How to do a content audit & why it is useful for brand & business growth

    G'day! I'm Lauren Kress, The Business Scientist and I've decided to dedicate my new home page to helping you do something that I believe every entrepreneur and small business owner must do to grow their brand and business: A content audit.

    I've also created a content audit template tool which you can access here.

    If you understand why brand building activities are important and will result in a significant return on investment for your business already, scroll down to the sub-heading below that says: Your step-by-step content audit guide.

    If you're wondering whether the time, money, energy and effort that goes into consistently creating great content for your market is worth it - have a read through the following paragraphs first so you can decide if it's something you want to pursue.

    Why does a content audit matter?

    Ok so first things first, a content audit is NOT going to be THE silver bullet that solves all of your immediate growth challenges.

    In the short term, it won't make someone pick up the phone and call you today or get money into your bank account tomorrow.

    That's the role of your sales activities.

    Sales is the life blood of your business and it's the thing that will keep cash coming in and your business afloat in the short term.

    If you need a sales strategist to help you with this - I know people who are brilliant at exactly that and I'm happy to recommend someone to you - but that's not the goal we should have in mind for a content audit.

    A content audit helps us to take a closer look at your brand building activities.

    Brand building activities - also known as brand marketing activities - focus on making sure that your customers and other key stakeholders know who you are and like what you do. It is also responsible for enhancing your sales performance.

    And this does indeed convert to dollars and cents...but it needs at least 6 months to start showing you the return on investment (ROI).

    That doesn't mean you need to simply "have faith" though - this is business and marketing science, not opinion or here-say.

    But before we get into the science, I want to set the scene a little.

    When we don't have a brand behind us to get our foot in the door with potential customers, it's harder to start and grow a relationship.

    As a result our sales cycle is longer and our year-on-year revenue growth requires a lot more heavy lifting.

    Think about it this way:

    Two people you've never heard of before reach out to you on LinkedIn.

    One person is connected with a bunch of people in your network, has a few thousand followers or more, shares insightful and interesting content and works at Google. The other person doesn't know anyone in your network, isn't active on the platform, is unclear about what they do and works at a company you've never heard of before.

    Who are you more interested in having in your network and striking up a conversation with?

    When brand marketing is done correctly we're working towards becoming the Google of our category - and when sales activations are working properly, people are crystal clear on how we can help them, what our offer is and how they can purchase from us right now, today.

    Cool, so...what does that mean for return on investment?

    Let's do some maths.

    In this scenario, let's imagine that with your current sales activities, you acquire a new sales qualified lead every two weeks and that each of these leads takes another 2 weeks to close (if they close at all).

    If your sales close rate is 25% and that client is worth $10,000 to you within the financial year then, in the 48 work weeks (allowing for 4 weeks annual leave) you will have:

    24 leads per year

    25% of 24 = 6 sales = $60,000 worth of sales generated from new business accounts.

    Ok now, let's imagine that with brand building activities, your customer is now a lot warmer on your call - in fact they're a fan who's pretty excited to be speaking with you because they love your content and already believe you hold the solution to their problem.

    By implementing a well-design brand growth strategy alongside your existing sales activities, let's imagine we're able to achieve two things in this scenario:

    1) Gain 1 additional lead per month of people who come to you through your brand building activities

    2) Cut your sales cycle in half because now people know, like and trust you

    That means a new sales lead every week and 1 week to close.

    We'll keep the 25% close rate the same and the 48 weeks the same - which means:

    48 sales qualified leads per year + 12 additional marketing qualified leads = 62 leads per year

    25% of 62 = ~15-16 sales

    $150,000 - $160,000 worth of sales generated from new business accounts.

    That's an increase of 150% - 170%

    And now you might be thinking: "But wait a second Lauren... you just made those numbers up!"

    Well... I sort of did and I sort of didn't.

    Yes this is an imagined scenario with some nice and tidy numbers for us to grasp the value of brand building - but it's got the science to back it.

    What marketing science tells us, as explained by marketing legends like Les Binet, Peter Field and Professor Byron Sharp is that brand building activities are the primary driver of our business growth.

    Where many entrepreneurs and small business owners are missing a trick is that they can't see a trend emerge from the first 6 months (or two sales quarters) of the financial year.

    Instead, by looking outside of our own business data, and paying attention to well established brand growth trends within multiple industry sectors across the globe, we can begin to appreciate the rewards brand marketing will yield for us.

    In fact, marketing science shows us that brand building activities should make up more than half of our overall sales & marketing activities.

    If you want to get real nerdy and dig into the details, check out the 2017 Media In Focus white paper written by Les Binet and Peter Field where they talk through the evidence in detail and reiterate some of the key findings from their 2013 book "The Long and Short of it"

    If not - in a nutshell here's their recommendation: 60% of growth activities should focus on brand building and the remaining 40% on sales activation.

    Why? As they explain in the report, the science on here is clear:

    "Brand building takes over as the primary driver of growth from sales activation after six months"

    They also acknowledge that it's not a matter of either/or - like "double down on brand building in spite of sales" but instead, "brand building and sales activation enhance one another". 

    So whilst my numbers are simply an illustration, the fact of the matter is, if you're only focused on sales activation you're missing out on a LOT of potential revenue.

    Plug in some different numbers and play around with it - do a worst case, best case and most likely case scenario and you'll see that investing in brand building activities very quickly starts to make financial sense over the course of a year.

    But remember!

    This can only happen if we're following through with the brand building activities that matter.

    So to start diving into this further, I'm now going to show you how to do a content audit.

    This is the first step I work through with clients who have existing content so we can start to connect business goals, customer journey and sales and marketing activities together.

    Now, let's dive in...

    Your step-by-step content audit guide

    Here's the steps:

    Step 1.  Before we get started, we want to make sure we're clear on understanding the purpose of content at different stages of the customer journey and how this relates back to a) business goals b) the content you've created and c) the analytics you're using to track performance. As per Figure 1 below.

    Figure 1. Relating the customer mindset to business goals and key activities within your content strategy

    It's important to keep track and measure what's working and what isn't as part of your content audit

    Step 2. Create a table on excel or Airtable (I've created a content audit template tool you can download here) so we can start to categorise our existing content in direct relation to these goals.

    So first we want to link the goals and customer understanding together

    I do it like this:

    Figure 2. How to link your content to the customer journey stage and it's business goal category

    This is how I start setting up for a content audit

    Step 3. Then we want to think about how we're going to categorise the performance of each content piece.

    To keep things simple, I like to categorise content performance into one of 5 categories in relation to the relevant data & analytics at outlined in Figure 1

    Top performing (The top 5% of content)

    Above average (Performing well - In the Top 25% - 5%)

    Average (Performing somewhere between Top 25% and Bottom 25% but not below)

    Below Average (Not performing so great - in the bottom 25 - 5%)

    Worst performing (The bottom 5% of content)

    I create a category for each of these as shown in Figure 3.

    I also create a category called "missing" so that as you go through the content you can start to note down your ideas for content pieces that would be important in helping you to achieve your overall business goals but haven't yet been created.

    Figure 3. How to categorise your content so that you can see what's working and what isn't at-a-glance

    In our content audit it's important that we understand what's working and what's not working at a glance

    Step 4. For each content piece we're going to want to do a bit of analysis to understand the performance. I recommend using a simple S.W.O.T approach (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to help give some structure to your thoughts on this here. If you want to learn more about how to conduct a SWOT analysis, check out my video here.

    Figure 4. Laying out of S.W.O.T columns (this is in the free content audit template tool I've created for you)

    This is how I layout the complete content audit on Airtable which you can download for free

    Step 5. As you can see from Figure 4 above, there's also a new column I've created called "Actions from here" - we want this column in here so that once you've been through the S.W.O.T actions to repurpose, optimise, remove, amplify, etc. are captured here.

    Step 6. Now it's time to start going through your content - everything that's out in market to serve one of the four purposes we've outlined here in our table as it relates to the customer journey - into the table!

    And that's pretty much it!

    But wait, what do I do with all this data?

    By setting up your audit this way, we've actually done a lot of the heavy lifting for turning your data into business intelligence to make informed and reliable predictions about where to go from here.

    That's because I've designed this with some key questions in mind.

    Data isn't business intelligence - business intelligence is the insights that we draw from by asking questions about our data.

    Doing your audit this way will help you answer a whole bunch of questions like:

    What's working best to reach new people in my category?

    Where are we wasting time, energy and effort?

    What are our priorities over the next 3 months to improve our customer journey?

    What should we focus on to increase return on investment on current activities?

    What type of content should we double down on?

    Which content channels should we focus on to amplify our message?

    Do we need to try something new with our content marketing?

    If you'd like to understand more about how you can leverage your content audit to grow your brand and business, schedule a zero-obligation 30-minute discovery call with me here and I'll talk you through how to leverage the data you've laid out in the template.

    Or if you need support with conducting your content audit, send me a message on LinkedIn and we can discuss how I can best serve you to get started today.

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