Marketing health check: a step by step plan for success.

Posted on
December 8, 2020
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Marketing Strategy
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A Marketing Health Check can identify any issues in your current marketing, so you can make a solid plan.

The experts at Purpose Media have put together this simple marketing health check, with 12 key tests, to help you understand your current situation and what you need to prioritise.

Purpose Media’s Marketing health check gives you questions, checks and analysis to help you understand how effective your marketing strategy is, and tips for you to make it better.

Typically the end of the year means putting plans in place for the year ahead. If we look back to the end of 2019 we can all be pretty sure that 2020 didn’t turn out the way we envisioned, which has perhaps given us marketing types even more motivation to get plans together for 2021.

When you’re putting a plan together it’s always a good idea to get a good understanding of your current situation, so you’re starting as strong as possible. Much like a check-up at the dentist or doctor, it’s not always nice or comfortable, but much better to find a problem early.

In this marketing health check, we’ll take a look at 3 important areas, your brand basics, marketing strategy and digital activity. So relax, say ahhh and (hopefully) you won’t feel a thing.

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Marketing Health Check Part 1 – Brand Basics

Asking yourself some questions about your brand will help you to see if there’s some essential work to be done around who you are and what you stand for. It can sound very ‘top level’ but confused brands that aren’t sure of their market or offer struggle to communicate, and that means they struggle to sell.

If any of these tests make you feel a bit uncomfortable it means they probably need some work. Make some time to fix them before you start moving on to a wider marketing strategy because these are the foundations you need for success, and you could end up wasting valuable time if they aren’t right.

Brand Basics Test 1: Describe your brand.

Can you easily communicate what makes you different, your values, your tone of voice and your place in the market.

The classic elevator pitch with a little more ‘zing’ – this isn’t just for potential customers this should be the golden thread that runs through your business, so your team and clients should all be saying something similar.

Communicating what your business is all about should be easy for you. Ideally, you should be able to succinctly summarise the key points and give plenty of extra details when needed.

Think about the language you’ve used. It should be clear and precise. If you find yourself talking in circles or using words that you typically wouldn’t use – there’s something wrong. Take some time to write it out and read it back, the golden rule is to keep it simple.

How does your brand truly set itself apart from your competitors? Potentially tweak your message to ensure what makes you different really stands out.

Next steps: Ask a team mate (potentially someone who isn’t directly involved in marketing) to do the same task, your answers should be similar.

Brand Basics Test 2: Describe your target customer.

Can you do this without using demographics?

A successful answer moves away from basic descriptors (mothers of young children, men in their 20’s, etc.). Instead, you should be able to provide a well-rounded answer that looks at the decision making process of customers, and provides a solution to their problems. You should also consider their attitudes, aspirations and values too.

Let’s say an artisan gin producer is responding to this test.

Which target customer would be more useful from a marketing perspective?

  1. Adults with an income of over £40k
  2. Professional adults who want high-quality drinks to enjoy at home

Option B gives us more direction on how to target our customer. We can build marketing campaigns and even flavours, bottle designs and distribution channels around this market – we’re on the way to building an avatar we can target better.

Next steps: Is your target customer clear enough? If you’re focused on demographics take some time to dive a little deeper.

Brand Basics Test 3: Which channels do you use and why?

Consider your digital (website, social media) and physical (mail, events) channels.

You need to build a list of every channel you use to communicate with prospects and customers and, perhaps more importantly, you should be able to justify why you’ve used them.

If you’re struggling to find good reasons, it’s worth taking a look at how you use these particular channels. Maybe it’s time to rethink your marketing setup.

Next steps: Are there marketing channels you need to drop? Are your customers using channels where you don’t have a presence? Consider how you will adapt to get your brand seen and make sure you’re not wasting your time and effort posting somewhere your customers won’t see it.

Brand Basics Test 4: What’s the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing budget?

Does your marketing spend make you money? If you’re finding it hard to work out ROI (PR or networking are good examples), use estimates or anecdotal evidence – aka, go with your gut.

In a perfect world, you’d be tracking every penny spent on marketing with the orders that come in as a result. Even segmenting this into the overall marketing budget and then individual campaigns, so it’s clear what’s working and what isn’t.

In reality, you might not have the time, access to data or tools to track everything, but estimates can still be helpful. The main thing is to have a grasp on what you’re spending and how well that spend performs.

Either way, understanding which marketing tactics and campaigns are bringing you business is essential.

Next steps: Are there better ways for you to measure marketing ROI? How will you track and record your data for better visibility?

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Marketing Health Check Part 2 – Marketing Strategy

We’re one third through the Marketing Health Check and this is where the check-up starts to get a little more difficult. Think of the first bit as the tick boxes in the waiting room, now you’re in the Doctor’s room and the physical exam is getting started while we check the ins and outs of your marketing strategy.

Marketing Strategy Test 1: What are your marketing goals and overarching mission? Are you working towards them?

You can pull these directly from a marketing strategy document (if you have one) or, try to formalise whatever informal goals you’ve had in place.

A strong answer will feature measurable goals that are both specific and achievable.

You should be able to explain how much progress you’ve made towards each of your goals from within a short-term (3 months) to long term (1 year) range. Good examples would be growth in customers or website enquiries.

Rate your performance against each out of ten, where ten means you’ve completely achieved your target and one signifies no progress. Then you can see how far you’ve come.

Next steps: Adjust or add to your objectives and keep them in mind as you plan ahead. Your marketing should always have your goals in mind. If you’re undertaking any marketing that won’t help you reach your goals – then consider if you should go ahead.

Marketing Strategy Test 2. How does your marketing strategy compare with that of your competitors?

Check out your main competitors and be honest with yourself if you don’t match up.

It’s unlikely you’ll know the marketing strategies of the competition, but you can learn from them. Keep an eye on their communication, from their website to social media and other channels. It doesn’t mean you should copy, by understanding the markets they’re aiming for and the strategy to help them get there, you can ensure you’re not wasting time and resources fighting over the same customers when you could diversify elsewhere.

When it comes to competition it doesn’t hurt to learn from their successes and failures, and it’s always good to focus on what makes your business different.

Next steps: Have competitors shifted their marketing strategy in response to yours? What do you need to do to level up?

Marketing Strategy Test 3: Do your day-to-day marketing activities fit with your strategy?

The test: Do your day to day actions line up with the bigger strategy?

You’re busy, you have stuff to get on with… it’s easy to get so focused on dealing with day to day work you forget about the bigger picture.

This check looks at the marketing tasks you actually complete, and if these align with the overarching marketing plan you have. There’s not much point having a strategy if you don’t have time to follow it.

Next steps: If you’re not applying your strategy when you should, see if there are any marketing tasks you can offload or automate to leave more time for strategic tactics.

Marketing Strategy Test 4. How does your marketing strategy tell stories and provide solutions to problems?

Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk has over 50 million views for a reason, it’s absolutely right! Successful marketing should have emotional and logical appeal.

‘You can have a car painted in any colour, as long as it’s black’. Did Henry Ford really say it? Does it matter? The fact that this is a tale many of us know and repeat just goes to prove storytelling in marketing can turn something boring into something engaging, we’re still talking about the colour (or lack of) of the Model T car 100 years later.

Tell stories through your marketing. Case studies, testimonials and video is a great way of doing this. It helps customers to visualize how your product or service would fit in their lives and builds trust.

It’s important to back up your stories, and appeal to the logical, numbers-driven side of our brains, with evidence and data. Stats are great, but it can be a good idea to communicate these in terms of problems and solutions.

Use data to demonstrate a before and after, compare results for customers who used your products or services and those who didn’t. Show people how you’ve made a difference and back it up with evidence.

You should assess how your marketing strategy utilises these techniques.

Next steps: Take a closer look at the language and tone of your communications, could it be more engaging?

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Marketing Health Check part 3 – Digital Activity

Digital marketing can help you directly target a larger audience at a lower cost than physical campaigns could ever manage. It’s easier than ever to get online and with mobile technology in the palm of our hands, it’s little wonder that most brands are prioritising marketing online.

You should be too, so in the last section of the Marketing Health Check, we’ll give you some tests to see if your digital approach is healthy.

Digital Activity Test 1: Take a look at your content strategy, where does SEO fit in?

We’re talking about blog content, social media, guest posts etc.

Any marketer worth their salt knows that content is important. You know that SEO is too. But do you have a content creation strategy?

You should be able to show how you plan, publish and promote content. Do you have link-building strategies, do you know which keywords you want to target and what types of content (video, blogs, case studies) do you plan to produce? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these questions, your content strategy needs work.

Next steps: Investigate which SEO tactics have been effective? Can you see where your content strategy is letting you down? If there is an obvious weakness you can take steps to improve.

Digital Activity Test 2. How has your website traffic, content reach and social media followers changed over time?

Review a period of at least six months, and look at different traffic sources, such as organic vs. social.

All the main social networks have built-in analytics tools, and you should use Google Analytics on your website to keep track of traffic. With data readily available, you might as well use it! It’s surprising many people don’t.

Success in this area is different for every business. Maybe you’ll be happy if your traffic increases by 10% over the year, or perhaps you want it to double across the same period.

It’s best to focus on the channels that are most important to you. For an antique furniture dealer, that might be Instagram. If you’re B2B, LinkedIn figures or website traffic will be more useful.

Next Steps: How are the sources of website traffic changing over time? What does this mean for your marketing strategy?

Digital Activity Test 3. Describe your approach to email marketing.

Think about frequency, reach and results.

Email marketing has the potential to be a valuable source of website traffic but without the right strategy, it can potentially do more harm than good. Mismanaged Email marketing could frustrate existing loyal customers, definitely something we don’t want to do!

When you think about your answer to this test, do you mention providing value to your subscribers? How about offering promotions, discounts, or insights through email? If your mailers aren’t giving your subscribers anything then why would they engage?

To be engaging they also have to look good and read well. You should also understand how formatting, subject lines and content impact on open rates.

On the other hand, if you tend to take an ‘as and when’ approach to email marketing, now might be the time to sort out a strategy.

Next steps: Tidy your subscriber lists and check out your mail platform, could it be better?

Digital Activity Test 4. How do you manage the perception of your brand? Do you have any style guidelines?

Think about tone, image sizes and formats, as well as any rules on visuals.

No one can do all of the work needed to get your brand noticed alone, you need help. So you get team members to pitch in, but if multiple people post content on your blog and social media channels, you need to set up guidelines for consistency. If we go back to Brand Basics tests 1 and 2 you should have some tools in place to say the right things to the right people, but if the way you talk is massively different across different channels and posts, it can be confusing.

A style guide should cover everything from the basics (how to use your logo, recommended image sizes for the blog) to specifics such as whether to capitalise certain product-related words and when and where you might use emojis.

If you don’t have any guidelines down on paper, we recommend getting some together, like, right now.

Follow up: How do you manage who posts what and when? Is it worth investigating management tools?

What to do if you’re not fighting fit…

If you’ve found some of the tasks in this Marketing Health Check challenging, confusing or downright frustrating don’t panic! The whole point (and benefit) of a health check is finding problems early so you can start to make it better.

Our advice? Start small. Treatment could be just 5 minutes a day to focus on your message and goals and start building from there. It can be a daunting task, but broken down into steps and with the right help – you can do amazing things.

These checks are a great way to see where you are right now and start to plan for the future, but you may need specialist help if you’re worried there’s something you can’t treat yourself.

If you’d like some support from a team of experts, that might just cure your marketing ills, get in touch with the team at Purpose Media, we’d be happy to help.