Why You Should Run a Complete Marketing Audit Before Starting Content Marketing

One of the first things many businesses do when they get online is launch a blog. “We need content marketing”, they say, and off they go, producing blog content, infographics and other items to help them sell their product or service.

But they quickly run into difficulties. They don’t seem to get any traction. Their traditional advertising and PR activities seem to generate more sales. And often they blame the content. Run a Google search for “Content Marketing Doesn’t Work”, and you’ll see what I mean.

Content Marketing Doesn't Work

23 million results. But is it really content marketing to blame, or is it the lack of ground work? To get a grip on this question, you first need to understand what content marketing really is.

What is Content Marketing?

Put simply, content marketing is a tool that drives interest in your product. So, in some ways it is closer to PR than traditional marketing, but to think of it as such is a trap many have fallen into.

Content marketing is anything an individual or an organization creates and/or shares to tell their story. What it isn’t: A warmed-over press release served as a blog post.

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs 

But in terms of what most people do, or consider Content Marketing, it is all about creating online articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, slides, infographics, images, or anything else your audience wants to see, and sharing it on the channels they use.

Content Marketing is the basis of every form of online marketing

Or, as Seth Godin puts it:

Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.

Of course, that depends what you define as content. For an online first world, those articles, videos, etc., that are the bedrock of your content marketing funnel are also the bedrock for your other marketing efforts.

Search Engine Marketing? You need those keyword links and backlinks content marketing provides.

PR? You need the good vibes your helpful content gives your core audience.

Social Media Marketing? Well, what are you going to share except content.

So as Content Marketing plays such an important role in everything you do as a company online, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re doing it right.

Why you need Online Marketing Research

Before you start producing content for your online marketing efforts, there are a number of checklists you need to start ticking off. And at the top of these lists is: What is it you’re actually selling?

Believe it or not, but this is the first hurdle many companies fall at online. Without defining what it actually is you’re selling, you have no way to effectively target your content. And, actually, you have no way to even create content that’s linked to your product. And, actually, you have no way to link your audience’s needs with your products capabilities.

An online marketing audit defines what your product is, who needs it, why they need it, where those people are, how you can reach them, and who are your competitors. Armed with this information, you can create a content strategy that puts that old content marketing chestnut - informative, educational, entertaining - content in front of your audience’s eyes.

So where do you start?

What is in a Marketing Audit?

Broken down as simply as possible, a marketing audit shows you what has worked, what has failed, and what you should do in marketing. It looks at your overall marketing performance as well as your performance on specific tasks and campaigns, and gives you a way forward that can bring rewards.

A traditional Marketing Audit begins with a SWOT analysis. Here, you can identify what your audience believes your strengths to be, not just what you do reasonably well. And this ties in perfectly with the next part: market research. After that comes a competitor analysis, internal marketing environment, external marketing environment, the competitive environment, and lastly the economic environment.

SWOT Analysis

Image Source: KVR Webtech

But basically, it can be broken down into the following 6 parts:

1. What are you selling?

What is your main product and what do your audience think about it?

2. Who are you selling to?

Who buys your product and why do they do so?

3. Where are you selling?

Where do you audience shop for your product and where do they buy it? When they buy also fits in here.

4. How are you selling?

On what platform does your audience buy, or not buy? Where do they come from, and where do they go after they’ve bought, or not bought?

5. Who are your competitors?

Who are you competing with? What do they do better than you? What do they do worse than you? How does their audience compare to yours?

6. What advantages/disadvantages does the environment give you?

Are you online only? Global? Here, the PESTEL model comes into play: 

PESTEL Analysis

Image Source: Oxford College of Marketing

How does this translate online?

An online only business can follow the basic principles of a complete marketing audit, but the tools used and methods involved will change. You will want to create an online presence report, an SEO report and a social media report, as well as a content audit.

Your Online Presence 

Your online presence is simply who you are to people online. It covers where you are present, how big a presence you are, how consistent your voice is, and how much people interact with you, across channels.

What does this mean for content marketing?

You can see which platforms you currently perform well on, and which you underperform on. You can also see new platforms you should concentrate on, and which platforms you should double down on.

Your Social Media Presence

It can be argued that social media is merely a subset of online presence, but it will usually be up to one team member to take care of this part of your online business. Here, you will get to see what social platforms you are present on, and what your engagement and follower base is like.

What does this mean for content marketing?

This can give you ideas for content creation. Identifying potential areas for growth is essential when it comes to content marketing, so doubling down on Instagram with visual content may be a valid tactic. Your social media presence analysis will tell you more.

Content Audit

One of the most infuriating things in content marketing is producing the perfect piece of content, only to see that someone else has done it first! A content audit will show you where your competitors play and what successes they’ve had. It will also show your own successes.

With this info, you can go on to produce content that fits gaps in the market.

How does it all tie together?

Your online marketing audit will provide you with a lot of information. And that information has to be sifted through to find actionable insights that can truly make a difference to your content marketing.

If you’re not a professional auditor, it can be tough to sort the value metrics from the vanity metrics, which is why it often pays to get an external company to run your marketing research and audit for you. But here are some takeaways.

Audience Targeting

One other core part of your marketing audit and online presence analysis is understanding who your audience is, who they should be and where they are. 

Sometimes your audience is not exactly what you thought it was, and not exactly what you originally targeted. Which is fine, it happens. But once you have data to tell you exactly how your audience behaves, and how your competitors’ audiences behave, it’s time to act on it.

Make sure to target your content towards the most valuable audience. That doesn’t just mean writing topics for them, but it also means finding the right tone of voice, posting in the right channels, and optimising your funnel.

Content types and topics

With all the data about your competitors (and your own) content performance, you can see what types of content work for which audiences. You can also see what topics work with which types, which times and on which platforms. So coming up with a content plan becomes that much easier.

Tone of Voice and Style 

Another often overlooked part of content marketing is Tone of Voice and Style. One of the keys to a truly positive online presence is being instantly identifiable across the web. So your Facebook post, Medium article, Display advert and Instagram video are all instantly recognisable as yours.

Once you have a complete marketing audit, you can take a look at some of the things your audience and your competitors’ audiences like to see in content. They may like a down to earth style, or maybe comedy. Pick up on what works and build it into your own Tone of Voice and Style guide. Then replicate that across all platforms. It may not seem like a big deal, but it can really boost brand recognition.

So there you have it. A complete marketing audit can give you a frankly incredible amount of information on your business needs, content needs and audience needs, as well as telling you the same for your competitors. It allows you to nail down your targeting, topics and tone.

By getting your research spot on, you can get your content marketing spot on.