Relaxing on holiday? Looking at the beach? Taking stock and a well-earned rest? Well, the last thing on your mind might be an audit. Yes, typically the preserve of finance who begrudgingly accept the attentions of an external audit team every year, a brand audit is very different. No, you don’t have to provide every financial record and audit trail for weeks on end. The brand audit is far sexier than the financial audit. Read on to find out why you should be thinking about audit during your summer break.
Why it’s time to take stock
The year either got off to a flying start, came to an abrupt end, or is flying up and down, round and round in circles. The state of marketing teams up and down the land varies wildly. For every team basking in glory and taking the accolades in their stride, another is being pulled from pillar to post and struggling to make it through. Of course, this isn’t entirely the fault of the team or management, with the pandemic having rocked the country more than the sorely-missed Glastonbury.
So, why choose to look at your brand now? As one recent commentator put it: “People are fed up with the Covid excuse for bad service.” Yes, we are suggesting that not everything is marketing’s fault. Poor service delivered elsewhere has changed the perception of your brand.
Crucially, who do we think is most likely to take the blame for poor brand perception?
Marketing the scapegoat?
Some would read this and ask: ‘So, what’s new?’ B2B marketing is not for the faint-hearted, with an often pressure-cooker atmosphere as sales demand more MQLs from marketing. Poor revenue numbers often translate into a short tenure for marketers. As a result, marketing will sometimes feel like the scapegoat. And this is just with sales.
Turning to service, what if your business furloughed much of the customer service resource? What if the operational processes were sacrificed to save money during the pandemic? How about when the software platform went down, or an update had to be rolled back? All of these may affect brand perception, yet none are the fault of marketing. But (and it’s a huge but) what about the brand KPIs that marketing gets measured against?
Guess what happens next? Either marketing shoulders some of the blame, or is chastised for not being able to drive a brand forward. Enter the brand audit (yes, an audit to the rescue).
The B2B brand audit
A brand audit helps marketers to understand where your brand is now versus the brand KPIs you want to achieve. Armed with insights into how to get from A to B, it gives brand managers and CMOs a tool to build (and repair) a brand. Not only is this something that can improve brand perception over time; it also acts as a great way to identify the drags on your brand and the parts that marketing can influence.
Now, many B2B marketers reading this may now be thinking that it’s hard enough to justify what you are delivering without trying to convince everyone to invest in a brand. This is partly true, but here’s the rub. Like anything, if you invest and nurture something you can develop it into something valuable. That’s good news for owners, private investors and shareholders. Even the CFO is likely to be impressed, especially if you can manage the long-term expectation of shareholder value.
Beauty and the beast
In simple terms, there are two different types of business: one that carefully nurtures and crafts a brand; and one that doesn’t. The first business has a brand that is perceived positively, and to which both prospects and existing customers feel loyalty. The latter, however, has a brand that repels customers. These customers assign negative associations to your brand, and poor service is just one way to alienate your most precious commodity.
B2C marketers are loud and proud about the importance of brand. They recognise how a strong brand works wonders for both new business and retention. B2B marketers, however, have long dreamt of having the same budget and patience to invest in brand. Fortunately, however, things are changing. Ultimately, having a strong brand will create long-term growth for your business.
Time for a B2B brand renaissance?
So, most people agree that B2B businesses have just as much benefit to building a strong brand in the long-term. The challenge is the ‘long-term’ part, which often conflicts with the short-term nature of sales. Clearly, CMOs need to get the board on-side with the health of a brand and then chart a course with an effective brand strategy.
Our exclusive community for B2B marketers, Propolis, has an entire group dedicated to Brand & Content Strategy, where your B2B peers share problems and solutions, and receive guidance from the world’s best brand marketers.