Yesterday was Black Friday. I spent the day with my husband and in-laws visiting the Georgia Aquarium. Yes, it was jammed packed crazy with people. My favorite exhibit was the leafy sea dragon. If you have not seen them, I think they are the neatest and coolest sea horses. Unfortunately, these species have become endangered.

While I do not participate in Black Friday, I have always been a supporter of Small Business Saturday. Let’s do a brand audit in preparation for 2020 to help your small business brand become more profitable and successful.

Here is an Eight Point Checklist to do a brand audit

Have the strategies and tactics you’ve implemented during the year effectively grown your brand? Has your brand veered off course in any way? Without the answers to these questions, you could be moving in the wrong direction.

A brand audit offers a snapshot of your brand’s performance and strategic direction at any given moment in time. It enables you to identify what’s going right and what’s going wrong as well as real and potential opportunities and threats to your brand.

Step 1. Make a list of everything that makes up your brand.

To conduct a brand audit effectively, you'll want to take a close look at each part of your brand; everything from your logo to your website to your brand voice.

To make it easier, I’ve created a checklist of items that you can use to keep track. Here is a step-by-step guide to take you through the process of a brand audit on your business or blog. (Download Brand Audit Checklist here.) You might not have everything on this list and that's okay. There's room on the sheet for some quick notes, which might be useful for the next section of the brand audit.

Below is an example of a few items:

Brand Identity and Marketing Materials

  • Identity guidelines
  • Marketing collateral (brochures, onesheets)
  • Marketing campaign materials (including email, direct mail, and ads)
  • Website

Social Media Channels

  • All of Your official brand and company social media profiles
  • Reviews and Testimonials You have received
  • Any other online brand mentions

Media – your past year

  • Media kit
  • Press releases
  • Interviews

Company Documents and Stationary

  • Human resources communications (internal and external)
  • Training materials and handbooks
  • Corporate Stationery (Business card, letterhead, labels and the like)

Competitor (pick top two competitors)

  • Website
  • Social media profiles
  • Media mentions
  • Reviews

The more information and materials you can collect, the better your brand audit will be, and the better positioned your brand will be to support your business goals during the next 12 months.

Now that you have gathered all the materials proceed to the next steps of the brand audit

Step 2. Affirm Your Brand Values and Brand Promise to Your Consumers

What do you want your brand to stand for in consumers' minds, and what do you want its promise to consumers to be? Make sure your brand values and brand promise align with your business goals for the projected future.

Step 3. Identify Your Target Audience

Have you segmented your audience most effectively to ensure your brand adds the appropriate value to specific consumers? What do they want and need from a brand like yours? Are you delivering it? Are you effectively communicating your brand value to each segment?

Step 4. Analyze Your Brand in Relation to Your Competitors

Where is your brand positioned in the marketplace relative to your top two competitors? Is your brand occupying the right position? Are you communicating that position effectively to your target audiences? Identify your brand’s differentiators, strengths, and weaknesses to ensure it’s positioned correctly.

Step 5. Review Your Brand Internally

There are no brand advocates that are more powerful than your employees, so it’s critical that you review brand perceptions and expectations from the executive level all the way down to ensure all employees understand, believe, and advocate the brand. Look for gaps and areas of confusion and fill them. Even if you are working with virtual assistants, it is still essential that they understand your brand and what your brand is all about.

Step 6. Don’t Forget Third-Party Stakeholders

A thorough brand audit shouldn’t just review consumers, competitors, employees or virtual assistants. It should also include a review of how other stakeholders perceive your brand and their expectations for it. Investors, journalists, and vendors matter, too. Be sure to gather their opinions, published comments.

Step 7. Evaluate Your Brand Elements

As you go through the checklist of brand elements, measure it against what you’ve written for your brand summary. Ask yourself if the item is:

  • true to your brand’s values
  • helping you achieve your goals
  • portraying the right mood and
  • evoking the right emotion from customers
  • consistent with your visual identity

Make sure you’re as unbiased and objective as possible. You might feel attachments to some parts of your branding (or even the opposite and you’re bored with it!), but make sure any decisions about the quality of your brand is coming from as neutral a point of view as you can.

As you evaluate your brand elements, decide whether they are working or not. You can divide it up three ways like this:

  1. Yes, it’s working. I’ll keep it.
  2. No, it’s not working. I need to fix it.
  3. No, it’s not working. It is time to get rid of it.

Step 8. Make plans to implement necessary changes

If anything needs fixing or replacing, make sure you set aside time in your schedule to do it! It’s no good going through the work of conducting a brand audit, identifying problems, and then not fixing them.

It can be easy to procrastinate and think, "well, it's kinda working, so it’ll be okay for now…” but don’t fall into this mindset. Strong brands are more profitable and successful. If there are weaknesses in your business’s brand, don’t delay making the changes to fix them.

I hope your brand audit has left you in a better performing place for the new year with a better understanding of what makes your brand work.

Maintaining the health of your brand means taking a look into its workings at regular intervals, so make a note in your calendar of when you plan to review your brand – like one year from now.

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