How to Perform a Brand Audit in 9 Simple Steps
Anyone can sell products and services. But building a brand that remains 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 as many leads or you’re losing more sales to competitors. Perhaps people just aren’t responding to what you have to say.
Many businesses blame lagging growth on the noisy, saturated marketplace. Getting customers is hard and the sheer number of competitors makes it even more difficult.
But often, the problem isn’t with how many competitors you have or the noise—it’s because you’ve drifted from your brand identity.
Before you cut prices or throw more money into the marketing budget, consider a brand audit.
Don’t have a brand identity? Learn more.
Want to know how a brand helps your business? Read this.
An organization that drifts off course becomes disconnected from its original mission and target audience. This slight, unintentional shift can be so gradual, most don’t even notice.
Making a few minor changes to your business plan here and there might not seem like a big deal. But deviate enough and before you know it, your audience is confused about what you do.
Without a routine brand audit, your business could end up falling behind and out of sync. If you continue to ignore the problem, it may take a complete rebrand to get back on track.
Here’s How Brand Drift Happens
Before we look at how to correct the problem, it will help to understand the symptoms of the disease.
Brand drift begins with small things that appear harmless at first. Linking to a social media post or changing some images on your website. Creating a blog post or video on an important topic but only loosely related to business.
Drift progresses when you decide to take on a couple of clients that don’t meet your qualifications, but you do it because you need the money. Then, you partner with another business to exchange referrals, even though their industry isn’t relevant to yours.
To top it off, you run a discount promotion and experiment with an ad campaign, just to see what happens.
These aren’t always bad ideas—if you’ve thought them through. But they can work against you if don’t consider how they will affect your identity and relevancy.
If you’re diligent about following your brand strategy, you shouldn’t have a problem with drift. But when it happens, a brand audit will get your business back on course.
The Impact of Brand Consistency
We spend a lot of time doing what we do—serving customers, making sales, day-to-day operations. Because we’re so familiar with our business, we assume people know more about it than they do. So, we must make it easy for them to understand the value we offer.
But your audience can only digest a certain amount of information at once. They aren’t stupid, they’re just busy, like you and me. They don’t have time to decipher every marketing message, website page, or social media post to figure out how you help them.
Since they can only process a little at a time, 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 touch points to get a qualified sales lead. People don’t buy on the first, second, or third contact. They need several interactions with you to become convinced your solution is right for them.
Each touch point must be clear and consistent. Otherwise, they’ll keep looking until they find someone that does a better job of communicating.
Brand consistency can increase revenue by as much as 23%.
If you think about it, this makes sense. Consistency conveys stability and trustworthiness.
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 perceive your business and make comparisons with 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 helps you assess whether your current brand is working for you or against you. A strong one adds value, a weak one diminishes it.
As you perform an audit, you’ll answer questions such as:
- 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 consists 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 your business is perceived in its industry 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
Visual 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.
Questions to answer in step 1:
- Is your purpose (why you started) and promise (what you give customers) stated clearly?
- Are you communicating that in every touch point?
2. Evaluate Your Goals
All of your goals—not just revenue—are relevant 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 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.
Sometimes disruptive events or circumstances affect your audience and may change their 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 will vary 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 you’ve assessed the target audience, it’s time to explore the path they travel to become a customer.
In a section above, I wrote that it takes up to 13 touch points to get a qualified sales lead. Each touch point represents a step in the customer journey.
You must lead prospects down a clear, direct path that moves them from 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 what their problem is, but don’t know what to do about it. These folks are problem-aware and 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 are product-aware. These people are the easiest to close because they recognize the problem they have 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.
As an 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 customers 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 their customers, even when they don’t ask for it. But it’s surprising that many of them 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 customer to find out what they liked about your competitors. This will reveal weaknesses and help you uncover ways to improve your offers.
Also, look at sales data. What does it tell you? 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 show how well your website performs. They also reveal what your audience is looking for and what they’re not.
There are four important metrics to track. They are:
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 to each page.
Conversions: This stat reveals how many people took an action once they arrived on your site.
Analytics can be overwhelming. Many businesses don’t even track them. Rather than focus on every stat (and there are a lot of them), start with the ones I’ve given you.
You’ll appreciate the story they tell over time.
Questions to answer in this step:
- What trends to 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?
If you’d like to know more about these statistics, go here.
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 constantly change. They’re creating new offers and adjusting prices. Some are tapping into other markets, some are shutting down, and new entrants emerge every year.
For this step of the audit, look at your top 10 competitors. Fewer than 10 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 get a sale, you must make an offer. An offer isn’t just pitching your product or service, nor is it a call-to-action. It encompasses the functional, technical, and emotional benefits that customers will receive.
Given how competitive the marketplace is, your offer can’t be average, mediocre, or even good.
It must be excellent.
To create an excellent offer, you must have something to compare it to. A good analysis of your competitors will make it easier for you to contrast your offers with theirs.
Powerful offers deliver three types of benefits. They are:
Functional: what the product or service does or helps the customer accomplish
Technical: the quality of the product or service (design, ingredients, materials, etc.)
Emotional: how the product or service makes the customer feel (safe, happy, smart, etc.)
An offer with all three types of benefits will perform better. 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 in some way?
- Are your offers compelling and unique? How?
9. Assess Your Logo, Colors, and Brand Imagery
Now we come to the part most people associate with branding—visuals. Your images should 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. 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?
Get to know them. Learn more about your customers—by listening—and you’ll discover what they like 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, but if your brand images—such as logos, websites, social media—don’t reflect it, they will damage your credibility.
This is one area where getting help from a professional designer pays off.
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. They are:
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.
Managing Director, The Brand Auditors