, make sure they have the knowledge and tools to better serve the customer, create a positive experience, and champion repeat purchase and customer referrals.

Trust is the new black. All aspects of a brand’s life should convey trustworthiness, consistently delivered in a believable manner, at every touch point.

6. The acceptance and use of direct mail by millennials will continue to explode. Yes, millennials. And, yes, snail mail. This demographic is the most likely to open and read direct mail. In fact, 63% reported that they made a purchase based on a direct mail piece they opened within the last 3 months (Info Trend Study of direct marketing in the US).

Perhaps their inundation with spam, interruptive advertising and meaningless content leaves them tired of looking at screens and searching for a “new” medium. After all, it’s not about technology; it’s about effectiveness.

7. While media spending on the Internet will tie with television for the largest expenditures in 2017, more marketers will recognize that the majority of major media spending is still accounted for by traditional media (65%). Television spending will increase by 1 percent, out of home by 4 percent, as radio remains unchanged and only magazines and newspapers will show declines (by 5 and 9 percent,respectively). Additionally, the Marketing Services category will increase by 2.8 percent to $237 billion, as led by sales promotion, telemarketing, direct mail and event sponsorships. (Advertising Age)

It goes without saying that determining where to spend your marketing communications dollars is becoming more complex. The key to doing so successfully is understanding the difference between selecting the newest “efficient” tactical tool, and selecting the most “effective” one. This becomes increasingly important for small businesses, who can’t afford costly mistakes.

8. Considerably more time and smart thinking will be put into the development of marketing and marketing communications strategy, positioning and planning. A “Meaningful Brands” study by Havas in 2015 reported that most people wouldn’t care if three-quarters of all brands disappeared for good! Further, most brands haven’t updated their strategies to meet today’s Internet-enabled buyers. These buyers have access to vast amounts of information and have a plethora of purchasing options at their fingertips. It’s more vital than ever that in order to survive, you must continue to keep your brand meaningful to your constituents.

Both for profit and nonprofit brands must make it absolutely clear how they differ from competition, and make their value proposition completely believable at every opportunity. Once your plan is implemented, you must also know what’s working and measure everything.

Value Marketing And Marketing Communications Consultants

2017 brings a considerable number of unknowns and concerns facing your customers, prospects and even your employees. They clearly are more cautious about what to believe and who to trust in the year ahead. All organizations are faced with these issues and the dilemma of how to have a successful business in this climate.

Many small and midsized organizations are partnering with established and independent senior level consultants to help them with marketing and marketing communications budgets, and plans – evaluating, developing, refining and, if appropriate, implementing. If this is something you might consider, look for people with broad B2B, B2C and nonprofit experience across industries and brands. Seek out consultants who are media neutral and aren’t selling one particular discipline. And make sure they’re passionate about analyzing results and willing to “tell it like it us”, so candor will flourish.

Improving profitable sales and marketing communications ROI is a daunting task. Finding the right consultant to partner with you might take some looking, but as Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Embrace the Marketing Community

Today is just another day of marketing, learning new ways to turn your leads into a relationship that will benefit both parties. I believe that I can help one person a day just by writing this blog and supporting them in someway.

The marketing community has the best support for online marketers. When you plug into any of the marketing communities with or without a membership, there are people to support you with expert training and support from marketers of all ages and in all stages of marketing. The people you connect with are having or had the same experiences as you are having now in marketing. They love to help you grow, take pride in the way they share and are more willing to point you in the right direction.

Some of us start sell products that enhance your health and well-being and as we grow in our experience we want to pay it forward. This confirms that the training we complete is worth it’s weight in gold. Paying it forward not only enriches your income, it all so enriches your soul. Training is great and the community backs it up with sharing their experiences on web sites and pages they create on social site like twitter and face book.

Marketers that have integrity will introduce you to education supportive companies with a marketing platform that bring income opportunity. Education with the steps that lead you to success. We share secrets of the trade and direct you how to use them. Back it up with webinars, three-way calls, seminars, conventions and when needed one on one training.

Marketing is introducing people to the opportunity to train with companies that have trainers that making 6 to 7 figures and are willing to train you how to do it. We take pride in our education and teaching it to you. As you plug-in the world of marketing unfolds in front of you, most of the training that I am doing I earn as I learn, so it pays for its self every month. This is why we are so passionate about what we do and how we can make the claims of success.

Some of us start at the bottom level and the only way to go is up. As we market and learn the tricks of the trade a wealth of knowledge unfolds. We are excited about how far we have come and that is why we can’t wait to promote the people and the products they introduced us to. Embrace the marketing community, go forward with your team building relationships, wealth and success.