Receiving notice of a tax audit by the IRS is a nightmarish notion. As the daughter of an accountant, I was raised to look at this differently. If your taxes are in order and you have the proper documentation, there is nothing to fear. An audit is a means of confirming that everything is in the right place and properly recorded. And, if it’s not, adjusting it. With this in mind, let’s visit the idea of an audit as a powerful tool.

What would it look like if someone came in and audited the marketing efforts for your business? What if they started asking questions about your marketing goals, marketing plan and the success of each marketing project on a case-by-case basis? What if they evaluated this aspect of your business just as a tax auditor looks at your financial records and tax return? I suspect some of us are laughing at the suggestion. It seems like such a serious proposition. Marketing confusion and client acquisition are top concerns with trainers. Why isn’t checking our effectiveness a top priority as well?

Here are three recommendations for your internal marketing plan and audit:

1. Start with the end in mind. It is such a simple concept and yet often very hard to implement. Take the time to write out why you are embarking on this marketing endeavor. Be specific. Do you want to obtain three new clients with an open house presentation? Do you want to increase your Twitter following by 100 people? Do you want to acquire two compelling 30-second video testimonials to use on your website? What do you want and why?

2. Decide and detail. Log your planning time commitment, execution time commitment, follow-up time commitment, financial investment, tasks that must be completed, and final ideal outcome that would qualify the effort as a success.

3. Follow-up. Write out what worked, what didn’t, what you spent in terms of time and money, unexpected benefits, unexpected successes and a final grade. Evaluate what you were satisfied with and what you would do differently next time.

There is an added benefit to a proactive marketing audit. Using the three steps outline above, I once spent a great deal of time volunteering my speaking services for a failed community fitness event. My initial grade for the experience was a “D.” My efforts and execution were strong but the scenario was not conducive to actually connecting with local potential clients. However, I completed everything as planned and followed up with everyone that was in attendance strictly because I had committed to doing so with my plan/audit. To my pleasant surprise, that execution and follow up helped land me a client and that grade quickly changed to an “A” proving the importance of knowing what you want, detailing how to get there and following up in all aspects.