Guest post by Eleanor Hecks.
Every business-to-business (B2B) organization needs to make the most of limited time and resources. Efficiency is vital to conserving cash, the lifeblood of all businesses (startups particularly) that enables them to profitably grow revenue.
How large is the B2B market? According to Statista, the global gross merchandise volume equaled $12.2 trillion. There is plenty of room for profit, but as a leader, you have to stay on top of where your money is going.
An efficiency audit allows you to streamline processes and tap into the needs of your customers. Ideally, you’ll conduct one every year or two and make adjustments as needed.
What Is an Efficiency Audit?
An efficiency audit examines how productively a company achieves its goals and pays attention to policy compliance. There are two basic types of audits.
- External—Conducted by an outside firm
- Internal—Based on data within the company
For the best results, you should have a third party at least look over your findings. You may not notice your weaknesses as readily as someone without an ownership interest in the company. An outside firm offers a neutral position and looks only at what works best for the profitability and longevity of your brand.
How Do I Conduct an Efficiency Audit on My B2B Company?
Although hiring an outside firm to conduct your efficiency audit gives you better results, there are some things you can and should do on your own before turning information over to your researcher.
These five steps ensure your audit is top-notch and covers the main points you need to understand to improve your company.
1. Create a Framework
What do you want to learn from the audit? You can make your goals as far-reaching or narrow as you’d like. For example, you might start with a close look at company-wide spending. Where can you reduce costs? On the other hand, you might want to cover multiple topics within your audit and improve your business on different levels.
Here are some of the things you might include in your audit:
- How well do your actions match up with your company’s mission?
- Who is your competition and how do you measure up?
- Do you understand your target market? Who are they? Have they changed since you started your business?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your brand?
- Where are you wasting money?
- What industry trends might change your business in the next five years?
You might also look specifically at topics such as logistics, inventory control, customer relationship management, and user experience.
2. Survey Your Finances
If you haven’t done a perfect job of keeping your books up to date, spend time gathering all the information you’ll need to get a solid picture of where you stand financially as a business.
Pay close attention to indirect spending which often makes up the largest portion of a firm’s expenditures. Costs such as cleaning services, new technology, and paper supplies can all eat into your bottom line and increase by significant amounts before you realize it.
3. Know Your Customers
You can’t just look at data in a bubble. You have to think through how each part of the equation impacts your target audience. Part of your audit should include creating buyer personas.
Even if you’ve created personas in the past, your customer base may have changed somewhat over time. During the pandemic, many people’s priorities shifted. The attitudes and needs your clients had last year might be quite different than they are today.
Dig deep into the psyche of your typical buyer. What are the pain points they face? Which emotions drive them to make a purchase? Can you improve anything about your website, customer service, sales funnel, or follow-up that might make them more inclined to buy from you again?
4. Conduct a Content Audit
Look at other aspects of your business beyond your physical space, equipment, and inventory. For example, is your website content still valuable and on-target for your prospects and current clients?
Which of your blog posts attract the most site visitors or result in leads? Look at removing and redirecting outdated posts, and replacing underperforming pieces with ones better suited to your market.
Make a list of every piece of marketing content you’ve created. Is each type used appropriately? Memes might work best on Twitter, while your one-of-a-kind images of customers using your service or product might work better on Pinterest or Instagram.
Make sure you’re using your content efficiently and creating new content in a productive and strategic manner.
5. Meet Customer Expectations
According to a survey by PWC, 70% of people care most about speed, convenience, and good customer service. If you focus on nothing else in your audit, look at how well you’re meeting your clients’ needs in those three areas.
Although most surveys apply to consumers rather than business owners, keep in mind every business owner is also a consumer. They expect the same or a better experience from your brand as they provide to their clients.
Figure out where you may be failing your customers, fix it, and then exceed what they expect. By auditing your customer service and regularly making enhancements, you’ll gain valuable word-of-mouth referrals from happy business owners.
Set a Schedule
An audit isn’t something you do once and then set to the side. Ideally, you’ll conduct an audit at regular intervals. You might set up a schedule where you conduct one audit a year and hire an outside firm to check your progress six months into the calendar.
Even if you look at only one aspect of your business at a time, make sure you strive to improve consistently. When customers see you make efforts to improve your negatives and they see ongoing benefits to doing business with you, you’ll retain clients, create opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell more products or services, and develop a positive brand reputation.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.