When we begin the process of creating a marketing plan or set of marketing recommendations for one of our nonprofit clients, the process starts with a fact-finding mission in the form of a marketing audit. Our objective: to learn what is and isn’t working with the marketing the organization already conducts.
Whether you do it on your own or work with a firm like Prosper Strategies, a marketing audit should be the first step in any marketing planning effort. These findings are what ensure your plan actually addresses your organization’s needs in a meaningful way, and applies the lessons from your existing efforts to optimize your ongoing marketing.
With all that in mind, here’s how to begin a marketing audit, including what to look at and how to find the most actionable information.
Set up a marketing audit by identifying what you need to learn
Begin by identifying which of the following marketing categories apply to your organization. Then, strive to answer the following questions. This process can be quite time consuming, so we recommend getting started a few weeks before you intend to dive into your marketing planning if possible. Ideally, if you have multiple people working on your marketing, you can split up this process and have each member of the team review the areas they know best.
Organic Social Media
- Are we reaching the intended audience? If not, why not?
- Do our followers respond to the content we’re sharing? Do they show preferences for some elements of our content over others?
- Over the past quarter, has our social media performance improved or backslid? What about over the past year?
- Is our social engagement translating to meaningful donations, volunteering or other larger goals? If so, what’s driving it? If not, where is the breakdown?
Paid Social Media
- Are our ads accomplishing their stated purpose, whether that is awareness-building, lead-generating or donation-driving?
- Are our ads targeted in ways that mesh with our marketing goals?
- Have longstanding ad messages lost their effectiveness? Could they benefit from a refresh?
- How does the cost per lead or cost per donation line up with other methods of reaching your audience?
- Does the campaign structure and targeting fit our current needs and organizational goals?
- Are Google Ads driving valuable engagement with our site, or do users quickly bounce away? If they bounce, are the ads or the landing pages the culprit?
- Are we bidding on keywords that make sense for our goals and maximize our marketing spend?
- Are we using all the tools Google Ads provides to test and optimize ads?
- Has our ad performance improved over the past quarter? What about the past year? If not what’s missing?
- Are our contacts segmented in a way that allows us to send the right messages to the right people?
- Is the volume of emails we send too much, too little or just right?
- How engaged is our audience? Has email engagement improved over the past quarter? The past year?
- What sorts of emails generate engagement and which fall flat? What about specific campaigns?
- Are we using email sequences to nurture our audience to take desired actions? If so, are they working?
- What are the primary purposes of our blog? To bring in new traffic to our website, to inform our existing audience, to build thought leadership? Do our traffic and engagement numbers suggest that we are accomplishing those goals?
- Does our blog drive readers to other areas of our site? If so, are they the right areas?
- What stands out about the blogs that find an engaged audience and those that don’t?
- What sort of social engagement do our blogs generate?
- Is our blog performance rising or falling? What old blogs remain perennial favorites, and which fade away?
- What are the top-performing pages? Are any major pages, such as the donation or volunteer page, significantly unperforming?
- What sources bring in the most traffic?
- What pages perform best in organic search?
- How are bounce and exit rates across the site? What about on key pages?
- How often does our donation page lead to donations? If we can’t track this information because of our current web setup, what do we need to change?
- Are our web metrics on a positive or negative trend?
- What donations did our direct mail campaign drive this year? Did these results improve over last year or not?
- How did we change the messaging, design or sending schedule of our direct mail this year, and how might that have impacted the results?
Home in on the insights behind the information
The key to a successful marketing audit is not just to collect a pile of data, but also to sift through that data for the meaningful tidbits of information, like a miner panning for gold. Google Analytics alone can provide you with an almost endless list of numbers, but they mean nothing without context. Instead of over-focusing on what the metrics looked like at any given moment in time, dissect the trends you see for clues to which marketing actions impacted overall results.
Moreover, keep your key marketing goals in mind. Ultimately, you’re looking to achieve organizational goals like building awareness, increasing the pool of potential donors or convincing more people to seek out your services. That may mean that one or more channels or tactics just isn’t a good fit for your organization, and that’s ok. In the end, the audit shouldn’t just look for ways to increase the performance of your Facebook ads, for example, it should help you answer the question of whether Facebook ads are the right fit for your audience.
As you work through the questions above, dive deep into each section and let your findings guide you. If the information you find raises new questions, take the time to explore them. The time you invest in an audit will pay off significantly in the effectiveness of your marketing in the coming year.
Want a partner to audit your marketing?
This winter, we’re offering a special four-week program to help nonprofits meet the new year with effective, compelling marketing. From now through the first quarter of 2021, we’re offering a limited number of four-week engagements to help you upgrade your marketing efforts through a marketing audit and recommendations.