How to Perform a Brand Audit in 9 Simple Steps
Anyone can sell products and services. However, building a brand that stays relevant and engaging is hard. This process will keep you focused, effective, and efficient.
Has your business hit a wall?
Maybe you aren’t getting leads or are losing sales to competitors. Perhaps people don’t seem interested in your offer.
Many businesses blame lagging growth on the saturated marketplace. But the problem often isn’t with the number of competitors or the noise—it’s brand drift.
So, before you cut prices or throw more money into the marketing budget, consider a brand audit.
A company drifts off-brand when it loses focus on the message and audience. Unfortunately, the shift can be so gradual most business owners don’t notice.
A few minor changes to your business plan might not seem like a big deal. But deviate enough, and your offers and benefit claims become vague. When this happens, the audience will end up confused about what you do—and a confused mind says no.
Without a routine brand audit, companies lose touch with their purpose and audience. If the problem persists, a rebrand may be the only solution.
Here’s How Brand Drift Happens
You must be able to recognize the symptoms of brand drift before you can correct it. Drift is subtle and stems from actions that appear harmless at first.
It goes something like this:
You repost a political video on social media. It is somewhat controversial, but the message is important to you.
Then, you decide to change some images on your website. The images are a little fuzzy, but you don’t think anyone will notice.
A few weeks later, you arrange a partnership with another company to exchange referrals. Their industry isn’t relevant to yours, but you decide it’s worth a try.
Social media posts, promotions, and partnerships can raise brand awareness. But the context of each must make sense for your business. Even the best ideas fail if they don’t align with your brand.
A routine brand audit will keep a business focused and on track for success.
The Impact of Brand Consistency
We spend a lot of time serving customers, making sales, and managing day-to-day operations. Because of our busyness, we assume people know more than they do. Therefore, we must make it easy for them to understand our offer.
Your audience can only digest a certain amount of information at once. They aren’t stupid, they’re just busy. People don’t have time to figure out how you help them—you must make it obvious.
People can only process a little at a time, so it’s best to give them what they need in limited doses. Everything you put out into the world to promote your business must be clear, concise, and consistent.
Research shows it takes up to 13 touchpoints to get a qualified sales lead. People don’t buy on the first, second, or third contact. Instead, they need several interactions with you to become convinced your solution is right for them.
Each touchpoint must be clear and consistent. Otherwise, your prospective customers will move on to look for someone that does a better job of communicating.
Businesses that lack brand consistency struggle to:
- communicate their unique value
- create differentiation
- overcome objections to price
- find qualified leads
What Is a Brand Audit?
Your brand is how people see you versus competitors. It also enhances the value of your products and services.
But it’s useless if it doesn’t help you achieve your goals. An audit enables you to assess whether your current brand is working for you or against you. A strong one adds value, and a weak one diminishes it.
As you perform an audit, you’ll answer these questions:
- Does your current brand align with the reputation you want to have?
- Does it support a price premium?
- How competitive are you?
- Does your visual identity reflect your level of professionalism, quality, and expertise?
- Does it resonate with the type of customers you want?
Most business owners I know can assess their current brand objectively, but only when the need arises. Routine audits will help you uncover issues before they get out of hand.
How to Perform a Brand Audit
To make the brand audit easier, we’ll go through each step one at a time.
1. Start with Your Brand DNA
Like an actual human, your business identity is a composition of tangible and intangible traits—called brand DNA.
The most popular DNA components are:
Purpose: why you exist
Vision: what you want your business to become
Promise: what your customers can expect to receive from you
Values: your philosophies, what you stand for
Position: how consumers see your business and its reputation among competitors
Persona: attitudes and behaviors
Voice and Tone: how your business expresses itself (casual, authoritative, etc.)
Core Message: the central theme of your brand communication
Style: elements of visual identity such as logos, colors, and imagery
Expression: how and where your business communicates with its audience
Notice these revolve around your business and not products, services, or the target market. Your DNA must be clear as a bell because it’s the standard by which you’ll assess everything else.
The question to answer in step 1:
Are your purpose and promise stated clearly, and are you communicating them at every touchpoint?
2. Evaluate Your Goals
All your goals—not just revenue—apply to your brand’s success. They work together to help you build the business you wanted to create when you started.
For example, one goal may be to donate part of business revenue to a good cause. Or maybe you want to hire new employees by year-end. Expansion is another common goal.
Whatever they are, assess your goals to determine if they still make sense. Is it time to adjust, refocus, or drop one altogether?
The question to answer here is:
Do the goals you’ve set align with the business and brand you want to build?
3. Assess Your Target Audience
Your target audience has a lot of impact on how successful you are. No matter how great your product or service is, it will be tough to sell if your market doesn’t appreciate it. And the audiences that appear to be the most qualified aren’t always the best.
Circumstances dictate your audience’s buying behavior. The key is to figure out whether those changes are temporary or permanent.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example. It has created financial hardship for millions of consumers. This event may or may not have lasting effects on your target audience and varies from one industry to another. Time will tell.
A brand audit will help you assess the quality of your target audience for the immediate and distant future.
The question to answer in this step is:
Does your current target audience benefit most from the value you provide, and can they help you reach your goals?
If the answer is yes, you’re ready for the next step. If not, it’s time to reconsider who your business serves.
4. Evaluate the Customer Journey
After assessing the target audience, it’s time to explore their path to becoming a customer.
In a section above, I wrote it takes up to 13 touchpoints to get a qualified sales lead. Each touchpoint represents a step in the customer’s journey.
It helps to lead prospects down a clear, direct path that moves them from the first contact to purchase.
If you know your customers, you know what they expect. But to get the most from your marketing, advertising, and sales, you must also consider where each prospect is in the buying decision.
Some people know they have a problem but don’t know how to fix it. These folks are in the problem-aware category. They need information on potential solutions.
(It just so happens your product or service is one of those solutions.)
Other people in your audience are solution-aware. They see the problem they have. They know there’s a solution but aren’t aware of yours. To make an impact with this group, you must introduce them to your product or service.
The last group of prospects is product-aware. These people are the easiest to close because they recognize their problem and know you offer a solution. But you’ve got to show them why they should choose your product or service over another one like it.
For example, people looking for a product you sell might read online reviews to decide which one to buy. They might find it helpful to read a blog post that compares each option. By creating this post, you can assert your expertise while framing your product as the best choice.
Any content you create should lead prospects to the next stage of the customer’s journey.
Questions to answer in this step:
Do you provide relevant information to each type of prospect?
Will that information position you as an expert and authority?
Does everything you create align with your brand purpose, promise, and message?
5. Review Feedback and Sales Data
Most companies receive a lot of feedback from customers but don’t use it to improve.
In this step, look for trends. What do people like about your business? What improvements would they like to see?
We all enjoy hearing success stories. But criticism can be the most valuable feedback we get.
Keep in mind that some of them considered a competitor before they chose you. Survey existing customers to find out what they liked about your competitors. This process will reveal weaknesses and help you uncover ways to improve your offers.
Also, look at sales data. What does it tell you? For example, what are your most popular products? Do you see trends in pricing, features, or service?
Trends uncover opportunities for new products and services that can boost revenue.
Questions to answer in this step:
What can you improve, even if it’s your best offer?
Are there opportunities to create new products or services?
What isn’t selling and why?
6. Review Your Website Analytics
Website analytics tell a story. There are four important metrics to track:
Visitors (traffic): the number of people coming to your website, usually measured monthly.
Bounce Rate: This tells you how many people come to your site and leave immediately.
Page Views: This shows how many visits you received on each page.
Conversions: This stat reveals how many people took action once they arrived on your site.
Analytics can be overwhelming. So, start with the ones listed above.
You’ll appreciate the story they tell.
Questions to answer in this step:
What trends do you notice?
Are they visiting multiple pages?
Are they leaving after just a few seconds?
Is one type of content getting significantly more attention than another?
7. Analyze Competitors
To decide who to buy from, consumers compare products and services. For this reason, competitors have a powerful influence on your brand. So, it makes sense to include competitor analysis in a brand audit.
Your competitors are constantly creating new offers and changing prices. Some go after new target markets, others shut down, and new entrants emerge every year.
For this step of the audit, look at your top 10 competitors. Fewer than ten may not give you enough information, and more than that can be overwhelming. Of course, it’s always a good idea to analyze as many as you can.
As you walk through this step, what can you learn from your competitors?
Questions to answer in this step:
What are they doing better than you?
How can you improve on what they’re doing?
8. Evaluate Your Offers
Before you can make a sale, you must create an offer. An offer communicates the functional, technical, and emotional benefits customers receive.
Because of how competitive the market is, your offer can’t be average, mediocre, or even good.
It must be excellent.
To create an excellent offer, you must know more about your competitors’ offers. A good analysis of the competition will make it easier for you to contrast your offers with theirs.
Powerful offers deliver three types of benefits.
Functional Benefits: These describe what the product or service does or helps the customer do.
Technical Benefits: The technical benefits speak to the quality of the product or service, such as design, ingredients, and materials.
Emotional Benefits: Emotional benefits are the most powerful because they touch onhow the product or service will make the customer feel.
An offer with all three types of benefits will perform better. Therefore, when creating an offer, it’s vital to communicate all three types of benefits. Don’t assume customers will figure out what they are without your help.
Questions to answer in this step of the audit are:
Does each offer touch on the functional, technical, and emotional benefits customers will get from them?
How do your offers compare to similar ones from competitors? Can you improve them?
Are your offers interesting and unique? How?
9. Assess Your Logo, Colors, and Brand Imagery
Your images reflect your level of professionalism, quality, and expertise.
Consider the impression you want your brand images to make and the preferences of your target audience. For example, you may like a particular design, but it may not be a good fit for your audience. The key is to blend the image you want to portray with what appeals to your prospective customers.
How do you know what your audience likes? Learn more about your customers—by listening—and you’ll discover what they want and what they don’t.
Don’t overthink this step. After all, this is your brand. But avoid visual elements that might turn prospective customers away.
As a simple example, a masculine identity may not be ideal if you cater to a female audience or vice versa. But don’t let this prevent you from developing a bold, unique brand image.
The quality of your images is critical to your success. You can be the best at what you do. Still, if your brand images—such as logos, websites, social media—don’t reflect it, they will damage your credibility.
Don’t cut corners when creating brand visuals.
A brand audit will help you stay on brand and engaged with your audience. How often you should perform an audit will vary, but a good rule of thumb is at least once each year.
In this article, I’ve given you a 9-step framework for conducting a brand audit.
1. Calibrate your brand DNA.
2. Evaluate your goals.
3. Assess your target audience.
4. Evaluate the customer journey.
5. Review feedback and sales data.
6. Review website analytics.
7. Analyze competitors.
8. Evaluate your offers.
9. Assess your brand images.
Completing a brand audit will keep you in tune with your purpose and in touch with your audience. It’s a powerful tool that will make your organization more efficient and successful.
If you have questions, email me personally at email@example.com.
Until next time,
Learn more about brand strategy.
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