Whether you are an organization of 5,000 or 5, marketing will be the key to success. Yet many organizations do not know where to begin. And even organizations with highly-skilled marketing departments may not have their priorities in place. A marketing audit could be the most valuable investment you make in your company. Let's find out how to conduct a marketing audit.
Time Required: Two Months
Healthcare organizations are running a thousand miles an hour. Marketers are pushed from all sides to please multiple constituents. Often that means trying to be too many things for too many people with a result of watered down and unfocused tactics and in short ineffective marketing. Even mom and pop operations know the value of marketing but often do not know where to start.
A marketing audit might just be the best investment you ever make. Start by committing to one.
Answer the Following
- Are we focused on the right things?
- Do we have the capital and manpower to implement a plan?
- Do we have the right skill-sets in place?
- Are we paying attention to marketing fundamentals?
- Who are the consumers of our communication and what do they want to know and how do they want to receive the information?
In regards to that last bullet, an audit helps you identify the key communication subjects and the best communications methods to use so that audiences actually receive information, understand it, believe it and take actions that contribute to meeting your organization’s objectives. Once you have determined these, you can then evaluate staffing levels, skills and deployment to align with the ideal communication mix and media.
Draw a Line in the Sand
Marketers have a hard time saying no. And that is especially true if they have no real sense of what is important to market. Consider constructing a grid to objectively hone in on what you should be marketing.
Start a Spreadsheet
- Down the left hand column, list all the services / products you want to market.
- Across the top, add the reasons (we call it criterium) for potentially marketing a product or service. For example, if we market this (x) what will be -
- the impact on market share/volumes?
- the profit margin/financial return?
- your Organizational Readiness, that is ability to actually render the service if you are overwhelmed with marketing demand?
- the level of capital required to bring the service/product to where it can be marketed?
Now for each service, rank the criteria from 1 to 5, 1 having the lowest impact and 5 having the most impact. For example, if I market home care services in my primary service area and conclude that I can capture 50% more market share, I would probably rate that a 5, very impactful.
Add Up The Scores
You should have a number for each service/product. The top three highest scoring items should be those you give 90% of your marketing thrust.
Interview the Execs
You can arrive at the items to put on the spreadsheet by interviewing the executive team. By engaging you typically come away with a strong sense of organizational priorities and also gain valuable insight into what is and what is not currently working in the organization and in marketing. You start to understand the executives’ role in the communication process too. And that sets the stage for buy in of recommendations to come later. And if you are an organization of “one” well this serves as a great exercise to ground and focus you.
Take a Snapshot
You continue the audit by establishing a complete picture of the competitive environment at this point in time. Review all pertinent information that influences marketing and communication strategies - Vision/Mission, the Strategic Plan, Statistics, Financials, Patient Type/Demographic, Market Share, Competitiors, Research.As you do this you will start uncovering:
- Who the real customers are.
- The buying process.
- Brand perception and loyalty.
- What customers 'value' and how you provide that 'value.'
- The marketing plans and strategies of the competition.
- The level of adoption of mobile and Internet technologies.
- Marketing communications uses of technology and media.
- How or if you measure return on investment.
Make Key Observations
Make key observations around these areas but keep it manageable.
If I were a physician in my area of NC looking at this data say in 2005 I would have discovered people like me, newly transplanted Yankees! We moved south for a better quality of life. And because of the lower cost of real estate and of living, we have more disposable income. We are an audience that would be very receptive to this notion of “boutique medicine,” in which physicians provide a concierge level of healthcare service for a price.
Your research can reveal the market type and even the receptivity and willingness to pay out of pocket for services.
Refine the Plan
By first figuring out just what makes sense to market and then using all of the data and research to determine the best way to reach the intended audiences, you have cleared the way for the writing of a strategic marketing plan, emphasis on the strategic. You may even consider an outside firm for an audit, one that can then assist you in writing an objective plan.
How many times have organizations looked back at one of their old marketing plans and realized that maybe 80% of the tactics are still nothing more than words on paper? Reasons abound: not enough time; not enough staff; not enough budget. Another possibility could be that you do not have the right staff in place, the skills necessary to execute what you planned or the deployment of staff in the right way. An audit evaluates these issues so that you end up with a plan that can be implemented.
Marketing and communication roles, responsibilities and deliverables are assessed. Individual staff interviews help you gain perspective of each individual member. Shadowing staffers gives you another perspective of how they are spending their time.Answer these questions:
- How is our marketing team organized?
- How efficient is our marketing team?
- How effective is our marketing team?
- How does our marketing team interface with other organizations and internal functions?
Match, Retrain, Hire
Match the skill sets of the team to the deliverables desired. Retrain employees if you can or bring in the skills you need.
Pay Attention to the Details.
Evaluate every piece of your tangible marketing – collateral, advertising, brand standards, internet presence – against everything you have now uncovered. As strategy moves toward market action, every initiative needs to be fine-tuned. At this stage with everything in front of you look for common themes: brand consistency, language, calls to action, images, and mediums. Evaluate the web from content and site flow to SEO. If there is information lacking at this point consider doing the necessary quantitative or qualitative research to fill the gaps.
What emerges is a checklist for marketers going forward of things that must be accomplished in their initiatives. Sometimes the marketer is so close to the product that they sometimes miss the fundamentals. Understanding the genesis, purpose, content, design, audience, effectiveness and results of what you currently deliver can set the stage for better execution of future deliverables.
Now you can define the key messages that will trigger people to action. You now move from strategy to very specific implementation considerations, marketing tactics, messages and mediums.
A marketing audit should be a fundamental step in reassessing, retuning and restarting your marketing. Whether you are an organization of 5,000 or 1, an audit is valuable. You have limited resources for marketing. And this allows you to focus them.
Whether you have the objectivity to step away and do it on your own or can bring in someone to do an audit, it pays for itself in ROI down the road.
- Take it one step at a time. If not you will be overwhelmed.
- At each stage, make key observations. Just one or two. These often become the basis for your marketing plan and initiatives.
- No Means No. You owe to it yourself and to your organization to market just what will contribute to organizational goals and bottom line. It may mean saying no to doing that special event near and dear to the CEO. Be strong!