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Is your business experiencing a downslide lately? Are your losing customers to your rivals? Is there a sudden dip in sales and revenue? If so, and you are looking for the cause of these issues, then gear up for a brand audit of your business right away.

The bitter reality of today’s business world is that competition is cutthroat. The only way you can survive and stand out from your competitors is through “differentiation.” And what is it that differentiates your business from others? Brand!

Why You Should Audit Your Brand

The purpose of a brand audit is to ascertain how your business is performing in the eyes of your customers. It offers you the following benefits:

  • Helps you to determine the positioning of your business and to plan corrective strategies
  • Empowers you to discover the strengths and weaknesses of your business
  • Guides you to align your offerings more accurately with the expectations of customers
  • Enables you to get up to speed with the perceptions (positive or negative) about your business

Let’s get into how you can conduct your own brand strategic audit…

Step 1: Create an Audit Framework

The first step of your brand audit process is to create a framework. Before you start examining your website, make a list of topics to be covered and how will you go about the process. I use mind-mapping for this and scribble down everything that directly or indirectly relates to my business. These are the elements which need to be considered during the brand audit:

  • Your website’s purpose and use
  • Your main competitors
  • Your target market and product niche
  • Your product strengths/weaknesses
  • Your market positioning vis-à-vis competitors
  • Your current and anticipated industry trends
  • Your differentiators, like pricing, quality of service, first mover advantage, etc.

A sample mind-map outlining things that relate to my business.

Step 2: Take A Look At Your Web Analytics

For online businesses, it is crucial to scrutinize web analytics on a frequent basis. Think of these as vital signs of your business that keep it alive and running. These analytics include the following metrics:

Traffic Analysis – This is an incredibly obvious first step, but necessary to see if your brand is gaining popularity. An often overlooked component of analyzing your traffic is identifying whether or not your traffic gains are actually coming from your geographical target markets. You may be seeing traffic increases, but they might be coming from the wrong countries. Make sure you identify what kind of traffic is increasing, before assuming everything looks like it’s going well.

Bounce Rate – Bounce rate determines the percentage of people who visit your site and leave immediately (bounce). This is extremely essential for e-commerce websites as many people leave without making a purchase after being directed to a landing page. A high bounce rate (>50%) implies that there is something wrong with your website that is making visitors go away.

Pageviews – This will let you find out the number of times each page of your website is visited and which ones are viewed the most/least. If you operate an e-commerce website, it will ascertain which products are most popularly being checked out by users and which ones need to be promoted more often (or in some cases dropped).

Conversion Rate – This is another crucial metric for e-commerce and SaaS websites as it determines the number of goals your site has achieved. It is simply the proportion of visitors that actually perform a desired activity on your site. This could be a product purchase, an account creation, or even a newsletter subscription.

Be sure to check your conversion rates over time. Are they increasing or decreasing?

You can use KISSmetrics to create conversion funnels to help you analyze your conversion rates.

Step 3: Question Your Customers

Checking your website analytics is a good first step to get a bird’s-eye view of the health of your brand. It’s also good to hear directly from your customers to find out how they perceive and speak of your brand.

A great place to start is to run an online poll. Running an online poll is an easy and effective technique used to perform a quick check on how customers feel about your business. Polls, as a rule, consist of one question, so you can run a different poll for each question you want to ask.

Here are some example questions you can use:

  • Did the customer service representative handle your call quickly?
  • How would you rate our website based on ease of navigation?
  • Please rate your overall experience on our website?
  • Why did you decide to do business with us?

There are some really useful DIY sites that can aid you in the process.

I used EasyPolls to create a poll for my website

If you have an official Facebook page for your business, you can use Facebook Poll app to start a poll. This will give you instant feedback from your fans on the social networking site.

Facebook Poll App

Net Promoter Score – Net Promoter Score is basically a customer loyalty metric. It measures the faithfulness that exists between your website and its users. NPS involves determining overall customer loyalty by asking your customers a simple question (rated on a scale of 1 to 10) that forecasts the likelihood of a repurchase from your website or a customer referring your products/services to a friend. There are three types of customers, as per the NPS system:

  • 0 – 6 = “Detractors” – People who dislike your business and will speak unfavorably about it
  • 7 – 8 = “Passives” – People who are indifferent to your product offerings and are likely to switch to competitor brands
  • 9 – 10 = “Promoters” – People who help you spread the word about your business

The question that determines customer loyalty of your business is:

“How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to your friends and colleagues?”

You can calculate the NPS of your brand by subtracting the percentage of users in the red zone (Detractors: 0-6) from the percentage of people in the yellow zone (Promoters: 9-10).

Your score will range between -100 (worst) and +100 (best) based on customer satisfaction. Average companies usually score between 5 and 10%. Stellar companies operate at NPS efficiency ratings of 50 to 80%.

Qualaroo is a great tool for running a Net Promoter Score as well as online polls.

Online Survey – For a comprehensive assessment of your brand, I recommend that you create a survey for a sample of customers. You can go the traditional route and hire a research firm to carry out a physical survey for you or you can do it yourself using an online survey tool. This will give you extensive feedback regarding your brand that you can further analyze.

Naturally, you cannot expect each and every customer to fill out your survey form. That is why you need to take a random sample of users to deduce the results. Your aim should be to gather feedback from at least 50 users of each target market (that you highlighted in the mind-mapping exercise).

Here are some of the questions that you can include in your survey:

  • What makes [your business] different from others?
  • What terms/keywords would you use in a search engine to find a business like [your business]?
  • What are [your business’s] strong points?
  • What are [your business’s] weak points?
  • Do you trust the services provided by [your business]?

You also can use online survey tools to get your job done for free. I have used SurveyCrest, one of the many online survey creation tools available for free on the Web. Simply sign in and create a survey and share link with your customers to get instant feedback.

A sample Customer Satisfaction Survey created using SurveyCrest

After conducting your survey, compile results in a quantifiable format. Use statistical confidence intervals and margins of error to estimate the likelihood of the problems in the entire user population. Simple frequencies and relationships between metrics can be calculated either manually or via qualitative software.

Finally, take note of the language your customers use to describe your brand, solutions and offers. If you notice any common themes or repetitive language being used, try testing their words in your advertising and website copy. You may find that the words your customers use to describe your business resonates with other prospects as well.

Step 4: Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes

Have you ever wondered what a real customer experiences when he or she uses your website? Well, you will never know until you get into your customer’s shoes. If you have an e-commerce site such as a shopping portal, run a quick checkup every once in a while to discover any errors or glitches in the system. This will let you assess key features of your site, including navigation, account creation, data accuracy, shopping cart, and checkout.

User Testing – How does a Software-as-a-service (SaaS) business audit its services? Simple! By having a random group of users test performance, usability, accessibility, and durability, and then provide you with feedback on the app (pretty much similar to the mystery shopping technique).

In addition to testing general usability, be sure to test these critical factors:

  • Security and Privacy Testing: Your application needs to guarantee that all security and privacy related concerns, like user privileges and data integrity, are tested
  • Performance Testing: Ensure that your SaaS application is tested with a number of users simultaneously accessing it from various locations
  • Data Migration: Since users want to import/export their data from the application, validating for data migration is essential

Step 5: Post Brand Audit – Action and Monitor

In the end, a brand audit is useless if you don’t devise an action plan for the issues highlighted. In order to do that, make a detailed report using your findings in the brand audit process and set actionable targets that are required to address those issues.

List all of the problems that turned up during the brand audit process. Next to each issue, write down the action plan(s) required to resolve it along with expected results and a reasonable timeline. Setting a timeline is crucial as each error has its own weight in the functioning of your website and must be timely addressed.

A sample action plan

After all of your action plans are executed, monitor the progress by repeating the brand audit process. Remember…brand audit is a continuous exercise and must be conducted regularly. I would recommend a quarterly audit of your website to ensure that its health remains in check.

So the next time you feel that your business isn’t up to snuff and is lagging behind its competitors or your web site traffic slows down or the bounce rate is high, it’s a clear sign you need a BRAND AUDIT!

What are your thoughts?

Do you audit your brand? How frequently?

Did I miss any steps?

Please share your experiences in the comments below!

About the Author: Azmat Batool is an Online Reputation Management Expert and Tech Enthusiast. She blogs about social media, mobile apps, latest tech happenings, and survey trends, and is presently working as an online consultant for SocialDon.

Table of Content

Introduction
General
Survey
Target Market
Brand Positioning

Tools
Brand Elements
Secondary Associations

Current Marketing Program
New Marketing Approaches
Product
Price
Place
Promotion
Effects of Current Marketing Program

Implementing Branding Strategies
Brand-Product Matrix
Brand Hierarchy

Knowledge Structure
Brand Awareness
Brand Image

Brand Outcomes

Suggestions and Recommendations

Appendix

Introduction

General

The brand that our group chose to assess is BMW. BMW, which stands for ‘Bayerische Motoren Werke’, is a major European manufacturer of luxury cars. The headquarters of this multinational corporation (BMW Group) is in Munich, Germany. The company has built substantial brand equity over the years through the continuous branding efforts for high quality products.

BMW is a manufacturer of luxury cars. The luxury car category includes both traditional and functional luxury cars. U.S. manufacturers like Cadillac mainly produce traditional luxury cars. These manufacturers focus on customers that want to enjoy a soft, comfortable and living room style appearance. Functional luxury cars are represented primarily by European manufacturers such as BMW and focus on customers interested in a car that provides more performance and style then a traditional luxury car. BMW focuses on providing performance via pinpoint steering and precision suspension system that ‘put the driver in touch with his surroundings’ and ‘inform the driver of the immediate environment’.

Direct competitors for BMW include luxury car manufacturers from Japan, the U.S., and other European Union countries. Globally, BMW’s biggest U.S. competitors are Ford, Cadillac, Lincoln, Buick, and Chrysler. Japanese competitors include Lexus, Honda, and Toyota. BMW competes locally (in Germany) and globally with other EU companies such as Mercedes Benz, Audi and Jaguar. BMW has a target market in each of the countries they compete in. Following section will summarize their target market in the U.S.A.

Survey

The survey was given to 30 people and was responded by 25 people. Out of these 25 people, 10 were female and 15 were male. The survey was given to people of different age groups and different professions. The survey included questions to tools, knowledge structure and outcome of the brand BMW. The process we used to capture our results left us unable to directly correlate a segment in the responding demographics with a bias in responses. For example we can’t determine which responses came from the 25 respondents in the 26 to 35 year old age range. With that capability we could have better identified which segment of the market was responding positively or negatively to a question, and determine if negative trends (i.e. all that age range didn’t think BMW was exciting) had developed. Please find attached an outline of the survey.

Target Market

BMW targets affluent men and women between the ages of twenty-five and forty. Since the functional luxury market’s traditional male domination is lessening, the target market for BMW consists of both genders. Citizenship or ethnicity is unimportant. As an exporter, BMW goal is to appeal to all people regardless of ethnicity. BMW believes the positive associations (country of origin) for their brand assist them in their export markets. The survey results indicate that the BMW message is reaching their target market. Of the survey respondents, more then two thirds recalled BMW as a luxury car, nearly all recalled BMW as a foreign car, and all respondents recognized the BMW name.

BMW produces models targeting the singles market as well as models for families. The survey data indicates the attributes relating to associations with the singles market to be far weaker then those focused on the family market. BMW realizes that their target market’s financial status requires them to focus on a more educated customer, one that has completed college, and survey results confirm their success. The price segmentation BMW chooses limits its target market to individuals at higher levels of income. The market segmentation requires income levels corresponding to educated individuals and professionals. Professions of survey participants included managers and other professional’s BMW targets.

The survey also indicated respondents not targeted by BMW are interested their products. This is a result of BMW’s association as a status symbol. Our survey resulted in a score of 4.1 and 4.6 (5 maximum possible) when participants were asked to indicate agreement with the words ‘prestigious car’ and ‘status symbol’, respectively. Some of those not targeted yet interested in BMW could move into the target market through graduation from college or increasing levels of corporate responsibility.

Brand Positioning

The BMW brand is positioned (in relation to competitors) by price. Its premium price is meant to guarantee the consumer a high level of quality engineering, which can display status or success in a visible manner for social approval. The car’s driving ability combined with its looks and advertised image distinguishes BMW from its competition. It is positioned to attract consumers interested in more than an ordinary car for their money. The survey results indicate BMW to be strongly positioned. Both quantitative and qualitative questions asking the same (or similar) questions were answered similarly. The survey asked the same question different ways; such as ‘if BMW gave a feeling of safety’, ‘how well does the word safe describe BMW’, and indicate agreement on a scale from one to five with the word safe. In all three instances, (Yes , Yes, and 4.1) a positive response was received. Similar results were with reliable/trustworthy/security and social approval/upper class/prestige questions. Survey questions related to positioning for a more youthful market were not associated as well with the BMW name.

Tools

Brand Elements

BMW utilizes most of the brand elements in building its brand image. Assessment of the brand elements that helped BMW build brand equity revealed that the name is simple and easy to remember. Although very few in our survey new what BMW meant, all recognized the name BMW, and over eighty percent recalled they were in the luxury car market. The BMW logo is simple with blue and white background colors (which are the colors of the Bavarian flag). The slogan is the most important element due to its relevance. None of the survey questions allow us to quantitatively judge the effectiveness of the logo or slogan. In the strict context, packaging as a brand element doesn’t apply to cars since they are not sold with any extraneous protective or packaging material. A case can be made many consider the automotive body as a form of packaging surrounding occupants. As packaging, the body is also important since looks are quite important to consumers in this market. The survey results indicate brand judgments based on packaging to be in agreement with some terms such as stylish looking, but weaker on more youthful terms such as sexy and magnificent.

BMW’s brand elements meet the six criteria. Memorability is strong because the commonly used name consists of three letters. Its simplicity assists in the development of high level of brand recall measured in the survey. The brand element of meaningfulness is strengthened since BMW is an abbreviation of the company’s formal full name. The uniqueness of the letters BMW has allowed the company to protect the name, and the protectability is enforceable because any other 3-letter name similar to it would be an obvious attempt to violate BMW’s trademark. Another criterion that is met is likeability. The survey indicated that BMW is not only known but considered somewhat admirable and concerned with their customers also. Part of this may be a result of the brand elements. The transferability criterion was not met according to our survey. Everyone in our survey had heard of BMW, but they couldn’t name any specific models. Furthermore, we see no attempts at linking the luxury car division with the motorcycle, or any other divisions of BME Group. Comparing sales of the different models would be a better indication of transferability then a survey. If a ‘sportier’ model has an equal or greater market share then the more traditional models, transferability would be confirmed. BMW’s past element adaptability could be measured by sales more accurately by historical market share then by a survey. Its current adaptability may be better measured by a focus group then a survey. The survey results indicate the BMW brand element is adaptable since over ninety percent described BMW as ‘up to date engineering’, eighty four percent rated BMW as ‘durable’, and seventy percent rated them ‘stylish’. The products capability provides much of this opinion, but again, the elements support those feelings. These results also indicate the survey participant’s level of brand awareness.

Secondary Associations

Since BMW is originated in Germany, the country of origin becomes linked to the brand and generates positive secondary associations. More specific, Germany has become known for expertise in engineering. Thus, BMW was able to create a strong point of difference in part because of consumers’ identification of and beliefs about Germany’s expertise in engineering.

Current Marketing Program

New Marketing Approaches

Analysis of BMW’s marketing programs showed us that BMW embraced new approaches. BMW does more personalized marketing like experimental marketing. This promotes the product by not only communicating the product’s features and benefits but also connecting it with unique and interesting experiences. The “Ultimate Driving Machine” advertisements emphasize the driver’s link to the car and the road for an enhanced driving experience. BMW also offers test drives to deliver a desirable customer experience and lead them to action. This is the point-of-difference between them and their competitors. The idea is not to sell something, but to demonstrate how the brand can enrich the consumer’s life.

Another tool that BMW effectively uses is one-to-one marketing in order to strengthen the BMW brand perception at the individual customer level. To a certain extent BMW does customize the vehicles by adding or eliminating options for individual customer. But all automotive dealers do. BMW also has tools for responding to the customer through the one on one contact with its salesmen in the showroom and through its website. But again all dealers do, so again this provides no competitive advantage. One concern with one to one marketing is consumer database accuracy. If BMW utilizes a database to focus on individual consumers, and the database doesn’t capture its customer demographics, BMW will be unsuccessful in reaching its target market. The feedback loop in one to one communication won’t work if target market is unaware of the message, so BMW will only be aware of the disconnect if non of its target market responds. If the one to one marketing plan only involves existing customers, BMW will see sales stagnate. If BMW does fully utilize one to one marketing, none of our group is in the target market.

Expanding BMW’s one to one marketing activities leads BMW to improvements in customer loyalty. Our survey indicated forty percent of respondents felt loyal to BMW, half would buy one if they could afford it, less then half would miss BMW if it left the market, less then half identify with BMW drivers, and one quarter feel BMW is more then a car to them. These results could seem negative, but we see them as very positive. BMW has built this level of loyalty in our survey respondents when none of them own a BMW. Assuming the average BMW owners are satisfied with their purchase we would expect the survey results to be higher. BMW customers on the other hand are fiercely loyal to their brand. Loyalty is measured in form of the repurchase rate. BMW strengthens the customer loyalty by relevant personal communications and loyalty programs. The BMW loyalty initiatives cover the entire ownership experience like welcome kit, newsletter, BMW magazine, and multiple owner programs. The BMW newsletter is an ongoing collection of news and information of interest to BMW owners like new products, BMW awards, event calendar and BMW brand values.

Through the Internet, BMW is able to communicate with its customers and make the communications interactive. BMW focuses on individual consumers through consumer databases. The database provides the central focus for owner loyalty communication programs and prospect communications. Their new marketing database contains a broad range of information on the BMW consumer. In order to improve communication and services, the BMW report centre monitors communications and response from prospects and customers. Control groups measure the effectiveness of each marketing program. The BMW welcome kit is personalized and created for individual customers. It is a dialogue opener and an invitation to the BMW experience that extends over a full year in order to enhance a customer’s perception of the BMW brand and the experience.

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