This is not another system, system. - Marijke Timmers

This is not another system, system.

Is it just me, or does everyone seem to have a ‘system’ these days?

Almost every marketing guru or business-owner-turned-consultant has one.

Systems are important. They operationalise and commercialise what we do as consultants, so we can help more people. Like good processes, systems streamline businesses, enabling growth.

Until they don’t.

Not all systems will enable you. From what I’ve seen, many actually do the opposite by creating a dependency. Because you don’t understand how the ‘system’ has been set up or the reasoning behind it, you’re reliant on buying it over it and over again. Whether that be a 7 day sales funnel set-up or a 90 day quadruple-your-revenue-without-lifting-a-finger system.

Before you jump into buying that template so you never have to write another social post, email, web headline, ad headline, xmas card, or first born’s dog’s breakfast menu, make sure you do your research.

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about the systems that teach you the strategy and coach you through the execution – the ones that expect you’ll do the work and are hungry to learn. I’m pretty impressed by some of these (I just wish they wouldn’t call them ‘systems’). I’m talking about the systems where the work is apparently done for you and all you need to do is plug and play.

The problem with these systems is that anyone who truly needs them probably doesn’t have good foundations in place. Layering a quick fix on top is like adding another floor to an already shaky building. It might stay up and look better for a short while, but eventually it’s going to fall down.

Now, I’ll be honest. I’m saying this without buying them so I can’t tell you for sure that all of them don’t work. Some of them probably work some of the time and if there are proven shortcuts you can take form other’s experiences, I’m all for them. I’m just skeptical that they work all of the time for all types of businesses. If you don’t have your foundations in place, such quick fixes might generate short term income but they are unlikely to accelerate your business in terms of real long term growth.

And, they certainly don’t make for authentic brand experiences.

To achieve that requires an understanding the reasoning behind each marketing tactic so you can tailor it to your specific audience and so you know if it’s right for your brand and your customers before you implement it.

Building a business that will stand the test of time and weather all these crazy storms is unlikely to come from a downloadable template. In my experience of working with businesses and entrepreneurs over the past 20+ years, it takes hard work, grit and the smarts to create something valuable enough for people to hand over their hard-earned cash year after year.

A one-size-fits-all model is one thing. Delivering quality business practices at pace is quite another. While delivering value and generating income quickly is key to any start-up, good things really do take time. Just ask any decent Creative who’s been asked to pull together a meaningful campaign in a day – do you want speed or do you want quality? Are you looking to get something (anything) to market or are you looking to create long term value?

Simon Sinek, Ethnographer, bestselling Author and legendary TED Talk speaker explains it perfectly: “Addicted to short term results, business today has largely become a series of quick fixes added on one after another after another. The short term tactics have become so sophisticated that an entire economy has developed to service the manipulations, equipped with statistics and quasi science.”

It’s not just small businesses who are tempted by such ‘systems’. I can’t tell you the number of times my Corporate clients have asked me what a ‘standard’ marketing automation programme looks like. While there are certainly tips and tricks in my toolkit, I don’t carry around a briefcase of nurture or re-engagement customer journeys. While there are basic principles I apply to every campaign, it’s over simplistic believing that all businesses operate and all target audiences engage in the same way.

One thing that is always constant is my response:  “Every business is different. Your goals, your customers and your values are unique. Your customer journeys should be built around those insights, not around something that states you must have five emails, one a week with five different calls to action and a hold step for those that didn’t open the first three.”

I know these systems have come about because of a very real need and I’d like to think they’ve been genuinely developed to help small businesses. I get it. As a business owner, you’re a jack-of-all-trades and marketing is just one of many things on your plate. Who wouldn’t be tempted by the short cuts?

The truth is, while a strategic approach may require time up-front, it will save you time and money down the track. According to Investopedia*, two of the top four reasons why businesses fail in their first year is because of poor planning and marketing mishaps. I regularly deal with small businesses who have survived the first year but the foundations for growth are shaky because they were so focused on bringing in short term cash, they didn’t build for the future. As a result, they have to undo a lot of the equity and recognition they’ve built in their brand and start again. That’s an expensive process and while it’s best for the long term, it does create a lot of confusion in the minds of your customers.

If you’re at the point of a rebrand or even a brand refresh, or if you’re starting from scratch and want to avoid future branding pitfalls, I’d love to chat with you.

My next intake of The Marketing Collective – the foundational strategic marketing programme for small business owners – starts again in October 2020. We’d love you to join us.