Conducting an audit of each marketing channel

Woman conducing an audit

Apiary Digital recently surveyed a select group of performance marketing leaders—from startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between—to learn their secrets to success during the first 90 days in a new position. To capture the pearls of wisdom shared through this survey, we’ve created a blog series, “The First 90 Days.” This is part of the multi-part series.

After generating a few quick wins within the first few weeks in a new position, and then taking the time to plot out a roadmap

75% of marketing leaders surveyed cited conducting a complete audit of each marketing channel as key to success during the first 90 days in a new position. 

The primary objective of conducting an audit is to identify ways to improve your existing channels, troubleshoot a performance issue, identify gaps within those channels, and as an aside, it helps assess the quality of work previously done. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in every marketing discipline to complete audits. Leave the XML sitemaps, Facebook Ads impression capping, and technical tagging solutions to the experts. Focus on prioritizing which audits to do first, selecting the right experts, clearly defining your expectations up-front, and working—sometimes cross-functionally—to ensure audit findings are communicated and implemented. Let’s dive into channel audits! 

Selecting channels to audit 

You may not need to audit every channel. There’s no point in auditing a channel that has very little historical data or minimal cost. You can prioritize the top 1-3 channels by revenue or lead importance, plus your top-spending channels if those are not one-in-the-same. You don’t want to realize 12 months in that you’ve been inefficiently throwing money at paid media.

Before you can assess how each channel performs, you need to be reasonably confident in your analytics. If you can’t trust the data you have, you definitely need to invest in an analytics audit. Even if your analytics data is reasonably accurate, you may want to do a quick tagging audit to ensure you aren’t tagging the wrong actions, or seeing instances of duplicate tags which could double-count revenue. Plus, functionality of tag managers like Google Tag Manager has exploded over the past few years, so a tagging audit may uncover valuable features that can improve your access to clean data and actionable reporting. 

SEO may or may not be a historically strong revenue- and traffic-driving channel for your org. Even so, it may be a worthwhile investment to prioritize in your roadmap within the first 6 months if there’s any notable search volume relevant to your business, and the sorts of problems your customers are having. SEO is an up-front investment with smaller ongoing costs that grows free traffic to your site over time. 

⚠ Pro-tip: To dip your toe in SEO, here’s a minimal investment likely to pay off: Conduct a technical audit to make sure there aren’t easily fixable issues with your website that are preventing you from getting traffic. You’d be surprised how frequently even sophisticated brands invest 100s of thousands into designing sexy websites and building content, then forget something like indexing the blog, which keeps the content from being crawlable to search engines!

Depending on the scope of your role, it’s also a good idea to have a basic website audit to check for broken elements, accessibility, usability across devices, and updated security measures. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down a year or two into your role with an embarrassing website issue that you should have noticed right away and costs your company money for a prolonged period.

Who should do the audits?

Of course you want to make sure that whomever conducts your audits has the right technical and channel expertise. You also want to ensure you have people with enough business acumen to help bridge the gap between the technical capabilities of each respective channel with the realities of your business and customers—someone who can help you make a case and get buy-in from other internal stakeholders who may be required to implement the audit findings. 

⚠ Pro-tip: You may be tempted to do some of the audits yourself if you feel you have the right technical expertise, but consider the opportunity cost of your time. It may be worthwhile to outsource. Hopefully, you have a few folks on your immediate team with the experience to conduct an audit on your top-revenue or spend-driving channels. If you have someone who has been managing that channel for a long time, be careful. Even if that person is really experienced, it’s difficult to audit your own work. Part of the value of an audit is fresh perspective. The newest person on your team may be the best choice for conducting the audit—they have a fresh outside POV, and it’ll help them learn the channels they’ll be managing. 

You will likely find you don’t have in-house expertise for everything that requires an audit. In that case, you’ll want to turn to an agency or independent consultant. You want someone who lives and breathes that slice of the program you need an audit on who is touching similar things across many other businesses. You’ll get much quicker channel insights with outside experts, but you’ll have to do extra legwork to translate their recommendations into your specific business.

What to expect from an audit

You need to provide a few things up-front to your channel expert(s) before they can properly conduct an audit:

  • Clearly defined business goals and KPIs expected from any given channel. Essentially: How do you currently measure the success of this channel? 
  • Any specific questions the business has about a given channel. For example, maybe you’ve recently shifted from an SMB to an Enterprise customer persona and you want to know if messaging and targeting align to the new audience? Or perhaps you suddenly saw an increase in CPCs and a dip in revenue, but nobody has been able to identify why? 
  • Any constraints you have to deal with: For example, if you’re in a highly regulated industry and limited with messaging, there’s no point in spending time auditing messaging too closely. Or, you know the product can’t be purchased on a mobile device and you know you’ll never be able to get your product team to prioritize mobile site development—then there’s no point in mobile recommendations. 

Once you’ve set up your marketing channel auditor for success, you can expect:

✔️ Recommendations on how to improve the channel performance relative to KPIs. These recommendations are typically focused on improving what you’re already doing.

✔️ 1-3 bigger recommendations, helping you identify the gaps—what you’re not doing that you should be. 

✔️ Prioritization of what will move the needle within the channel with High/Medium/Low recommendations. Note; however, you may need to conduct further prioritization in terms of effort required, and the internal politics of what might require cross-functional buy-in. 

✔️ Clear communication framed for two different purposes: 1) A high-level overview of the recommendations, thematically explaining the opportunities; 2) Detailed line-by-line recommendations of what to do where. 

Communicating audit findings to internal stakeholders

Compile the high-level recommendations provided by your audit partners and present to internal stakeholders, including benefits to their departments or KPIs. If you can’t do that, provide some back-of-the-envelope math explaining potential impact to the organization. Ideally, with possible incremental revenue or leads. Get the right people in the room so they can hear that others agree or disagree with the findings. Make it easy for them to say yes to putting your projects on their roadmaps.

Implementing audit findings

One thing you cannot expect from an audit is that the recommendations will magically be implemented. Usually, audits are there to help you identify what needs to be done, and the potential effort-versus-impact so you can prioritize across many channels. To keep track of this, the best thing to do is update the roadmap you built with top implementation priorities across channels! From there, you can assign the implementation. 

Ideally, you’ll be able to work with the same experts who conducted the audit to get things implemented. If not, you can ask them to jump on a call with whomever will implement the findings to ensure they fully understand what’s needed and why. 

Stay tuned for the next installment in the series to get insights on the importance of navigating internal organizational relationships, and how this can contribute to your success during the first 90 days in a new marketing leadership position.