The dreaded audit!
But sometimes, you need to take more than just an audit of the stock you have in your store cupboards. Sometimes in a business, you need to find out where your business is going, and it’s essential to take an intangible audit of your firm to enable you to see the big picture – the true picture.
Only if you study the past, can you foretell the future! An intangible audit will help you to understand why customers want, or do not want, your products or services, the motives underlying their purchases, what is affecting their behaviour, and why and how customers buy, and who influences their buying decisions.
Have you ever sat down and described your company and the industry it operates in, using both positive and negative perceptions and facts? What is the nature of your business? Where is it located? The size, market share, turnover, etc.? And what is the overall business opportunity or problem?
What is your product or service? What is it called? What does it do? How does it work? What percentage is it of the market and what is your market share? What competitors does it have? What are the Unique Selling Points? What are the distinguishing features of each product? Can you translate the features into benefits?
How about your customers? At all times, in your business cycle, you have three main target market groups: your present or existing customers – active and inactive; your past customers; and your prospective or new customers. They are the most important ingredients in your business strategy. As Anita Roddick of The Body Shop said: “Don’t sell to everybody, sell to somebody!”
What was the market opportunity that brought your product into existence? Has the original opportunity changed? If so, why? What external, unforeseen circumstances enhanced or retarded your marketing, campaigns, strategy and plans? What are the number of years and money spent on previous marketing strategies? Have you ever done any research on the success or failure of your current strategy? Is the research valid?
Does your creative approach to your business fit with your products, target market and corporate identity? What are your short- and long-term marketing objectives, and with what yardstick will you measure success or failure? What do you want your present / past / potential customer to do? What is your ‘offer’ strategy?
What other marketing / advertising is planned? What are your primary and secondary merchandising objectives? What are your distribution objectives? What is the distribution pattern and how is it done and by whom and what percentage of the costs or price is it? Is it effective and cost-effective?
Loyal employees create loyal customers. Employee loyalty increases business profitability, competitiveness and market share. What, how, when, where, why and to whom do your communicate? And how does it fit in with your overall plans?
Which industries, companies or products can be tied in with your products? Looking at your products and services now and the objectives to be met, do you know enough about the market, the target market and the competition? What existing research is available? What further research should be undertaken to help you plan your business and marketing strategy?
Who, what, why, when, where, how? It’s not easy doing an intangible audit. If you sell tables, you count how many you’ve made, how many you’ve sold, and how many are left in the store room. Although not always easy, it’s still pretty straightforward. But when doing an audit of concepts like ‘why do I have the customers I have and why don’t I have more’, things get a bit more tricky.
It’s always good to at least consider some of the above questions. You need to be as honest as you possibly can to build up an accurate picture. After all, only when you know where you are can you start to plan where you want to be!