Why You Should Audit Your Marketing Strategy at the Start of the Year

The new year brings an opportunity for reflection and growth. As a business owner, auditing your marketing strategy should be a priority. An audit allows you to honestly assess what worked and what didn’t in order to optimize activities going forward.

Without regularly evaluating your strategy, it’s easy to miss emerging trends, continue ineffective campaigns, and waste resources. Marketing moves fast and an audit ensures you keep up. It prevents you from operating on autopilot and guides you to make the necessary adjustments to boost performance.

Conducting a marketing audit at the start of the year sets you up for success. You gain visibility into strengths and weaknesses before planning content, campaigns, and budgets. It enables you to ground this year’s strategy in data-driven insights versus assumptions. An audit empowers you to enter the new year feeling focused, prepared, and ready to hit the ground running.

Assess Last Year’s Goals

As a vital first step, review the strategic goals your team set for digital marketing last year. Did you aim to increase website traffic by 25%? Generate 50 new leads per month? Achieve a 15% conversion rate? Rank #1 for your target keywords?

Carefully evaluating and documenting your actual performance against the goals provides important baseline metrics to understand what worked well, what didn’t, and where there’s room for improvement. Analyze each goal to determine:

  • Were the goals S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound)? If not, they may have been too vague to action.
  • What percentage of the goals were achieved? Exceeding goals indicates they may have been too modest or execution was highly effective. Falling short points to overly ambitious or poorly implemented plans.
  • What were the biggest factors impacting success or failure for each goal? Lack of budget/resources? Inadequate strategy? Poor execution?

Documenting this allows you to clearly see strengths and weaknesses to build on for the coming year.

Analyze Results

The next step in your marketing strategy audit is to dive into the numbers and analyze your results from the previous year. This data-driven assessment will provide objective insights into what’s working well versus areas that need improvement.

Start by looking at your key performance indicators (KPIs) for each marketing campaign and initiative. Compare campaign costs versus the revenue and conversions generated. Review website analytics to see traffic levels, top landing pages, conversions rates, and sales funnels. Check your social media analytics for engagement, reach, clicks, and follower growth.

Gather data on email campaigns like open rates, click through rates, and subscriber growth. For paid ads, analyze click-through-rates, cost-per-click, conversion rates, and return on ad spend. Look at SEO metrics like rankings, traffic from organic search, and keyword opportunities.

Conducting this quantitative analysis provides tangible insights into your strongest and weakest marketing areas over the past year. The data reveals what tactics are driving results most efficiently at the lowest cost. It also uncovers underperforming initiatives that may need to be refreshed or replaced going forward.

Crunching these numbers will equip you with the key insights needed to optimize your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. The analysis will help focus your efforts on what’s working while reallocating budget away from ineffective programs.

Identify Strengths & Weaknesses

A critical part of the audit process is taking an honest look at what your marketing efforts did well last year, and where they fell short. This involves closely analyzing your results across channels to determine what achieved the desired impact, and what failed to connect with your audience or move the needle.

Some key questions to ask:

  • Which campaigns drove the most traffic and conversions? Was it your email nurturing strategy or social media ads? Make note of your top performing initiatives.
  • Which products or services saw the biggest uptick in sales? Did your messaging properly highlight your differentiators here?
  • What content formats and topics resonated most with your audience? Look at metrics like opens, clicks, and shares.
  • On which platforms did you see the highest engagement? Does your audience favor Twitter or Instagram?
  • Which efforts failed to deliver expected results? Did a webinar series or PPC campaign underperform?
  • Are there any gaps or weaknesses in your workflow, skills, or processes?
  • Did you face any issues with your martech stack integration or data tracking?

Take time to dig into the numbers, trends, and analytics behind these questions. Identify precise strengths you want to double down on, and weak points you need to improve. This clear-eyed assessment sets the foundation to build an optimized strategy for the year ahead.

Set This Year’s Goals

As you review last year’s performance and plan for the year ahead, take time to set specific, measurable goals that align with your overall business objectives. While it’s tempting to keep goals vague, setting SMART goals will provide clarity and focus for your marketing efforts.

  • Specific – Clearly define each goal, including what you want to accomplish, who is involved, and any requirements or constraints. Get as precise as possible.
  • Measurable – Establish concrete criteria to track progress for each goal. Identify key metrics to monitor and set target outcomes.
  • Achievable – Set realistic goals you can accomplish with available resources, time, and effort. Stretch goals are good, but ensure they are within reach.
  • Relevant – Goals should map directly to your strategic priorities and help drive business results. Align goals across teams.
  • Time-bound – Assign a timeframe for achieving each goal, such as monthly, quarterly, or annually. This creates accountability.

Well-defined goals provide clarity, allow you to measure success, and help focus your strategy and campaigns. Set aside time with stakeholders to align on goals for the year ahead. Track regularly and adjust as needed to drive results.

Adjust Strategy

Based on your analysis of results and insights from last year, it’s time to adjust your strategy as needed. Look at areas where you fell short of goals or saw lackluster performance. Then, make strategic changes to improve results moving forward.

For example, if your content marketing efforts didn’t drive the traffic or leads expected, brainstorm creative ways to enhance your content. Could you produce more engaging video or podcast content? Can you tap into new topics and trends that align with your audience’s interests?

If your social media follower growth stalled, research ways to refresh your presence across key platforms. Can you host contests, leverage influencer marketing, or improve engagement with current followers?

If your SEO efforts weren’t fruitful, rework your keyword strategy. Seek higher volume keywords where you can realistically rank. Optimize existing pages and silos for those terms. Produce new cornerstone content around ranking opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to try new tactics, technologies, and channels this year. The marketing landscape evolves quickly, so maintaining the status quo can cause you to fall behind. Use your analysis to fuel smart experiments that can take your marketing to the next level. With an agile, optimized strategy, you can achieve the results you want this year.

Define Campaigns & Projects

Now that you’ve set goals and adjusted your strategy for the year ahead, it’s time to define the specific campaigns and projects you’ll run to hit those goals. Get your team together to brainstorm and outline all the ideas you have.

  • What email campaigns will you send? How often?
  • What content offers or lead magnets can you create?
  • What types of social media promotions make sense?
  • Are there opportunities for partnerships or sponsorships?
  • What events or webinars could you host or speak at?
  • Could contests or giveaways help generate leads?
  • What areas need refreshed creative assets or videos?
  • Do your workflows or processes need updated?

Creating a content calendar to map out all of these initiatives is extremely helpful. This will allow you to visualize the cadence and volume of activities across channels over time.

It’s wise to build in some flexibility as well. Expect new ideas and opportunities to emerge throughout the year that you’ll want to take advantage of. But having a solid foundation of planned campaigns and projects will ensure consistent execution and progress towards hitting your targets.

Update Tools & Skills

The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of your team’s digital marketing toolset and skills. Are there any new tools or platforms you should be leveraging to improve campaigns and processes? Make a list of tools worth exploring – social media management platforms, email marketing software, analytics programs, etc.

Then, audit your team’s current skills. Look for any skill gaps that need to be addressed to fully utilize your tech stack and execute top-notch campaigns. Some areas to evaluate include:

  • Content creation – Do team members need training on writing better copy, optimizing for SEO, creating engaging social posts?
  • Design – Do you have in-house designers with skills for creating on-brand assets, ads, landing pages? If not, should you outsource this work or hire a designer?
  • Data analysis – Does your team feel confident interpreting analytics reports and making data-driven decisions? Consider investing in data skills training.
  • Emerging platforms – Is your team knowledgeable on the latest social media apps, features, influencer marketing tactics? Staying on top of digital trends is key.

With an upgraded set of tools and some new skills development, your team will be equipped to take on the year’s initiatives. Schedule trainings, document tool workflows, and outline new processes to support adopting new tech and building key competencies.

Assign Responsibilities

Once the goals, strategy, campaigns, and projects have been defined for the year, it’s important to delegate tasks and responsibilities to your team members. This ensures accountability and that initiatives are properly executed.

Consider the strengths and expertise of each team member when assigning responsibilities. Provide opportunities for them to take on new challenges while still playing to their strengths. Fully document all expectations, deadlines, budgets, and success metrics.

Schedule regular check-ins on progress and performance. Offer feedback, coaching, and support to set your team up for success. Recognize and reward achievements.

If certain skills gaps emerge, consider upskilling your team with training and development. You may also need to expand your team or reorganize roles.

Proper delegation, management and empowerment of your staff will directly impact your ability to achieve this year’s goals. Invest time into building an organized, motivated, and capable team.

Track & Adjust

It’s important to continuously track your progress and adjust when needed throughout the year. Set checkpoints every quarter to review analytics and metrics across your campaigns and projects.

Compare your actual performance and results to the goals you outlined at the start of the year. If you’re falling short, determine where the gaps are and make the necessary changes. This could involve shifting budget between campaigns, trying new platforms or tactics, or reallocating internal resources.

Be agile and willing to pivot approaches if you identify areas that aren’t working. Marketing requires flexibility and the ability to optimize in real-time. Continuously enhance your strategy based on learnings and insights.

Don’t just set it and forget it after planning out your yearly marketing strategy. Actively monitor it to ensure you’re on track and making the right adjustments over time. The marketing landscape evolves quickly, so you need to keep up with the pace of change.

Regular check-ins will allow you to maximize the return from your marketing efforts. Be proactive about tracking and optimizing throughout the year. It will ensure you finish strong and accomplish your overarching goals.