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When you’re using printed marketing materials—such as business cards, brochures, flyers, and other items—one of the most difficult things to get a handle on is what items you need, and what volume you need to order. Conducting an audit of your existing stock is a great way to do this.

How to Conduct an Audit

A good way to conduct this kind of audit is to follow a few simple steps:

  1. Take inventory of the materials you currently have;
  2. For each item, examine how useful it for your purposes;
  3. Decide what pieces you want to continue using;
  4. Look at your current usage rates to estimate your needs going forward;
  5. Update any items that need it.

Step One: Take Inventory

This part is easy, as all you have to do here is note down all the different materials you have, and how many of each you have in stock. At this point it’s also useful to note down the date of your last order, and the size of the order. This is information you’ll need in later steps, so it’s good to get this done now.

Step Two: Examine the Effectiveness of Each Piece

Your goal at this stage is to look at each piece individually. For each item, take note of how it’s used, and then look at various metrics that can help you figure out how effective each piece.

For example, for printed brochures that are used at trade shows, evaluate what kinds of leads are being generated at events. For printed advertising materials, look at how effective each specific call to action has been.

Examining metrics like these assumes, in some cases, that your materials have been designed with tracking metrics in mind. For example, it’s much easier to evaluate the efficacy of advertisements that have variable printing data. This data allows you to track how many unique responses a particular advertisement gets. This is of course more expensive than traditional printing, but it’s a great way to track the ROI of these items.

In other cases the job is somewhat simpler For those trade show items, for example, evaluation steps might involve talking to those people who are stationed at the booth, and the people responsible for following up on leads after the show. Also look at how many pieces were printed for the last few shows, and the volume of leftovers after each one.

If you have a sales team, you can also have them do some investigation. For example, have the sales staff ask customers which advertising materials they referred to when they decided to make purchases.

Gather all the data you’re collecting and keep it organised using a spreadsheet or a tracking programme. Once you’ve got the data collected, collated, and organised it’s easy to see where changes need to be made, and where your current print usage habits are working.

Step Three: Decide What You’ll Continue Using

This part is relatively simple. Here is where you look at your collected data and decide what’s working and what isn’t. Take a hard look at your statistics and your estimated ROI for each piece of printed material, but also think about how well each piece serves its purpose. Sometimes, there are other items that might be more cost-effective and do the job just as well, if not better.

Step Four: Estimate Your Future Needs

Even though you’ve already deciding what pieces you’re going to use, this step is just as important as all the others. It’s definitely not wise to treat this like a guessing game, because you can waste just as much money over-ordering as you can by buying the wrong pieces. As well as this, striking the right balance in terms of your ordering habits is important to make sure you have the stock you need when you need it.

What should you consider when you’re thinking about quantity?

  • Historical rate of use of each item;
  • The amount of storage space you have for printed materials;
  • How many people will be using each item;
  • Factors that might alter usage rates in the future; for example, if you’re about to hire new employees or advertise in a new market;
  • Your budget for each item, and your overall budget.

Step Five: Update and Improve Your Material

Finally, before putting in a new order, check each item for errors or out-of-date information. Everything that goes to the printer must be accurate and relevant, so be sure to leave plenty of time in the schedule for multiple rounds of proofing and editing.