A quick check-up at the doctor’s; temperature, blood pressure, pulse etc can give a snap-shot of your general health. This can provide reassurance, result in some simple suggestions for improvements or lead to more in-depth investigations.
Taking time to review your marketing activity can provide similar benefits.
Whilst undertaking a full review can be time-consuming, even a top-level look at your company’s marketing outputs can reveal a great deal.
Structuring your review
The most visible parts of your business are your communications materials, both off-line and on-line, so reviewing these will give you a good indication of whether your marketing is in good health.
Pull together a checklist of all your existing communications materials and channels: website, social media and networking accounts (eg LinkedIn), brochures and flyers, presentations, quotations and sales pitches, signage and vehicle livery, proposal documents and price lists, adverts, newsletters, emails, boilerplate (standardised text(s)) and so on. Don’t forget little things such as letterheads and business cards.
Against each element, make a note of who it is aimed at and what its purpose is – what you aim to achieve with it.
If it’s a long list and feels like too much to take on in one go then break it down into manageable sections and work your way through these in turn. You could think about the list in terms of on-line and off-line; customer segments; frequency of use; or another more logical way to split things up and prioritise areas for your business.
Once you have your list, run through the material in each section, checking that it is healthy and fit for purpose.
What to check for
Is it consistent?
Having consistency of company branding and description, language style, tone and content would suggest that your activity is well planned and thought through. A lack of consistency, however, may indicate a more haphazard, reactive approach or simply that the different elements have been developed at different times and/or by different people. This applies not just from one piece of print to the next, but across all channels. Your language may, of course, vary between outputs (your brochure copy will not be the same as your Twitter content!) but it’s essential that you are conveying consistent messages.
If you have brand guidelines or a style guide – particularly important when you have multiple people creating content – are these being followed?
Is it accurate?
This often suffers when we are busy and juggling too many tasks. Spelling, grammar, layout and facts (prices, dates, contact details, opening hours) are critical in conveying a professional image and in making sure your customers have the correct information. Do the links in your web pages and social media content lead to the right places? We all make mistakes but with a little extra care and planning most can be avoided.
Marketing content that is riddled with errors reflects a lack of attention to detail and can look unprofessional. It can also be the source of great irritation to your audience! In the worst cases, it can land you in trouble. Two simple tactics are key here. Firstly, always get someone else to proof outputs before they are signed off or published. Secondly create a calendar for reviewing existing content and allocate time (preferably delegated!) to review each area of your marketing regularly.
For more detailed advice about creating error-free materials see our tips for proofreading.
Is it up to date?
Make sure that everything you are putting out to your audience is up to date. If you are working to develop a relationship with your customers and want them to keep coming back to see what you have to say, it’s essential to offer engaging (and, again, accurate) new content to keep them on board. Things to ask yourself include:
- Are the flyers/brochures you used for the last event still valid or should you bin them?
- When was the last time you posted to your social media channels or updated your news page or blog? If you’re not posting, should you keep the channel or remove it?
- Are the case histories and/or testimonials you use recent enough?
Does it fit with the company and the audience?
All your communications should have a look and feel which fits with how you see yourself as a company; your core values and approach to business. This should be conveyed through your communications materials – in the styles, words and images you use. Check for any dissonance: eg is yours a company which says it is friendly and approachable but doesn’t use any people in its on-line imagery?
Even if your materials are consistent, accurate and up to date, if you aren’t using the appropriate language and messages to appeal to your target audience then your communications are unlikely to be achieving their goals. It’s essential that you understand what motivates customers and why they buy from you, then translate this for the specific audience you are trying to reach.
Are you measuring performance?
Do you have any measures in place which will tell you if your activity is a success? If you don’t know what good looks like, how will you measure your achievements and Return on Investment (ROI)?
To extend the medical metaphor, it’s no good checking your blood pressure if you don’t know what a healthy reading should be or, in fact, what yours was last time. Measures are useful not only for comparing your performance with others’ and with industry standards, but also to track your own progress over time. Setting targets is key – and these need to be SMART.
While many of the items in this health check-list appear at first to be superficial detail they can, in fact, be good indicators of the underlying state of your marketing and should not be dismissed as trivial. Correcting any faults that you uncover won’t act as a complete remedy but will put your mind at rest about your current activity and outputs. The process will also be helpful in identifying where more detailed work is needed. In the same way that a medical check-up may highlight the need for an organised fitness regime, it’s likely that a marketing review will flag up the need for better planning!
Even when you can see the value of checking the health of your marketing, it can be difficult to self-diagnose – you’re too close to the day-to-day and you have ownership of what’s been done. In this situation, it can be helpful to have an outside perspective and we can help, so do get in touch to find out more about how we can assist you.