This is the first in a series of posts about how Small Businesses can perform a Do-It-Yourself brand audit.
“You can’t embark on any new marketing until you’ve had a brand audit done!”
“I don’t even know what that is… seriously.”
“You hire a marketing firm or ad agency and they come in and tell you how people see you brand.”
“You mean, what they think of my logo and my ads?”
“Yeah, and then what you need to do to meet your goals.”
Assumptions (before you read further): You understand that your brand and your logo are NOT the same thing. You understand that while advertising is a form of marketing, all marketing is not advertising. And that branding is more (much more) than either one of them.
A brand audit is a good idea for all businesses, but unless you have many locations, lots of employees, multiple campaigns across multiple channels… you can do at least a preliminary one on your own. Here’s how:
Accept that you’ve made mistakes – begin with the attitude that you will discover some things about your brand and company that might be painful. Decide (now) that this is a voyage of discovery and the end result will be a stronger, better-positioned company.
Map your touchpoints – Every way you interact with your customers and every place you attempt to influence them. Obvious ones include ads (yellow pages? online? TV? newspaper? Football booster poster?) and brochures. Less obvious ones might include the signage on your company van, envelopes, invoices, how the phone is answered, what your front door looks like, employee uniforms/appearances, online presence, community involvement… Really think about this. It doesn’t matter what the INTENT was (ad on the football booster program to support the program, not to gain customers). If it does or potentially could touch your customers or prospects, include it. Visuals work well here (take a snapshot of your front door, your van, one of your employees on the job, etc.). Ask your employees to help you think of ways you touch customers that might be out of the ordinary.
Gather some opinion – If you aren’t tech-savvy, a friend who knows how to help you set up Google alerts, search social networks and generally do some listening is really helpful for this part. If you are interweb-friendly, take a look around the web. What are people saying on sites like Yelp, Epinions and CitySearch? Look up what local sites have to say about you… if you’re a dentist, for instance, search for common phrases like, “dentist in [your community]” to see what’s being said, on what sites. Many sites exist out there purporting to be “portals” for people to find information on services (like dentists) but really are just scraping the web, listing what they find, and making money off of serving Google ads (for dentists, teeth whitening, etc.) when people visit the “listings page.” If inaccurate info is out there (wrong phone numbers, work hours, specialties, etc.) then try to get it updated or changed.
Gather your financials, invoices, etc. – You need to know where your money comes from… and from whom. Where does the profit in your business really live? Many businesses we’ve worked with have started the audit process telling us they want to move their brand to “x” but when we delve into this part… their money, lifeblood, where people trust and connect with them, is “y.” Unless there’s a very, very good reason, trying to change y to x is a difficult (at best) and disastrous (at worst) proposition. A better one is to see where in the y space you can expand, improve or illuminate new markets.
This is a good time of year to begin an audit process… you’re dealing with your end-of-the-year financials anyway, and most businesses are thinking about next year’s marketing initiatives.
In the next post in this series, we’ll be talking about what to DO with all this fabulous info you’ve gathered. If you think of/know of other types of info you think would be relevant to beginning a brand audit, please share them in the comments. Also… have you been through an audit? Good outcome? Bad outcome? Please share! 🙂
Image credit from Flikr user tiffanyday