How to Develop a Marketing Strategy: A Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Audits and Beyond
Marketing strategy. It’s a term often thrown around without real-world, tactical plans behind it. It can elude executives, frustrate marketing managers and confuse sales professionals. Is it content marketing? Inbound marketing? SEO? PPC? Branding? ABM? And how does marketing strategy connect to revenue and business growth?
How do we get more people to do business with us? That’s the real question.
Welcome to the New School of Modern Marketing
In today’s information-saturated world, with distracted consumers wielding all the power, designing a marketing strategy can seem overwhelming. How do you get it right? Rely on the cold, hard data to set specific parameters and goals. Modern marketing is a structured action plan backed by real-world data, not simply what looks right or feels good.
It’s critical for a modern marketing strategy to be data-driven and specific.
Over the next couple of chapters of this Comprehensive Guide to Developing a Marketing Strategy, we’ll help you to shape a marketing strategy to grow your brand while covering the most common questions and debunking some myths.
Want to skip the reading and just talk to our Growth Strategist about your own marketing strategy? Book some time with Jackie and get your questions answered.
Table of Contents.
- What's a Marketing Strategy Made of?
- What is a Marketing Audit?
- Why are Marketing Audits Important?
- How Much Does a Marketing Audit Cost?
- Who Needs a Marketing Audit?
- What Does a Marketing Audit Cover?
- What Else is in a Marketing Audit?
- Who is on Your Marketing Audit Team?
- The Steps of Conducting a Marketing Audit
What’s a Marketing Strategy Made of?
Goals, KPIs and Tactics, oh my!
Want to develop a kick ass modern marketing strategy? First, you’ll need to understand the basics, from goal setting and key performance indicators (KPIs), to tactics like social media promotion and blogging, and finally, add your own voice to the mix.
The Five Steps to Developing a Marketing Strategy
- Setting Goals
- Setting KPIs
- Exploring Your Buyers’ World
- Brainstorming Tactics
- Audit Your Own Marketing
Develop a Marketing Strategy Step 1: Setting Goals
Let’s start by setting your goals using the SMART goal method. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. A common goal is to get more customers by increasing your marketing budget. By contrast, a SMART goal could be to get 100 more customers this year with a pay per click campaign for your most popular services. Then, you can (and should) tie these goals directly to key performance indicators or KPIs (explained further in the next section) in order to track your progress in predetermined milestones or achievements.
These SMART goals and KPIs are combined with a comprehensive OKR sheet (objectives and key results) you should receive at the end of a marketing audit.
Writing SMART goals is an integral part of a successful marketing strategy. It starts with a well-established marketing plan. That’s why you’re here. Make sure you’re only putting effort into specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely objectives.
This can sound overwhelming, but it’s something that’s ingrained naturally in most inbound marketers. Once you master the five elements of the SMART goals acronym, it’ll become a fluid part of your monthly planning and reporting.
Wayfinding Growth episode 2.19
If you are researching purchasing a marketing audit from several companies, make sure you ask about SMART goals, KPIs and OKRs. These are the lifeblood deliverables you will want to get your hands on.
Develop a Marketing Strategy Step 2: Setting KPIs
Your goals fuel your key performance indicators (KPIs). Let’s define KPIs: They’re the critical or key indicators of progress toward a goal. KPIs provide a focus for strategic and operational improvement, create an analytical basis for decision making and help focus attention on what matters most.
Managing with KPIs often means working to improve leading indicators that will later drive lagging benefits. Leading indicators are activities which predict future success while lagging indicators show how successful your business was at achieving results after the activity.
Here’s what good KPIs look like. They:
- Provide objective evidence of progress towards achieving a desired result
- Measure what is intended to be measured to help inform better decision making
- Offer a comparison that gauges the degree of performance change over time
- Can track efficiency, effectiveness, quality, timeliness, governance, compliance, behaviors, economics, project performance, personnel performance or resource utilization
- Are balanced between leading and lagging indicators
Develop a Marketing Strategy Step 3: Exploring Your Buyers’ World
Whether you call it the buyer’s journey, buyer personas, the sales funnel, the flywheel or some other marketing or sales term, the idea is that you’ll want to understand your ideal customers.
Let’s focus on the term buyer's journey. That’s the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.
According to HubSpot, the journey consists of a three-step process:
Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they have a problem.
Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.
The graphic below illustrates a sample buyer's journey for the simple purchasing decision of a doctor visit during an illness.
When you understand your buyer’s world, you understand how to speak to the problem your service or product solves. Do your research—interview current customers, ask your sales team, talk to your service team. Then create a working persona of your ideal customer for your team in the form of a buyer persona. Ideally, this will include places where your customers research their purchasing needs.
Develop a Marketing Strategy Step 4: Brainstorming Tactics
Inbound marketing. Content marketing. SEO. Social media marketing. Outbound. ABM. Facebook advertising. Influencer marketing. Blogging. Guest blogging. Demand gen. Podcasting. All of these terms describe tactics. Once you understand your buyer and their journey, you begin to discover how you can reach them with the right message.
Finding the right tactics to reach your target audience is a critical step in developing your marketing strategy. Measure your brainstorming against your buyer persona. Then you can begin to create the strategic marketing that will help your sales team crush it.
Develop a Marketing Strategy Step 5: Audit Your Marketing
Finally, it’s time to audit your current marketing efforts or assess the landscape if you’re in startup mode. Your team will need to conduct a marketing audit for your business to set your marketing strategy.
What is a Marketing Audit?
If we look to the internet for the answer, we can quickly find a definition over at Business Jargons. It not-so-simply states the following.
Marketing Audit Definition:
The Marketing Audit refers to the comprehensive, systematic, analysis, evaluation and the interpretation of the business marketing environment, both internal and external, its goals, objectives, strategies, principles to ascertain the areas of problem and opportunities and to recommend a plan of action to enhance the firm’s marketing performance.
That is a lot of words that when put together make the marketing audit experience seem like it might be complex and confusing. To be frank, that is not how we run our marketing audits at Impulse Creative.
Our Marketing Audit Definition:
A Marketing Audit is a deep dive into your current marketing efforts where we look for all the things you are doing right as well as things that could be done better.
Why are Marketing Audits Important?
When you’re ready to develop and implement a marketing strategy to grow your business, you want to start with a foundation. That’s the marketing audit.
It’s critical to know what’s working, what you can improve, where to add new technology and how to get to where you want to go.
It is imperative that you know what your goals are. Even more important than knowing where you are headed is knowing how you are going to get there. Having a third-party conduct an audit on your marketing efforts from website to email marketing to sales assets and beyond will help you gain clarity.
In short, a marketing audit will help you align your vectors and amplify your velocity to those goals.
What Vectors Will be Aligned and How?
Do you want your teams aligned and charging ahead efficiently like a fighter squadron of precision pilots? That’s possible when you align your business vectors.
When every part of your marketing is aligned, your velocity increases exponentially. If you can increase awareness while improving conversions (view to lead and lead to opportunity) and closing more customers, your marketing and sales line up for success.
That’s the goal of starting your marketing strategy development with a marketing audit. Imagine a world where your website, social media, video marketing, conversational marketing tools, sales and business development teams and your customer service align in the interest of driving revenue.
As those vectors align, your velocity increases and your marketing strategy becomes a winning business-building plan.
What If I Don’t Have Historic Marketing Data?
From startups to businesses making a pivot to new product launches, sometimes a full audit isn’t necessary. A marketing audit may evolve into a marketing assessment instead, focusing on what you need to do rather than what you’ve done.
Working with a Third Party to Conduct a Marketing Audit
Here’s how it works when we conduct an audit for ourselves or for a client.
We look for any major missing marketing pieces and show you and your team how we can help you put the puzzle together moving forward.
A marketing audit in most cases is a process that can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks depending on who is administering the audit. At Impulse Creative, we have optimized out conversations, questions, and findings into four easily scheduled meetings over a 1-month period.
At the start of the audit, you will go through a discovery phase where you will hand over the keys to your marketing tech stack allowing us to crunch the numbers, diagnose historical conversations, and envision smart goals and key performance indicators (KPI) for you and your team’s marketing efforts in the future.
How Much Does a Marketing Audit Cost?
A marketing audit can range in price from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on who is administering the audit as well as dependent on how comprehensively they are digging into your marketing channels.
At Impulse Creative our deep dive marketing audits start at $5,000 but come with a great deal attached. After the completion of the audit, you can use $2,500 of the $5,000 towards marketing services. Not all marketing agencies provide that level of partnership so again, this is something you will want to ask when in the research mode of potential agencies to deliver your marketing audit.
Why does a marketing audit cost that much?
A deep dive into your business and the marketing and sales that powers your growth takes time and people. You’ll have experts in marketing, design and sales taking a look at your world. They’ll have work time, meeting time as a team to analyze and meeting time with your team.
Time equals money.
Instead of a full marketing audit, you may find some marketing agencies offer a free consultation. After 30 minutes they’ll give you a rundown of what they suggest you do. Most likely this is a script they go through with most potential clients.
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.
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?
Who Needs a Marketing Audit?
If you are a small, medium, or enterprise company looking to optimize your business growth path, a marketing audit might be right for you. If you have social channels that talk to specific people about their roles, goals, and, the audit might be a good thing to invest in.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Maybe you’ve been working on content marketing for a year but you’re not sure it’s working.
- Maybe in the last year or so you updated your website, but it doesn’t seem to come in Google or send you new leads.
- You’ve been creating content but you just don’t feel it has been providing the level of search or sales success your company needs.
- Waiting on the sidelines is getting old and you know that a new website, a social media strategy and maybe even podcasting sounds like an exciting opportunity to grow.
- Marketing and sales can’t seem to agree on whether internet leads are quality and you’re not sure how to align the teams for success.
- You’re ready to take on your competition and knock them off the first page of Google for your search terms.
- Every time you get online you see a competitor’s ad and you’re tired of feeling like no one sees your business.
If anything from this list resonates with you, a marketing audit may be the perfect launching point to kickstart your marketing strategy planning.
Here are three other great reasons you might want to conduct a marketing audit are:
See What Isn’t Working
No plan is perfect in business. And no tech stack is dialed in 100%. That’s why a marketing audit is so important. An audit of any kind will show what isn’t working.
You want to make sure your marketing is efficient. It does no one any good to spend time and resources on marketing initiatives that don’t produce results. The best marketing audit will highlight inefficiencies so you can focus where you need to focus.
Realign Your Marketing Activities With Your Goals
Can you imagine a professional sport where there’s no scoring system? Football with no endzone… baseball with no home base… hockey without nets. Crazy, right?
It’s the same when you “play the marketing game.” You need goals. Then you need to align your efforts—your plays and strategies—with your goals.
A successful marketing audit helps you visualize your endgame, set goals and realign your marketing activities to those goals.
Gain Exposure to New Ideas and Different Strategies
No business operates in a vacuum. There’s a whole world out there with ideas, insights, parallel industries to learn from and great marketing initiatives to inspire. With an outside partner running an audit to help you set your marketing strategy, you’ll find yourself exposed to new ideas and different strategies you may have never discovered.
Bringing in a partner to pore over your marketing assets, the strategy you’ve implemented and all the efforts you’re taking on to grow the business will expose you to fresh perspectives.
What Does a Marketing Audit Cover?
Again, it depends. It depends on what the marketing agency has deemed important for their clients or what is in their wheelhouse of marketing services. The basics would be a website health report, and SEO & email audit. Anything less than that most likely will not paint the full picture you need to make smart decisions moving forward.
At Impulse Creative we have created a robust set of individual reports to build out a full marketing audit playbook.
Website Health Report
Whether you're the business owner or the head of marketing or somewhere in-between, the health of your website is crucial to conducting modern business. If you don't perform well in this area, and people either can't find your site or bounce as soon as they arrive, in essence you don't exist.
A website health report will take into account traffic, leads (conversions), your blog presence, search engine rankings and more.
You could use a tool like our Website Health Check to measure the health of your website. The other option is to conduct a full marketing audit to find out how healthy your website is.
Onsite & Competitor SEO Report
Do you know how your SEO efforts are paying off right now? What about your competitors? How do you rank against them for similar phrases potential customers are using right now?
You’ll want to know how your onsite SEO is working. Then an effective SEO competitor analysis gives you the intel you need to rise above your competitors.
Keyword & Topic Report
Along with technical SEO, the keywords and topics you’re ranking for are critical to understand. A marketing audit will deliver a report to help you understand what you’re currently ranking for and where you can focus your marketing strategy for more growth.
Once you know the keyword and topics landscape, you’ll want to make sure you understand content opportunities. From blog articles to videos to pillar pages, the content you create based on a marketing audit will focus your efforts for a more efficient effort.
The best marketing audit not only lays out SEO and keyword reports, but offers actionable takeaways such as a content topic board with relevant subjects to help you reach your ideal audience.
Social Media Report
Do you use social media to connect with your prospects, customers and maybe even potential business partners? How engaging are your social posts?
The best marketing audit will help paint the picture of the effectiveness of your social media presence as well as offer a strategic plan to focus your efforts and generate better marketing results.
Want to know how your email stacks up against your goals? According to Neil Patel, email continues to deliver. His data shows that marketers generate around 175% more conversions with email than social media. And emails see an average click-through rate of 3.5% compared to .07% for Facebook.
Employ a marketing audit where your trusted partner can dig into what’s working and what isn’t working in your email marketing strategy.
When you want to increase conversions and overall net new business, one way to help achieve immediate results is PPC. A marketing audit that includes a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising report will help you see the big picture of your marketing strategy.
What Else is in a Marketing Audit?
Above and beyond the reports showing you what you are doing good at and what could be improved, we also have several deliverables you can use for future growth with our Impulse Creative marketing audit.
A sitemap is more than a table of contents. It’s the map by which we navigate the growth journey of your brand and its online presence. Plus it’s what helps search engines like Google understand your website, helping with SEO. Make sure your marketing audit includes a discussion on your sitemap strategy—the why and how of your sitemap plan.
Any modern marketing strategy needs to include a website discussion. Expect suggestions on website wireframes to help ensure your marketing strategy includes a powerful, revenue-generating website.
Website wireframes are a great foundation for envisioning the future of your marketing efforts. But it really comes together when you can see a mockup with your brand’s colors and other elements.
Conversion Funnel Analysis
Funnel, flywheel or buyer’s journey… Whatever you call it, you’ll want a strategic and scalable plan for managing it. Do you know how your conversion funnel is currently working? This analysis will help you understand where buyers convert and how to make sure you duplicate those successful efforts.
In addition to a conversion analysis, we offer a full-funnel campaign to help turn your content marketing strategy into a revenue-generating machine.
Social Media Schedule
In addition to the social media report, an Impulse Creative marketing audit includes a sample social media schedule to help you see the vision of a workable, strategic social media marketing plan.
Full Marketing Audit Presentation Deck
If this sounds like a lot, you’re not alone. When Impulse Creative went through our own marketing audit “as a customer,” our team realized just how overwhelming it can feel. That’s why we offer all of this information in a presentation deck you can take with you. Digest it, meditate on it and figure out how you want to use it to direct your marketing strategy.
All the work we put in is yours to take in our full marketing audit presentation deck. Make sure any audit you take on includes this important deliverable.
Who is on Your Marketing Audit Team?
When you start your audit, you will quickly realize that it takes a team of folks working together for the betterment of your company’s marketing efforts. Just like in sports, there are different positions that play different roles. When it comes to a marketing audit team, you get the following people immediately added to your team over the 4 week period.
- A Project Manager is the hub of communication. They’re the organizer. They’re the glue that holds the team together.
- Over the course of your marketing audit, the Project Manager will set up tasks in a project management tool like Asana, assign due dates and keep team members on track, handle multiple calendars for meetings and be the key communication point for your company and ours.
- A Growth Strategist looks at your situation and quickly assesses your needs. They listen and propose solutions. At Impulse Creative, our Growth Strategist helps you see a bright future.
- Before and during the marketing strategy process, the Growth Marketer is your point of contact. This means you’ll ask questions and they’ll bring you all the answers.
- An inbound Evangelist brings the best practices and new ideas to the table. They’re a trainer, an educator and so much more.
- Throughout the audit process, your Inbound Evangelist acts as a host for meetings while guiding the team behind the scenes with experience and ideas.
- Your Inbound Marketer is the person in charge of executing. They’re like your personal marketing professional or customer success specialist.
- When you have an Inbound Marketer on your team, you have someone who spends their time in the trenches everyday working on real-world marketing for clients. They bring knowledge and expertise to the table to help ensure your marketing audit and the implementation of your marketing strategy move smoothly.
- Designer is exactly what it sounds like: the creative eye on the team to help you find what looks great, but is also functionally solid when it comes to your marketing strategy.
- The Designer on the Impulse Creative team helps you decide everything from color palette to font styles to website layouts and more. They will bring experience and insights to the discussion, while listening for your needs and wants in your marketing.
With all that information about what you cover and who is on your team, you might be wondering how that happens all in a four week period.
The simple answer, magic. Okay, not really magic but... a magical team.
The Steps of Conducting a Marketing Audit
In this section, we will discuss how we conduct our marketing audits here at Impulse Creative. Each company has its own audit recipe they like to follow. By knowing ours, you can use it to assess who you should choose when it comes to getting your marketing audit completed.
Pre Marketing Audit
Phase One: The Starting Line
We call this “Week Zero.” We’re looking for a signed contract from the client, which prompts an email introducing you to your audit team. Then we’ll ask for a little homework from you and your team so we can prepare for the journey.
We also ask for access to marketing and sales platforms like dashboards, CMS and CRM. The more we know about our clients’ marketing world, the better.
Marketing Audit Meeting One: Website & SEO
In Week One, we’ll bring deliverables like a website health report, keyword research, an SEO audit and an initial sitemap discussion to the table.
We love agendas at Impulse Creative, so we set a specific agenda for this week’s meeting. We’ll cover introductions, homework review, goal discovery and a tech stack review, among other items.
Marketing Audit Meeting Two: Content, Email, & Social
Week Two brings us to a discussion on content (content ideas and strategy via our content audit), email marketing discovery and social media. We’ll also discuss some wireframe examples for website refreshing or redesigning, depending on your needs.
Marketing Audit Meeting Three: PPC, Sitemap, & Mockups
Next, Week Three means we’re going over next-level marketing like pay-per-click (PPC) strategy, sitemap suggestions and website mockups based on previous discussions. Throughout the process, there’s time for questions and brainstorming in the meetings.
Marketing Audit Meeting Four: Strategy, Findings, & Next Steps
In Week Four we deliver deeper strategy like a conversion analysis and conversion funnel build-out, the final presentation for your marketing audit and recommendations on what’s next for your brand. We even include takeaways for your team to move forward like a content topics document, a social media schedule, a competitive analysis, a full funnel campaign, an objective and key results (OKR) document and more.
Post Marketing Audit
What Happens After the Marketing Audit?
Once your marketing audit wraps up, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of a marketing strategy to help your business grow. You’ll have ideas and worksheets to get started, a proposal of how an agency like Impulse Creative can help and the confidence that you can reach your intended audience.
Then it’s up to you and your team to decide what’s next. At Impulse Creative, we offer solutions for the ideas we propose. You can begin to implement the marketing strategy and tactics we’ve covered or you can hire us in whatever capacity you see fit.
Our goal is to provide you with the framework to build a successful marketing strategy, then walk alongside you to make it happen.
Now that you know what a marketing audit is, how it affects and directs your marketing strategy and why it’s important to your company, do you feel it is time to get started? If so, you book some time with Jackie and get your marketing audit process started.
Developing a Marketing Strategy Takes Time and Expertise
Now you can set your sites on setting a purposeful, thoughtful marketing strategy for your business.
A marketing strategy is critical for a modern marketing strategy to be specific.
Rather than measuring vanity metrics and leaving the deep strategy for someone else, you’re now empowered to dig deep and understand what moves your buyers so you can generate quality leads from a larger, more refined audience.
This is the key to strategic growth in the modern business world.
It does take time, and it means you’ll need the expertise to move forward. But whether it’s you or your team, a trusted marketing agency partner or (most likely) a hybrid combination of both, you’re now on the right path to developing a marketing strategy that works.