This article was first published on LINKEDIN (!) 5 years ago. Consistently Blogging was/is not my strong point. Anywho, you can view the original post here.
First up we have: A is for Audit.
Brand Audits are worthless!….said NO SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS EVER. The word “audit” may sound intimidating, but fear not! Audits can be simple or extremely detailed depending on what your particular business goals are. First off let’s define what an audit is.
au·dit ˈôdət/ noun.
- an official inspection of an individual’s or organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body.
Specifically, a brand audit does not technically look into finances – more concern is on the effectiveness of business strategy and identity in order to get those lovely finances growing. In the rest of this post, I will go over the importance of an audit, what should be included and how to use it to better your business.
The Importance of an Audit
Audits are extremely helpful in that they give an overall view of the current state or effectiveness of your business identity and strategies. Conducting a proper audit allows you to see areas that need improvement, recognize new opportunities or clear out strategies that no longer serve your business. They can and should cover three specific areas of business that I like to call: Inner, Outer and Inter.
Inner covers all the details within the structure of your business such as long term goals, target audience, mission statement, and SWOT analysis. (SWOT analysis covers the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of your business.)
Outer covers how your business looks and acts (branding). Think of your logo and other collateral materials.
Inter covers all things on the web. How well your branding and business performs on website and social media profiles.
It is possible to do a brand audit yourself, but beware. A little thing called ‘being objective’ eludes some people and will skew the results of your audit. If you are capable of separating yourself from the business to see what is not working then go for it on your own. If not, It is best to have a professional, who will know exactly what questions to ask and what to look for.
What should be included
To conduct a comprehensive brand audit there are some key areas that you will want to take note of such as:
Business Plan (Inner) – Mission, vision, target audience, growth strategy and so on. Are they aligned with the messages you are putting out through branding and marketing strategies?
Branding (outer) – Logo, graphics, typography, messaging and so on. Are they consistent and aligned with your target audience?
Website (Inter) – analyze website traffic, compare page views, bounce rates and even where your page referrals are coming from. Is it easy for your audience to navigate and find important information?
Social Media Profiles (Inter) – Look at consistency of branding and activity. Do they all serve your purpose?
Competitor Analysis (Inner) – Do an overview of the above points with your competitor. Maybe they have a stronger brand image or maybe they are blogging and you are not. Compare the differences in what your competitors are doing in order to see what is working for them that could work for you too. This does not mean mimic exactly what they are doing – but implement strategies that align with your business in your own way.
How to start and implement findings
A quick way to get started on your own brand audit: Google Yourself – I mean it! When you Google your business name, it will give an idea of which online presences are doing the best and the worst. You will want to take note of which profiles are shown on the results page and even which ones are not. This will tell you which profiles need work for better results (SEO) or which profiles need deleted altogether. Wouldn’t you be embarrassed if your old MySpace or LiveJournal profile came up while searching for your business (or maybe not!)? Try this with not only your business name, but add in various keywords such as your services and location.
Consistency is Key
Look over all your business materials (online and offline) and see if they are consistent with each other. Are you using the same profile image, same profile name, similar biography for each social media profile? Do your online profiles match up with all your printed materials such as business cards, brochures, or flyers? These may not seem like a big deal but it all comes down to association and building trust. The more people see your business in a consistent manner, the better they will remember you by.
For instance, people expect McDonald’s logo to be the signature yellow – if you show up to the drive-thru one day and see green arches – think of your reaction! If you do not have a consistent brand image or if you are constantly changing up your brand, it will be difficult for people to create that important connection in their minds and come back to your for your services. Believe it or not, one super significant, but hidden factor that underlies consistency in branding is a big one… TRUST. Poor SEO, especially related to inconsistent branding will lead to lack of trust. Read my previous post on this subject What is Branding & Why Does My Business Need it?
Bring it all together
An overall brand audit gives you the bigger picture of your brand fidelity – and even your competitors’. Maybe sales have dropped, clients are turning elsewhere, or maybe the business is going in a new direction and needs a brand makeover. For any of these instances, a brand audit will help determine the business’ strengths and weaknesses in brand identity and the connection to your intended audience. If you have ever wondered why your competitor is rocking their business, why you are not showing up in Google search results or why your audience is not engaging more – an audit is in order. The information helps you to determine the changes needed to bring your business up to par and connect deeper with your audience.