Marketing audit, the missing link?
In order to survive in today’s highly unpredictable and competitive environment, business leaders cannot leave one stone unturned in their search for excellence! The marketing audit may just be the missing link!
A marketing audit is an invaluable instrument to help an organization to establish its unique competitive position and to identify its superior skills, resources and capabilities. This is a prerequisite for achieving a sustainable competitive advantage for your product, business unit and/or business.
Conducting a marketing audit is one of the best and most sensible decisions an entrepreneur and businessman (or -women!) can make.
What is a marketing audit?
Philip Kotler describes a marketing audit as a –
o independent, and
o periodic examination of an organization’s or business unit’s marketing environment, objectives, strategies, and activities with a view to identifying problem areas (and opportunities) and recommending a plan of action to improve the organization’s marketing performance.
The definition clearly confirms the strategic and operational relevance of a marketing audit, making it an indispensable research instrument – dissecting, analyzing, assessing, proposing, and advising.
About the audit process
The audit process should be thoroughly planned so that auditing time and cost are kept to a minimum, since carrying out a marketing audit can be quite expensive. It is usually done by highly skilled, experienced, and specialized marketing professionals. Kotler’s cardinal rule when conducting an audit is: “Do not rely solely on the organization’s managers for data and opinions. Employees, customers, retailers, agents, and other stakeholders must also be interviewed and be involved in the process.”
Asking the “right” questions is in actual fact the key to conducting a successful marketing audit. Questions unlock an individual’s or a group’s creative instincts and serve to stimulate the thought processes. If the right questions are asked in the right manner, refreshingly new marketing insights and ideas come to the fore.
The marketing audit also provides the auditor with a clearer picture of the organization’s marketing function and business environment. It will help him/her to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an organization’s internal and external (marketing) environment.
Some final thoughts
Unlike a financial audit, a marketing audit has a strong dualistic character. On the one hand it has a scientific and structured side, and on the other hand it has a “chaos” side that invites and provokes intuitive, creative and “out-of-the-box” thinking.
I believe that the marketing audit process should encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking, since competitive advantage rarely comes from sameness. When businesses offer the same product and service to the same market by performing the same kind of activities no business will prosper in the long run. Information obtained from a thorough and skillfully conducted marketing audit will enable management to develop a market focused strategy that is directed by its unique capabilities, ensuring sustainable competitive advantage for their product, business unit and/or business.
Lastly, the marketing audit plays an important role in developing a (successful) strategic marketing plan. A well conducted marketing audit can provide corporate and marketing decision-makers with quality information that is relevant, practical and constructive. As a strategic instrument, the marketing audit is indispensable when developing a marketing strategy.