Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Time for a marketing audit?

When was the last time your marketing programmes were subjected to review and audit?

Annual marketing plans and budgets, for those who write them at all, tend to be repetitive year on year. How often does the plan take a fresh look at the market, customers and prospects and ask is the plan still relevant, or have things out there changed? And not just the means of delivery of the message but has the market fundamentally changed, are new players reshaping that space, do customers still want the same thing and where do they go to find what they want?

What prompted this chain of thought was an enquiry from a company where the dynamics of their market seemed to have changed and a realisation that sales leads from their old sources were dwindling and they needed to be pro-active in generating more. Unfortunately it exposed the absence of any marketing plan at all and consequently no tools to use to improve the situation. One worrying aspect of their specific case is the main product they sell started life as a replacement for an old technology solution and selling a smarter, more energy efficient and useful modern solution was an easy sell. Today there are many suppliers in that market not to mention the imports at rock bottom prices and the old technology all now replaced so the original message needs to change too. Time to conduct a marketing audit as a prelude to developing a marketing plan and building a new sustainable position.

So before the situation becomes a crisis, have another look at your target market. Has it changed from the last time you actually thought about it? Is the user base still the same, what are your geographic boundaries - maybe when you started it was defined as a particular region, now it could be the world. Have the buyers and influencers changed? At one time it may have been the case that engineers carefully evaluated a number of potential products and the buying team bought a specific product from the engineer's approved manufacturer. By now there may be little difference so buyers bypass the engineering evaluation and just buy a generic product from the company that gives the best terms. So both the target market and target audiences have changed, the competition intensified and prices and margins declined. Worse still the sales brochure doesn't cut it anymore, why wait for that to turn up in the post when a web search can find a supplier right now.

Of course these changes don't usually happen overnight, but a audit to check the marketing plan is  addressing the actual situation might be worth doing.

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