Could a Digital Marketing Audit reveal some costly surprises for you and your small business? What exactly is a digital marketing audit and what could you learn from it? Is it possible you're blowing on sales, marketing and tech that doesn't get an ROI?
When I first met this particular CEO, let's call him Frank, he was excited about his newly-hired, head of marketing. Her title was actually COO, and she was in charge of all operations, including digital and inbound marketing; their new strategy for growth. She was a sharp dresser and smooth talker. She was not someone you wanted as an enemy. She had a certain power to her presence.
The overly-generous salary and benefits package paid to her was in the low six figures. It was in no way indicative of the COO's prowess or direct experience in sales, marketing, or technology. We later learned she had little to no direct experience and was basically winging it, especially with the tech stuff. From what I could tell early in the audit, her knowledge was limited to regurgitating keywords she learned by subscribing to Hubspot's killer content. (No, I am not a partner with them although we have danced around the possibility since the early days. They are the best in the business when it comes to Inbound. They invented the category.) She had my client going for a while. He figured it was all good until I got to dig in.
It's one thing to talk about digital, inbound or content marketing. It's another to know it because you lived through 10,000 hours on the front line working working with small business owners. This train wreck eventually revealed in my audit was a function of Frank being desperate for someone to save his butt by growth through digital marketing, content and automation. The buck stopped with Frank. And he was a big man about it. He's a very shrewd business man; wealthy and successful. He's a sweetheart of a guy, too.
His COO is a wonderful person, likely well-intentioned, but in the end had made a lot of bad decisions. She invested in redundant technologies with zero clue how to align or integrate any of it into a solid sales and marketing plan of action with team accountability in place with measures of success. Welcome to the world of unsuspecting business owners out there who just want to grow. They lose a ton of money because they don't view sales, marketing and tech enough as a real investment. They get hooked by shiny objects and slick pitches. I know because I've been there and can still make bad decisions with my own money.
What Should I Do Now?
Hopefully, you get advice before you lose money in digital marketing or any other business investment you make. Most of us don't for some reason when it comes to software, sales and marketing. More often we get advice for tax, legal or business risk issues. So if you find yourself in Frank's shoes having lost time and big money now asking, "What should I do now?" the only logical answer is to stop making uninformed, knee-jerk sales, marketing and tech investments. Maybe it's time to hire an adviser you can really trust to look at everything and watch your back. How about a solid plan of action and team accountability?
Why make investments of any kind that are critical to your business and life without getting advice from a completely objective, highly-qualified professional with a long-term track record? This is not the kid who has the most Twitter followers in your company, either! It's a real pro because you pay them to advise you. Most people are out there to sell you something in digital marketing, not advise you to do what is right for your business and team. A trusted adviser is someone you can depend it because they know what they are doing. You can always trust them.
After working with Frank and his team for about three months it became abundantly clear that he had made a series of huge mistakes. Sure, his new COO was quite the task master when it came to operations. But not when it came to marketing. My audit revealed a world of pain. Oh the look on Frank's face as the truth was revealed. We're talking big numbers to a small business, under $5 million in annual sales.
To Frank, his COO talked the talk, but she could only fake it when it came to digital marketing. Frank only discovered how costly his mistake was after I had conducted the digital marketing audit. He had burned over $280,000. Gone. Toast. Complete waste of money and time, not to mention the opportunity cost of her approximate, 12-month tenure.
What the heck is a Digital Marketing Audit or as we now call it, the CME DMA? Look at it as the easiest way most small business owners can save their butt from getting taken to the cleaners by the SEO guru, Webmaster of Yesteryear, the programmer from Hell who's pitching the next best solution to you. The audit is a combination of these three elements.
1. Knowing what questions to ask. (Detective hat.)
2. Knowing where to look for waste. (Experience and wisdom.)
3. Honest conversations, goals, planning and accountability. (Reality check.)
My audit is a simple process I invented to help me and other small business owners who were bootstrapping their growth out of cash flow and lean start up DNA. I hate making stupid mistakes and blowing money. Most small business owners can't afford a ton of mistakes. It's part of the process to learn and grow in business. The theory is we learn and get better at making decisions so we succeed. Most are barely surviving until they get a grip on sales and marketing. They desperately need more customers and capital.
The audit is simple for me because I know what questions to ask. I know what happens because I lived sales and marketing investments with my own businesses and money over the last 30 years. There are many out there like me. I walk the walk in a crazy industry; marketing/advertising. Sales is an essential component of the marketing I do. We don't have money for brand. We need customers, now.
Throw in the tech now, of course. It's essential for success in the digital age. Unlike the securities, insurance or accounting or legal professions where most people are licensed and regulated, the realm of software, sales and marketing solutions, offers, products and people hyper-selling them make the Wild, Wild West of 1800 look tame. It's a freaking circus out here. And unsuspecting small business dudes get hung out to dry all the time. I get calls from the angry ones who somehow got off their rope soon enough.
Part of my purpose is to protect people from themselves in the small business world; particularly sales, marketing and tech decisions and investments. Maybe I watched too many action movies in my day, but there's definitely a bit of Superhero in me when it comes to being vigilant about protecting my clients from bad sales and marketing investments. My audit process identifies all the stupid things small business owners can and do spend money on, normally only because they are desperate for solutions finding customers and capital. They buy the pitch hook, line and sinker. They don't do their homework. It's our nature as entrepreneurs to take risk and shoot from the hip. But this gets deadly-expensive for small business owners. We can't take many hits in sales, marketing or tech before we go belly up. Just look at the failure rate; more than 80% of us don't make it after five years or something crazy like that. It's hard enough to make in business without blowing money on sales, marketing and tech investments.
Leap of Faith or Informed Decision?
Entrepreneurs take huge leaps of faith, shoot from the hip on investing, hiring and firing and don't know their butt from their elbow when it comes to making informed decisions on most software or digital marketing best practices. I don't mean to sound critical, but come on! This is no trifle of money we're talking about here. We're talking billions of dollars get blown on hair-brained marketing and sales schemes every year. I want to put a dent in this insanity. I have taken more blind leaps of faith as a younger business man than I do now. That's called wisdom. I love to share it.
Did you ever have an ad or marketing campaign totally bomb on you? How about an SEO guy takes your money and does absolutely nothing? What about the programmer who told you, "No problem. We'll have it all done in six weeks." Yeah, right. How expensive is that to us as small business people? It happens all the time. People just accept it. Why don't we do more about it? Shame? Fear of stuff like software or selling because of our own head trash? Don't be embarrassed if you need help. It's your money, your business, your vision, your purpose to succeed. Minimize the risk! Get the freaking help you need.
None of us know what we don't know. We think we know way more than we normally really do know. (Ego) When you don't know what you don't know about digital marketing, sales, and tech, and you sit in a seminar and let some slick dude pitch you software that will "Double your sales" or whatever, and you go running back to the office all excited to tell your team about it and they look at you in disgust wondering how they can tell you to stop doing stupid stuff like this without losing their jobs, it's simply insane and expensive.
Believe me, very few people want to tell you the truth. They want to sell you something that is good for them. It may work for you, if you figure out the other 29 related elements that need to work with the software you just bought at a seminar. And, that requires finding and hiring and managing five people to do the work. Not to mention another $10,000 or more. Oh yeah. The people who can actually do the work on time, on budget, who speak your language ... they live in four time zones and three countries. No body is paid to watch your back unless you make that agreement with them. Everyone is trying to sell you something, all the time.
Small business owners get ripped off a lot in the sales, marketing and especially with software investments. I've experienced this first hand as a business owner, a buyer of software and an adviser in sales and marketing. I have seen it countless times with small business owners who admittedly, could have done far more due diligence prior to buying, but don't. I refer to the software companies with overly-aggressive sales practices, preying on small business owners who clearly max out credit cards with ease, as the DunderSofts; universally non-authentic sales organizations lead by typically young, inexperienced executives who put sales quotes and profit before customer suitability. If I were to sell you an investment that was not "suitable" for you, you could sue me. There's a reason for that. It's calling stealing.
I digress. The point is, most people don't audit their marketing and sales investments like they do financial statements. Which seems kind of dumb considering that all of our financial statements directly reflect sales, assets including brand and marketing, and hard numbers documenting how good we really are at managing an income statement or balance sheet. I just sat through a two week course on business finances. Few owners speak the language of income statement and balance sheet. Tragic, but true. Why not keep score more?
Take these three measures to get the most out of your sales, marketing and technology investments. You'll also find you simplify your business and your life. You might even sleep better at night.
1. Know what you do best and focus on it. You don't make your own paper clips for a reason. Nor should you probably build your own website or do your own marketing and sales and tech stuff IF it's NOT what you excel at doing. Know what you know really well. Hire the best talent your money can buy and delegate everything else. Hire smart. Lead well.
2. Get the best professional adviser your money can buy. Why screw around with this? Being cheap with advice is definitely hazardous to your wealth. If you don't see your business as the best investment you've got, why are you investing so much time and energy into it every day? Get a day job and have a life. Advisers who do a great job should help you save money and sleep well at night. They are not a cost center when the add value.
3. Measure everything. This is another way of saying you're going to do your own audit, every 30 days or more. I coach all my clients to hold at least a weekly sales and marketing team meeting for up to no more than one hour. We call it a Performance Review. Imagine that. We measure, learn and adapt. It's not brain surgery once you learn the fundamentals. And don't tell me it costs too much. Google Analytics is free. So is a ton of other software to help you measure what counts the most for sales, marketing and technology success. Other software tools are abundant and affordable, even for start ups. Don't be a Dunderhead. Keep score! It's your money.
The truth is that every business owner deserves to have a trusted adviser working for them in each of the essential business disciplines including leadership management, finance, technology, tax, legal, sales and marketing. It seems most people shoot more from the hip on sales, marketing and tech than the other core, "Pillars of Profit" for success in business. It could be that I am acutely aware of the losses because of how long I've been on the front line as a bootstrapping entrepreneur. It could be we don't take sales and marketing as seriously when it comes to money and keeping score.
I love my job. I love putting on the detective hat and asking the essential questions. I love to teach, coach and solve problems related to sales, marketing and tech. I love to make a difference and help people sleep better at night.
That's how you know any audit is good for you and your business; you will sleep better at night. Just the opposite of the feeling you get from the IRS.
How do you audit your success in sales, marketing and tech?
I always appreciate your comments, questions, suggestions and shares!
To your continued success and happiness.