Spring is the perfect time for decluttering your home. It’s also a perfect time to declutter your brand. Here’s how to perform a brand audit.

After a long winter indoors, many of us decide to de-clutter in the spring. The seasons are changing, so it makes sense to swap out winter clothes for warmer-weather clothes. Get those yard toys ready, and clean out the garage. The weather isn’t hot, and it isn’t cold, so it’s perfect for doing these kinds of chores.

Meanwhile, the time is ripe for taking a look at your brand. Many of us do a personal overhaul around the first of the year, setting fitness and financial goals. Spring is a great time to look at our business and make sure we are on track for where we want to be at the end of the year, and make adjustments without jettisoning nine months’ worth of work. It’s time for a brand audit.

The Brand Audit

A brand audit is a chance to take a hard look at your brand, to determine if it is in line with what you want it to be. I believe your brand is your reputation. Think of this as a check-up on your brand. Ask some crucial questions about whether your brand — your reputation — are in alignment with your mission. Here are 4 questions to ask about your brand.

Question 1: What do people think your brand is?

Since your brand is your reputation, find out what kind of reputation you have. This goes beyond a positive or negative association, although that is important. An important part of the brand audit is to ask people what they think your business does.

Start with your customers

The first place to start is with your customers. Find out what they think about you and your business. You can use focus groups or surveys. Call them up and ask them. Email them. Put a poll on your website. The important thing is to get some data about what they think. And don’t dismiss anecdotal evidence, as that can paint a more human picture of how your customers perceive your brand during an audit.

Look at your online reputation and analytics

What is your online reputation? This is important as an overwhelming majority of consumers and businesses do online research regarding the people and companies they do business with beforehand. They check reviews on a variety of websites. Where are you turning up and what are people saying about you? Your website’s analytics can show you where people are coming from. Do some digging and find out what other things your customers are interested in, and you might find some overlap with your competition and learn more about your customer base.

Question 2: What do you want people to think?

Obviously, we all want people to think highly of us, but again, your brand is more than a positive or negative reputation. What do you want to be known for? Maybe it’s customer service or community support. Maybe it’s a particular experience. Checking your brand’s alignment with your goals is crucial in a brand audit.

Remember, what you do and what you actually deliver may be two different things. A lot of people think restaurants’ main product offering as the food or drinks they serve. And they’d be right, because that’s what they sell. But what restaurants really provide is an experience. When you go to a particular restaurant, you are going because there is an ambience that you can’t get at home. Maybe you want to impress your date with something fun and exciting. Or you want to share a good time with friends.

If you’re an author or a musician, you provide more than something to read or music to listen to. It’s more than education or entertainment. You’re providing something to identify with.

So it is super important to get clear on this in your brand audit. What are other brands in the same niche doing, and how are you different from them? What are they doing that works? Can you zig while they zag to set your business apart?

This is the time to review your internal and external branding materials and messages, from your Unique Selling Proposition to your identity package to your testimonials and internal systems.

Question 3: What is the gap between where you are and where you want to be?

Now for the fun part of the brand audit. Gather the data you’ve collected about your brand and match it up with what you want your brand to be. Do the math: what is your business missing out on by not having your brand line up with what you have in mind?

There is a real opportunity at this point to look at the return on investment (ROI) of your brand messaging. Ask yourself how you can get the right messaging out to fill in the gap between where your business is and where you want it to be.

You might discover untapped revenue source between two existing product offerings, and proceed to create a new tier. Or one product or service is not going anywhere, and it’s time to discontinue it.

Whatever the case may be, take a look at the data. Compare what is with what could be. Don’t be afraid to dream big.

Question 4: What vehicles will get your adjusted brand message across?

Now it is time to hire a firm or work with a designer or branding team to get something made. It’s best to involve them in every step of the brand audit, as creatives can offer a unique perspective while discovering a solution along with you rather than being handed a prescriptive list of things to make to your specifications.

Example vehicles for an updated brand message could be as extreme as a new logo, or it could be a revised tagline. Or you might discover that a print ad campaign or a social media campaign is in order. Maybe you need to grow your email list and expand your email marketing. Perhaps it’s best to roll out incentives to reward your customers and keep them coming back.

Follow up after launch

Don’t do a bunch of branding work and forget about it after launching it. Be sure to follow up in a few months with another brand audit to make sure you’re on track. Think of it as a mini brand audit. It doesn’t have to be as exhaustive as this one, but it does need to get an overall sense of whether you’re doing what you set out to do. Are you achieving the goals you wanted? Maybe a quick survey is in order. You should already be looking at your online analytics on a regular basis to be sure you’re in line with your goals. Make adjustments as needed. Be set up in such a way that you can act quickly, aiming to be proactive rather than reactive.

Remember to serve

Don’t forget that customers know when you are acting in with the attitude of making money off them. You can smell it, and so can they. Your aim should be to serve your customers. This builds trust and goes farther than any brand messaging you can fashion.

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