12 Quick Marketing Health Checks For Small Businesses

Phil Kendall

Jan 2017 ⋅ 7 min read

As much as we dislike going for check ups at the dentist or doctor, on the whole, we know that it's in our interest to have our health 'checked' on a regular basis.

Sure, checkups can tell you what you already knew (hopefully that everything's OK!), but they can also make you aware of problems that you'd never even considered.

We all understand that early diagnosis can be extremely valuable when tackling health problems. The same applies to marketing problems.

Marketing health checks are quick questions, tests, and analysis which help you understand how effective your marketing strategy is.

They're also easy to postpone or neglect because, on the surface, you can't see a problem. It doesn't seem worth the time to run these tests.

However, these marketing checks might reveal some results that you hadn't quite expected...

The Basics

stylised marketing funnel

These queries and tests will determine if the basics of your marketing strategy are solid. If you struggle with these aspects of marketing, resolve them before you start working on any of your more elaborate marketing plans.

1. Describe your brand.

Discuss USPs, values, communication style and more.

You shouldn't struggle to answer this question. Ideally, you should be able to summarise the answer in a single sentence and give plenty of extra details.

Look at the language you've used. It should be clear and specific.

Think about whether or not your brand truly sets itself apart from your competitors.

Follow up: Ask a junior employee (who's not involved in marketing) to do the same task. You could even ask your customers.

2. Describe your target market(s).

Consider more than demographics.

The key to a successful answer here is a step beyond your standard demographic information (wealthy women over 65, young teenagers, etc.). Instead, you should be able to provide a well-rounded answer that looks at psychographics (attitudes, aspirations, values and so on), too.

Let's say a high-fashion retailer is responding to this query.

Which target market seems more useful from a marketing perspective?

a) Women with incomes of £50k+
b) Busy professional women who want high-quality fashion investment pieces

Option B gives your company vastly more guidance on how to proceed. You can build your marketing campaigns and even your clothing designs around this market. With only demographic information to work with, option A doesn't really help you build a marketing strategy.

Follow up: Is your current marketing strategy adept at reaching your target market(s)?

3. Which marketing channels do you use to reach your target market, and why?

Consider digital (social media, email) and physical (direct mail, events) channels.

You need to be able to produce a complete list of every single channel you've used to communicate with customers over the past year.

Most importantly, you need to be able to justify why you've used each channel.

If you're struggling to find good reasons, it's certainly worth taking a closer look at how you use these particular channels. Maybe it's time to rethink your marketing setup.

Follow up: Are there any new or emerging marketing channels you'd like to test out?

4. What's the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing budget?

If it's difficult to attribute specific returns to marketing, use estimates or anecdotal evidence.

Ideally, you'll be tracking the ROI of your overall marketing budget as well as individual campaigns, so it should be clear what's working and what isn't.

Small businesses might not have the data to do the same, but estimates can still be helpful - if not accurate!

Either way, it's vital that you understand which marketing campaigns are bearing fruit.

Follow up: Is there a better way to measure marketing ROI at your business?


old map with route marked

This is where the checkup starts to get a little more difficult to pass. Now we turn to the ins and outs of your marketing strategy.

1. What are your marketing goals and overarching mission? Are you working towards them?

You can pull these directly from your marketing strategy document, or, if you don't have one, try to formalise whatever informal goals you've had in place.

Your marketing goals should directly relate to your company's 'mission'.

A strong answer will feature several goals that are measurable, specific and achievable.

You should be able to explain how much progress you've made towards each of your goals. Rate your performance against each out of ten, where ten means you've completely achieved your target and one signifies no progress.

Follow up: Adjust or add to your objectives based on business changes and other events.

2. How does your marketing strategy compare with that of your competitors?

Be honest if your approach isn't up to par.

Although you don't have access to the marketing strategies of your competitors, you can learn a lot just by monitoring their website, social media channels and advertising campaigns.

There must be a certain market that they're aiming for, and a communication strategy to help them reach it.

You should know which areas of marketing you excel at, and which you struggle with relative to your competitors. Chances are they're looking to target a similar (or the same) market to you, so it doesn't hurt to learn from their successes and failures.

Follow up: Have competitors shifted their marketing strategy in response to yours?

3. Do your day-to-day marketing activities fit with your strategy?

Or, how well is theory applied to practice?

It's easy to get distracted by the daily marketing needs of the business and forget about the bigger picture.

This health check essentially tests the extent to which your marketing strategy actually affects the marketing tasks your team carries out. There's not much point having a strategy if you don't have time to follow it.

Follow up: Are there any marketing tasks you can automate to leave more time for strategic tasks?

4. How does your marketing strategy tell stories and present solutions to customers?

A solid marketing strategy appeals to both our logical and emotional sides.

Storytelling in marketing can turn the driest topic into an emotional tale. We highly recommend companies 'tell stories' through marketing - perhaps through case studies, anecdotes or videos.

On the other hand, it's also important to appeal to the logical, numbers-driven side of your audience. Stats are great, but we also suggest communicating in terms of problems and solutions.

Before and after. Then and now. See how our product made a difference.

You should evaluate how your marketing strategy utilises these techniques.

Follow up: Take a closer look at the language and tone of all your marketing communications.


macbook cartoon

Digital marketing aims to reach a larger audience than physical communications could ever manage. With low barriers to entry and the chance to 'go viral', it's little wonder that almost every brand under the sun has an online presence.

But is your online presence healthy?

1. What's your current content strategy? Where does SEO fit in?

Talk about blog content, social media, guest posts etc.

Sure, you know that content is important. You know that SEO is too. But do you have a content creation strategy?

Your answer should explain how you plan, publish and promote content. You should talk about link-building strategies and keywords, and the types of content (video, blogs, case studies) that you produce.

Follow up: Which SEO tactics have been effective? Where is your content strategy letting you down?

2. How have website traffic, content reach and social media followers changed over time?

Review a period of at least six months, and look at different traffic sources, such as organic vs. social.

All the main social networks have built-in analytics tools, and you should use Google Analytics on your website to keep track of traffic.

With all this data so readily available, you might as well use it!

For this marketing health check, the pass threshold is different for every business. Maybe you'll be happy if your traffic increases by 10% over the year, or perhaps you want it to double across the same period.

Similarly, it's best to focus on the figures from the digital channels that are most important to you. For a restaurant, that might be Instagram. If you're targeting other businesses, LinkedIn figures or website traffic will be more useful.

Follow up: How are the sources of website traffic changing over time? What does this mean for your marketing strategy?

3. Describe your approach to email marketing.

Think about frequency, regularity, reach and results.

Email marketing has the potential to be a hugely valuable source of website traffic (and revenue), but without the right strategy it can do more harm than good.

Look through your answer to this question. Do you mention providing value to your subscribers? How about offering promotions, discounts, or sneak peeks through email?

You should also understand how formatting, subject lines and content impact on open rates.

On the other hand, if you tend to take an 'as and when' approach to email marketing, now might be the time to sort out a strategy.

Follow up: Tidy your subscriber lists.

4. Do you have any content style guidelines?

Think about tone, image sizes and formats, as well as any rules on subject.

If multiple employees post content on your company blog and social media channels, you need to set up guidelines for consistency reasons.

Your answer here should discuss everything from the basics (recommended image sizes for the blog and each network) to specifics such as whether to capitalise certain product-related words.

If you don't have any guidelines down on paper (or pixels), we highly recommend drafting some.

Follow up: How do you manage social media posts? Is it worth investigating social media management tools?


medicine bottle cartoon

Diagnosis is just the first step.

Treatment may take the form of a five-minute marketing cleanse or a five-year sales struggle - it all depends on the diagnosis and how well you stick to your treatment plan!

Today we just wanted to share some health checks - sadly we're not able to provide you with the specialist care you need right now, but if you'd like some general marketing advice (that might just cure your marketing ills!) head over to the marketing section of our blog for some tips!