Before you begin anything: Audit & benchmark

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Before you begin anything: Audit & benchmark

Relying on GPS apps has become intrinsic to our daily efforts to get where we need to go. We most often think of map apps in the context of directing us to our destination. To do that, the map first pulls the global positioning system (GPS) data from a network of satellites to determine where you are or where you want to start.

Planning for growth and improvements in your business is similar to planning a trip. You select a destination, look at different vehicles that can get you there, and plan your route. All of that assumes, however, that you know where you are right now.

Whether you want to improve your health, remodel your home, or grow sales, you need to audit or benchmark your current state. The word “audit” is often associated with an after-the-fact review, as in company financials or taxes. In the broader sense, an audit is a “methodical examination and review.” For example, if your destination is a healthier lifestyle, you need to audit your current lifestyle to identify what needs to change to get you to that desired state: eating habits, exercise habits, sleep, and so on.

Most business goals center on a few key concepts such as increasing revenue, decreasing expenses, decreasing risk and retaining employees. Each of those concepts can be broken down into functions within the business that can be included in a digital audit so you know where you’re starting from before you begin making changes.

Increasing revenue, for example, could be broken down into:

  • Marketing: increasing brand awareness, lead generation and lead qualification

  • Sales: further qualifying leads, deal development and closing

  • Customer Service: increasing customer retention and satisfaction, cross-selling, and renewals or repeat sales

Breaking down marketing into its channels or tasks, your list might include:

  • Brand awareness

  • Paid advertising

  • Public relations

  • Social media

  • Content creation

  • Organic search

Let’s say your company wants to increase brand awareness to make it easier for sales to focus on customer needs rather than answering the question, “So what company are you with? And what does your company do?” You can apply multiple tactics to achieve better brand awareness: advertising on radio or billboards, pitching media outlets to do a story about your company, posting on multiple social media outlets, sponsoring community activities and events. 

But if you don’t audit current brand awareness levels within your target market, how will you know when you’ve reached a sufficient increase in brand awareness? And as you execute those tactics, how will you know which are working if you don’t periodically audit your plan for performance?

You can conduct your own internal digital audit of different aspects of your business to evaluate the current state. Keep in mind that an audit is more than a surface-level SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. An audit is looking at specific activities and their related key performance indicators and comparing those against best practices for that particular business function. 

Because business owners and leaders can’t be experts in everything, it can be helpful to engage an outside company in a specialized field to conduct an audit. Just as you may hire a CPA firm to audit your financials, consider hiring a sales consultant to audit your sales practices, a customer service expert to audit your customer service practices or an HR firm to audit your employee retention practices. With an outside view of your current state, you can create internal teams to plan the change journey to your desired state or work with the same or another outside expert.

Some examples of areas to audit include:

  • Social media: Are you optimizing your profiles and the features of each platform? Is the content you’re posting supporting your goals?

  • Collateral materials: Are your brochures, sales sheets, forms and other materials current? Do outdated versions keep popping up? Are you missing a tool that could simplify your sales process?

  • Website content: Does your website efficiently and effectively lead your potential customers through their buying journey? Can existing customers find what they need online rather than calling your office? Is your site interactive and engaging or a glorified electronic brochure?

  • Accessibility: Can people with disabilities use your website or app? Are your job postings and online application form providing you a diverse pool of candidates? Are you using “silver bullet” overlays or plug-ins that could put you at legal risk?

  • Sales enablement: Do your processes for finding, closing and onboarding new business help cement customer relationships? Are you missing opportunities to use technology to make your sales efforts more efficient?

Outlook Business Solutions offers an array of digital audits that help you assess where you are so you can determine the best way to get to where you want to go. As a business growth agency specializing in marketing and digital accessibility, we can assist with the audit areas listed above along with many others. 

Not sure what you need? Schedule a complimentary discovery conversation with our lead strategist and receive a written recommendation of three key audit areas selected specifically for your business situation.