The Matrix. Image courtesy of HollywoodJesus.com

To paraphrase a line out of  The Matrix – “The answer is out there – it’s asking the right questions that drives you to the right one.”

A few years back my firm helped a sleepy eLearning software company paint an overarching picture of how to represent their products globally with a consistent, compelling cross channel brand.

The company was launched in the early 1990’s around a revolutionary computer based language-learning product.  Now they’re a multi-million dollar business with a successful IPO and a roster of products sold around the world.

Amazing as it may sound, before engaging us they never had created a written marketing plan. They did it without knowing their market share, conducting market research, setting departmental budgets with P&L responsibilities, or even concrete sales forecasts based on market realities.

How could that happen? They were so focused on building a successful family run company that they failed to develop a systematic, focused business approach designed to reconcile their objectives and resources with changing marketplace opportunities.

The point is this – every business, particularly undercapitalized businesses, needs to conduct a business audit, combining all that great entrepreneurial passion and creativity with real time information on their products and services, their competitor’s, their markets and the environment in which they operate into a strategic plan that can actually take their business to the next level.

What will a yearly marketing audit do for your company?

1.)   You will get a clear, concise view of your company and competitor’s in an impartial, objective manner. I’ve found that most companies have an over-inflated view of their products and services.

2.)   You will get a badly needed sense of direction. The end result is the creation of a working mission statement, a more effective brand positioning, and product and market emphasis based on market opportunities.

3.)   You will find out why your customers really buy/don’t buy your products and services and those of your competitor’s. This will force you to create products and services, and sales and marketing programs from the “ground up” based on consumer needs and wants.

4.)   You can maximize your sales and marketing efforts. Once you have a clear understanding of the competitive set, your positioning strategy and the buying decision process, you can develop integrated sales and marketing programs based on expected results

5.)   You develop a strategic business planning system that allows you to set short and long range goals, produce yearly sales and marketing plans that can be implemented and readjusted based on market realities. This gives you the discipline to set a future vision of the company and outline the milestones you need to reach between now and then.

Have you guessed who the company was? The Rosetta Stone of course. The airport and mall kiosks, the focus on global online sales (versus US school systems using The Rosetta Stone as an ESL solution) and much more came out of the exercise.

The Marketing Audit.  It’s just as important as that yearly physical we all dread, yet the results always come back positive.