Building Out Marketing Systems

Yesterday’s post received some interesting responses.

Normally, much of the feedback for my emails comes from people who are subscribers to the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter.  I’d say about 80%, in fact, comes from subscribers which are probably what you’d expect because people who pay for the newsletter are probably the most engaged readers.

Yesterday though, there was a significant response from non-subscribers and in fact nothing from my usual subscribers.  The single thread through all of the feedback was from people asking for some help and ideas for building out their marketing systems.

In fact, one person wrote back and told me how Eli Goldratt’s “Theory of Constraints” was a seminal book in their life.

While I’m not going to get into the mechanics of how to build out a marketing system today, I will be touching on why it’s such an important concept for you to get your head around, but to also start implementing.

Without touching too much on what I discussed yesterday, I want to call out that every single person who replied said that they understood that they were “the constraint” in their business.  For my audience and the people who these emails are targeted at, that was always going to be the case.

What good marketing systems should let you do is to isolate and protect yourself from getting in the way of some things that need to happen in your business to help you grow.  These systems will operate without you or with VERY little input from you – ideally, without you so that you get this time back to work on other things.

I’m going to talk now a bit about outsourcing and VAs.  Here’s a concept that may be new to some of you reading this, but VAs and offshore outsources doing low-value repetitive tasks are in fact a form of automation – they are “human automation”.  Sometimes this is actually the best and most effective form of automation and it shouldn’t be dismissed.

Large companies have learned in the last twenty years that the idea of a fully automated business is pretty much impossible to achieve affordably.  Many of these companies have abandoned the entire idea of automating tasks electronically and simply offshored those tasks to people in places where the cost of human capital is very low.

Now, before you start ranting about your bank offshoring their call centre to India and the poor quality of service you get, let me just say that what I’m talking about is not that.  That kind of offshore outsourcing is just a cost-cutting exercise and in fact, it’s quite stupid.

Let me explain.

In a really well-orchestrated system of delivery, the primary goal is to increase customer satisfaction by doing things right the first time.  If you can achieve high levels of customer satisfaction while being more efficient, then the only thing you need to do is control your costs and your profit should grow significantly.

The problem with the kind of offshore outsourcing where you call your bank and get someone speaking terrible English that can’t solve your problem, isn’t customer focused.  In fact, the companies making that decision are consciously deciding to provide you with a lower quality of service at a significantly reduced cost of delivery.  They are betting on the fact that the quality won’t be low enough to make you change service providers – they’re looking for an equilibrium point where they can maximise profit by reducing service delivery to the lowest cost without damaging profit.

That’s not what we’re talking about here.

The type of human-automation that we’re discussing is intentionally using people to deliver a neutral or higher quality result in a cheaper fashion than computational or mechanical automation can deliver.

One example that comes to mind is “lead generation”.  I’ve seen it proven over and over again that it’s cheaper to have people in places like the Philippines trawl and scrape websites, consolidate and cleanse data than to have a computer do it – not only that, the quality is often better.

Outside of marketing, you see this in manufacturing all the time, particularly in areas like textiles – it’s cheaper to have a factory full of people in Bangladesh making t-shirts than to have robots do it in Melbourne.  In fact, it’s cheaper to have people in Bangladesh making t-shirt than to have robots in Bangladesh doing the same task!

My long-winded point is, you shouldn’t dismiss the idea of finding a VA or outsource staff offshore to help you because there are things that this model can deliver that can really help and accelerate what you’re doing.

Equally though, it’s not a panacea and I see way too many people misusing their VAs and outsource staff.  They are giving their low paid, low skilled staff tasks to do that are well beyond their capability.  They have the misguided notion subconsciously that by giving it to someone cheap, they are freeing themselves up to do more higher level tasks.

Unfortunately what ends up happening is that the work comes back at a very poor quality level and creates “unplanned work”.  This is the worst type of work you can do because you’re fixing something that someone else has done badly and you haven’t scheduled yourself in for the time to do that work, so it’s extra.  This “unplanned work” is the single most inefficient use of your time.

This is where better systems will help you.

Rather than just offloading it to “cheaper people”, think about ways that you can use tools more effectively and efficiently to get your work done.  From a marketing perspective, one old school way of getting that kind of leverage in your business was through using autoresponders.  You would write a bunch of emails to be sent in a specific order and when someone joined your list, they’d get these emails sent to them at the specified intervals.

That’s an effective, albeit primitive model of building out a marketing system.

For me personally, the holy grail of marketing systems is finding an effective way to generate targeted traffic to my site and my offers using automation tools.

Unfortunately, I openly admit that I struggle with this.

A few years ago, with SEO you could automate your backlink building on a massive scale and game Google into sending you traffic.  I used to have systems in place that could create hundreds of thousands of backlinks a day so ranking in Google and getting organic traffic simply became an automation arms race for a while there.

After leaving that type of black arts sorcery behind five or so years ago, I’ve looked at marketing automation as it relates to traffic many times and has always come away feeling disappointed.  Much of the automation today centres around social media marketing and frankly, the majority of people who use it are doing it so badly it disgusts me.

Guy Kawasaki was at the forefront of Twitter adoption seven or eight years ago and built a huge audience.  Then he became a massive Twitter spammer using automation tools to send the same clickbait links to his Alltop sites out over and over again.  He wrote all kinds of nonsense about the frequency of exposure and click-through rates that justified for him that what he was doing was “right” – except he still looked like a douche.  He didn’t understand the point we spoke about earlier that the purpose of every delivery system should be to increase customer satisfaction.  His purpose was to drive clicks to his horrific Alltop properties and so by his standards, his model worked.

I use Kawasaki as an example because I think he generates very little value and is pretty much like the Forrest Gump of the marketing world – right place, right time and extremely lucky.  Everything he says is about as profound as “Life is like a box of chocolates, you’ll never know which one you’re going to get.”

Ok, let’s get off that tangent.

Anyway, lots of people misuse automation for their social media marketing and nobody really want to be on the receiving end of that rubbish.  Those are poorly managed and thought out systems, we don’t want those.

So then what do we want?

Well, we want to simplify what we’re doing and eliminate duplication of effort for ourselves where possible.  That’s probably going to entail a combination of tools, people and process.

My first thought is, similar to what I said yesterday – focus on doing less.  Not just you personally, but your entire “machine” is probably spinning its wheels doing things that take up time and don’t add much value.  Find those things and stop doing them.  That’s a really important first step.

Next, if you have people who do some of the work for you, one key ingredient in any system (marketing or otherwise) is empowerment.  You need to empower people to make decisions and take action without you.  By finding something that you can give to someone else and let them do it without your involvement, you’re getting out of your own way.

On a related point, I’d also implement a series of spot checks for quality.  It’s ok to hand something over to someone else to do, but you have to factor into the process some level of quality control.  Just add a step where you occasionally sample their work for quality.

Finally, identify the work that adds the most value to your business and think about how you can improve it.  For me, that’s content creation and promotion.  I can’t hand off content creation for Casual Marketer to anyone else right now (or maybe ever), so that’s going to be on me to do.  One thing I have always identified though is that “promoting” your content is a key part of the creation process itself – there’s no point in creating it if you don’t get out and make people aware it’s available.

This is where I need to implement a system because promoting my content is the most valuable thing that needs to be done right now and it’s being done poorly at present – doing this one thing better will give me the best return on my investment of time and money.

Once you’ve identified and corrected the most valuable thing that could stand with some process and systemic improvement, then you go through the process again.  It’s the continual cycle of improvement – find the thing in your business where a better process or system would deliver you the most value and fix it.

The important thing is, don’t get wrapped up in technology.  Think about what you can do to improve things that will deliver the maximum benefit to your customers and your business by making simple changes.  Technology often makes things unnecessarily complex, start by trying to just improve a manual process and once you’ve nailed, then look at how you can add technology or automate things to get even more benefit.

Marketing systems are not just related to selling and promotion, they are things that improve your customer’s overall experience in doing business with you – you have to remember to think more holistically and use all the people and tools at your disposal.

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