Step three towards becoming a disruptive brand and a market disruptor, after you’ve researched your primary target customer and become a student of the industry, is to complete a company audit.

Everything you control that affects the value proposition of your product or service should be analyzed at this time — from the business plan to operations to brand identity, messaging, and product positioning.

In part four of this six part series, creative strategist Tyler Leahy outlines how to audit your brand, your operations, and the customer experience effectively.

Need a refresher? Say no more: 

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Qualitative Research, Done Right

Part 3: Study the industry academically


Always look inside

Study your company through the lens of what you gleaned through qualitative and
quantitative research. Maybe you’ll find that your product or service offerings need tweaking. Or that operations needs a process overhaul. Or, perhaps, the entire business model needs to be revisited…and that’s not necessarily cause for panic.

Everything you control that affects the value proposition of your product or service should be analyzed in your company audit — from the business plan to operations to brand identity, messaging, and product positioning.

Here’s what you do:

  • Naturally, start with the business plan. Based on what you learned, does your mission hold up? How about your vision? If the answer is no, begin to engage your leadership team in a larger discussion about what fundamental changes are needed, and what time frame is appropriate for working on that shift.
  • Audit your brand, holding up your own brand standards against the research you’ve collected. Now’s the appropriate time to challenge these standards. Is this really impactful on the audience we just learned so much about? Why or why not? How does our creative, our voice, our brand presence evoke a different feeling than our competitors? Great brands are the summation of very calculated decisions that all work together towards the same goal.
  • Audit operations. Brand and operations naturally intersect (packaging, for example, or even customer service). Are your operations driving your brand’s aspiration, or holding it back? Is your vision following through to execution, in packaging, branding, and voice? If you’re still unsure, conduct focus groups, customer surveys, and customer interviews.
  • Create a rubric for your products or services, and grade against it. Are they meeting the needs of your target audience? Why or why not? Are there gaps a new development could fill?
  • Gather employee feedback. Treat them like the experts you want them to become. Listen deeply. What observations do customer-facing employees have? What questions do back-of-the-house staff have about considering the customer in their own roles? How will making significant changes affect team morale, positively or negatively?

Here’s what you don’t do:

  • Panic or make knee-jerk changes. If you’re the founder, this will be particularly difficult — but any big changes to your way of doing business should be given a realistic timeline and communicated clearly to your team, just like any other critical project. 

  • Discredit the brand equity you’ve already built. There are many factors to consider before jumping into a complete rebrand, if you decide that major leap should be considered. 

  • Weigh brand over operational cost, or vice versa. The two can coexist, and you can make smart brand decisions without breaking the bank when you have the right information.

  • Forget your competitors. Hold their products up against the same rubric, if you think it will help. If they receive higher marks, you know your team will have work to do.

  • Favor certain job functions or titles. Again, innovation requires a company-wide effort. 

 

Why: If you’re growing a company, you understand how leadership, brand, and operations interlock. They’re not stand-alone efforts. They’re interrelated — and by completing a company audit, you can make an action list for improving the whole.

The takeaways

You’ll likely walk away with a laundry list of action items from your company audit. Make a priority list or pecking order. Make a project plan, with a process for addressing each area of need. Assign project leads. 

Assuming that there’s substantial work ahead, use this as an opportunity to rally the whole company around a common cause. 

If your brand is in a place of uncertainty right now, this step will help you work towards certainty.

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