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Marketing Audits: A closer look at the foundation of our work

March 13, 2012

Today’s post was written by Jennifer Shelby, account director at Rhino Public Relations. Questions or comments? E-mail her at or visit

We were recently engaged to perform a marketing audit for a small AEC firm grappling with how to better position itself within the marketplace. The result was a fascinating (and geekily satisfying) deconstruction of their current marketing efforts with suggestions for improvement, areas of identified growth, and a much needed discussion on the importance that all facets of marketing play in our industry.

Why do it? The act of breaking down regular activities and looking at not only the process in place, but also the reasons for conducting business as you do, can be an eye opening experience that provides valuable insight to all involved. Much like a SWOT analysis, a marketing audit will identify areas of strength and weakness, and provide an opportunity to prioritize improvements that benefit the entire organization.

What to look at: Anything and everything! Every piece of marketing should have a purpose behind it, meaning every piece, from proposals to the website, should be evaluated.

  • We broke down the proposal process from RFP through submission, looking at the graphics including headers, footers, readability, production, and formatting, and evaluated the content, its relevance to the RFP criteria, and the way the company presented its qualifications.
  • We also participated in the preparation and practice for an interview, organizing responses and breaking down how the message related to the objectives of the owner, while guiding the team on how best to interact with the selection committee.
  • We went through their website page by page and identified areas that work as well as those that could use a facelift. We also focused a critical eye on consistency of message and how it is presented to the viewer. We proofread text, navigated from page to page for user-friendliness, and gave an honest and objective impression of the site in relation to others in our client’s competitive field.
  • Finally, we provided additional suggestions in areas they could consider in order to strengthen their marketing efforts. These included, but were not limited to: thought leadership, speaking engagements, award submissions, media relations, and networking through association involvement. The audit even included how to best organize marketing materials through the implementation of a content management system (CMS) database, a suggestion that was very much appreciated in what appeared to be an ‘a-ha’ moment for our client.

After the fact: The act of breaking down all marketing activities with the purpose of identifying areas of improvement and prioritizing marketing and BD efforts gave our client a roadmap for how to better navigate an increasingly competitive environment. This exercise forced our client to consider areas for improvement and gave them an opportunity to learn how an outside, objective eye views their firm.

This effort had an unexpected outcome for us as well. Not only did we thoroughly enjoy the act of digging into a program and providing counsel on how to progress, but we also felt confirmed that a well-executed marketing plan has a concrete bottom-line impact on business development. As marketers in a technical industry, our jobs are often misunderstood by the very internal clients we are trying to help. By performing an audit and looking at the reasons why we do what we do, we gained a keener perspective on how strategic initiatives in marketing and business development augment and amplify the efforts of strong technical content, and together can produce great work.

Should you do one? Absolutely. Although you could perform an audit internally, chances are you are too close to your procedures and have little time to perform one adequately. By engaging a third-party, you get a fresh perspective unhindered by habit and familiarity. This isn’t the type of activity that needs to happen regularly to be effective, but it should be performed annually or biannually to maintain consistency with current marketing practices. Similar to performing a SWOT analysis on a new venture, a marketing audit can supply valuable insight into creating an effective communications strategy that compliments business development efforts.

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