7min read

Why a Free Consultation isn't Enough to Make a 12-Month Marketing Plan

by Dan Moyle | December 6, 2019 at 8:00 PM

“We’re going to go with this local company because they’re giving us a free consultation. It’ll give the same information as your marketing audit, and we don’t have to spend $5,000.” 

It’s something we hear in some form occasionally. Most brands understand that a marketing audit gives them a playbook of what to do with specifics and a custom strategy. 

But sometimes, a business owner or a marketing executive is blinded by 🎇FREE🎇. Hey, it happens to the best of us. 

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Here’s the question to ask: Do you want to get into a 12-month contract based on an hour or two-hour free consultation? That could end up costing thousands of dollars every month for four painful quarters. 

Or would you rather spend a fraction of that up-front and be able to make an informed decision based on data? 

Audit vs. Consultation

Let’s be generous and say it’s a two-hour consultation. The agency spends an hour looking over your current website and social media, and they pull out their cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all suggestions on how your business can “do marketing” in the modern marketplace. 

You could have had the same information from a self-assessment. 

On the flipside, a marketing audit that includes a team including marketers, a designer and a growth strategist will take longer. Weekly meetings, conversations, research, strategy sessions and more will give you a much deeper look at your past marketing, your current situation and goals for the future tailored to your business. 

It takes longer, and it will cost money, but it means you have a real takeaway that means something. It’s an investment into the future, with quarterly objectives and key results you can measure. 

Why Have a Marketing Audit?

Maybe you know your marketing needs a little work. You might even be ready to leave it all behind and ignore what you’ve done—or not done—and just look forward. 

Wherever you are in your business growth journey, a marketing audit will help you understand your current location so you can sail toward success with the right map. 

A marketing audit will give you strategy and tactics to help your business grow for months and years to come. 

It will also help you make an informed decision about what your future looks like in the marketing world. Maybe you’ll work with the agency who conducted your audit. Maybe you’ll hire someone to implement the findings. Maybe you’ll do both. 

The right marketing audit helps you avoid signing up for a long term relationship without knowing the partner on the other side. 

It’s like dating before marriage. 

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“A free consult isn’t enough to make 12-month decisions.” - Jackie Pfriender, Growth Strategist

What You Should Expect in a Marketing Audit

This audit should be a project that takes time. It’s not a two-hour experiment. You’ll have a few meetings. Your agency will work on their end. You’ll have some homework. 

It takes time and effort. If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it. 

Once it’s done and you’ve had the findings presented, you should walk away with a few things. This isn’t a comprehensive or guaranteed list. Some audits may have more, or they may include different takeaways, but here’s a good idea to get you started. 

Website Improvement Tactics

You should already understand that your website is your digital marketing home base. Social media is great, but a website is home. 

Before you build a social media-based  business page— which is owned by that platform— make sure your business has a revenue-generating website. 

Does your website empower the user to find what they’re looking for? Does it influence conversions and tell a better story through relevant content instead of generic copy?

A successful marketing audit will show you whether your website reduces friction, feels human and gives your users the experience they need to decide whether to do business with you or bounce to a competitor.

The best marketing audit will consider your brand elements, your voice and your goals. Then, it should offer up suggestions on where to take your website next, whether that’s a light refresh or a complete redesign.

Search Engine Optimization Tools

If you have a website that produces results, but no one can find it, what’s the point?

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You need to ensure people can find your great website. That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is vital. 

Your marketing audit will consider how your website performs right now and what you can do to make it better. 

SEO strategy resulting from a marketing audit needs to include keyword research— a look into the keywords you’re ranking for now and some you could work on right away— to help bring your site up in search engine result pages (SERPs). 

Another piece of your SEO strategy could include minor fixes like optimizing old blog articles, poor-performing pages and even landing pages. Quick wins like improving meta descriptions, headline and title tags, word count and image alt text can all help improve SEO and should be included in your marketing audit results.

Social Media Strategy

Once you understand where your website is and where it could go, it’s time to consider the next step in modern marketing. 

Of course we’re talking about social media. But it’s not as simple as it once was. Facebook Pages and Groups, Instagram Stories, LinkedIn Live, Snapchat, Tik Tok and so much more… it can all leave you reeling.

A marketing audit should provide a solid strategy with real-world tactics for your social media marketing moving forward.

Make sure your marketing audit offers a look at your current social media, as well as tips on improving your social presence. 

For instance, the social media strategy portion needs to include a look at each of your channels. Did the marketer find them all? 

Then, you want to see specific recommendations and examples. Do they show you where you misspelled something in a post? Can you see an example of a potentially engaging post? 

Once you have examples and ideas, your marketing audit could include a tool like a social media content calendar with themes and a publishing cadence that matches your business.

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A Real Plan

At Impulse Creative, we focus on results. Growth is our goal. So with our clients, we come to an agreement on Objectives and Key Results so we can always be on the same page. That’s an OKR document. 

That’s why for our clients, at the end of a marketing audit, all receive an OKR document for their team to work from. 

Among the many things this can include, you want to make sure you have one-time work and recurring tasks your team needs to implement. It’s helpful if it’s broken down into categories like “needed, necessary and nice,” “now, soon and someday” some other priority categorization. 

An OKR should have your overall goal or objective,as well as your more immediate needs and then break out tasks. It should also include budget ideas so you know what to expect moving forward with your new marketing. 

Then it should also include the results you’re aiming for. It feels a bit like a map to get you where you’re going. After all, isn’t that the whole point?

You Get What You Pay For

A free estimate is great for some things. Maybe your house needs new windows. Count up how many you need, decide the quality of window you want, and voila… a free estimate! 

Other times, you’ll pay for a real diagnostic when it matters. A good mechanic may charge you to tell you what’s wrong with your grinding, clunking car… but they’ll fix it and work with you to ensure it’s right. If a mechanic just listens for a minute and tells you it’ll only cost $100 to fix, you may want to find a new mechanic. 

In today’s modern marketing world, there’s a lot to consider. Working with a trusted marketing agency at the beginning of your journey for a deep dive into what you really need will help you mitigate the risk later. 

“Don’t base a 12-month commitment on a 1-hour cookie-cutter consultation.” - Remington Begg

A free consult feels like less risk up-front (no cost) and more risk later (retainer contract) versus all risk (a marketing audit that costs money), but it’s actually risky all around. It’s like not taking a car for a test drive before you buy it.

Set up your marketing audit today and let’s grow better, together.

Book my Marketing Audit

 

Plan photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash