I’ve been reading a lot about the benefits of systemization in business, including the eMyth Revisited by Michael Gerber and Work the System by Sam Carpenter. Both books, which I highly recommend, teach the doctrine of working “on your business”, not just “in your business”. And what is true for general business is just as true for marketing systems.
By a “marketing systems approach”, I will borrow from what Josh Kaufman wrote in the foreword to Work the System: “Fundamentally, every business is a system: a collection of processes that, together, reliably produces an intended result. The more you focus on improving your business systems, the better results you’ll produce. It’s as simple as that.”
Yes it is as simple, and powerful as that. There are dozens of functions/tasks that can benefit from a documented marketing systems approach. A few examples include: sending press releases, posting blogs, web content, creating buyer personas, managing an online or live event, developing case studies, creative briefs, lead follow-up, and much more. As just one example, following is a partial list of procedures for sending out an email:
- Establish goals for the program
- Set-up the campaign in your MA/email system
- Compile the list
- Craft the offer
- Create the email template
- Write the email text
- Edit/proof the email text
- Create and testing a landing page
- Test on multiple email clients
- Test the salutation
- Test each link
- Test the auto response email
- Launch the campaign
As mentioned, this is only a partial list but each one of these tasks, if not performed correctly, can create significant problems. This is where the expression “The devil is in the details” comes from. How often do you get an email where you are addressed as Dear [firstname], or where the links are broken or the landing page has serious flaws? All of these errors can be partially or fully eliminated if procedures are consistently followed. But they can’t be followed if they aren’t documented.
Benefits of a Marketing Systems Approach
A well-documented set of marketing systems can help you:
- Maximize your time. The systems approach is all about doing things correctly the first time, with little need for do-overs. This should allow you more time to spend on the things that you enjoy and create more value to the business.
- Require less supervision. You should write your procedures so a relatively inexperienced person can complete a task without direct management.
- Lessen your dependency on each individual. Have you been in a situation where only Suzy or only Tom knows how to complete an essential task and they are not available? Written procedures are the answer to being held hostage by anyone’s presence.
- Reduce the error rate. Just like the earlier email example, following procedures can eliminate many common mistakes
- Save money and aggravation. A former colleague told me a sad tale about how their company paid a large penalty (thousands) for using an unauthorized photo in a blog post. Our blog post creation checklist would have prevented this because there is a line item requiring that the source of each graphic be verified.
I’ll leave you with two non-marketing examples of how systems (or a lack thereof) can help or hurt a business. From the positive side: every time I leave the gym where I work out, the person behind the counter bids me farewell, saying something like “Thanks for coming” or “Have a great day”. I’d like to think this is because they only hire really nice people, but the fact is – this is an operating procedure (system) of the business. When a customer leaves, they are always given a friendly goodbye. Not sometimes, but always.
The negative example is a hotel my wife and I stayed at recently. There were two problems: The coffee basket contained two packages of decaf but no high-test coffee and there was no shampoo. Although this is a hotel in a city we visit quite often, we will never stay there again–all because their housekeepers did not have a system in place to put the right items in each room they cleaned. They probably get it right most of the time, but a disciplined and documented system would ensure they get it right every time. And the difference between “every time” and “most of the time” can be the difference between being a market leader and a failed business.