It feels good to have bench strength.Â That thought occured to me this morning as I was in the middle of writing a proposal to do a brand audit for a large organization. My bench strength comes from my partners: companies and individuals I work with regularly to deliver expert advice on everything from market research toÂ how well yourÂ web services are performing. They complement my skills and experience in issues management, public relations and marketing.
Brand audits are useful exercises to go through from time to time. They force you to take a critical look at your organization, how it is communicating and how it is perceived. So when should you hire someone to conduct a brand audit? (And you should always outsource this to ensure you’re getting an objective report.) Here are some signs that may indicate you need an audit:
- Your market share for a product or service has started to slide.
- You see evidence that you’re not reaching your target market (ie. you see grey hair in your store when you want to see pink!).
- Your industry has experienced a major technological change recently (and whose hasn’t, come to think of it?).
- One of your product lines seems out of step with the rest of your organization.
- You are about to enter a brand new market.
- You haven’t changed your marketing since 1995.
A brand or communications audit will take a critical look at what you have been doing, why and where it’s been succeeding and failing. Using quantitative and qualitative data, a good brand audit will start with your organization’s core purpose and values. It should investigate your business goals and then turn a trained eye on your strategy and tactics.
Audits should also make effective use of research. That may mean a combination of focus groups and surveys… and it most certainly should include analyzing how people are reaching you online. How do they find your site? Where do they go once they’re there? What’s your conversion rate?
In the end, a good audit should be therapeutic. It should give you a diagnosis of your current challenges, explain how you got to where you are today, and prescribe solutions for the future. It takes courage to call for one, but that’s a sign of a leader, isn’t it?