Every successful entrepreneur has a magic formula for rapid growth. Here’s the secret: They use repeatable marketing systems that are predictable enough to warrant risking their capital in marketing.
Predictable, profitable, repeatable and scalable — these are the attributes you need in your marketing systems, not just for super growth, but for survival. Before you risk capital, these attributes need to be solid. Michael Gerber wrote in The E Myth that a business is either expanding or contracting, but never standing still.
Gerber taught us to put systems in place so that the business works, even if the people are imperfect. There is boundless wisdom in this. Business systems make managers’ lives easier. Systems create stability and predictability. If a company had to reinvent itself every month, any attempt at expansion would be impossible. Rapid growth is only possible when the results of the underlying systems become predictable.
Management consultants the world over preach a similar story, but they fail in one respect: identifying which system to build first. Is there a predominant system that drives success? Yes!
Businesses ascend to prominence or stumble into ruin based on just one repeatable event: Making sales. For this reason, developing systems for generating those sales must be the first and preeminent priority and must remain so for the life of the company.
Systems for accounting are important. So are systems for training staff and every other thing a business does. But repeatable systems for making sales trumps them all — especially when cash is tight and the future is uncertain.
Marketing managers and entrepreneurs are highly creative people. We can come up with an endless number of ideas. But until we settle on repeatable systems that can predictably generate profit, the company will eventually hit a ceiling and stagnate. If Gerber’s calculation is correct, the business then begins to contract — it’s the beginning of the end.
Henry Ford was one of the first pioneers in systems development at scale. His manufacturing line was mind-bending, but it wasn’t until the company applied the same principles to their marketing that things really took off.
Between 1908 and 1914, Ford’s marketing systems were inconsistent. They wandered from one ad agency to another, with no repeatable marketing systems. For a period of time, they halted national ads altogether.
In 1945, with Henry Ford suffering the effects of several strokes, his grandson, Henry Ford II, convinced his grandfather to resign. This presented an opportunity for new ideas, and Henry Ford II decided to stay committed to agency JWT (that relationship lasted until 2001). Out of this consistent agency relationship emerged a repeatable system of newspaper, radio, TV and outdoor ads. The message and media choices at the time wouldn’t work today, but back then it was a big hit. Sales flooded in and in 1956, Ford went public.
Ford delivered some of the most memorable ad campaigns in U.S. advertising history. These campaigns were predictable. They were repeatable. They were scalable. They were the basis for super-growth.
Fast forward into the modern age and you’ll find companies like HubSpot, which hired MIT engineer Mark Roberge to develop predictable systems that turned the fledgling company into a juggernaut with $375 million in revenue with nearly 2,000 employees. At the heart of it all is repeatable systems — HubSpot and Ford are not alone.
But beware: The undisciplined approach to all of this is to bail out at the first sign of trouble, then chase after the next big idea. Creating repeatable marketing systems is no joke. It takes a lot of optimization (i.e., a formalized process of trial and error).
Bailing out too soon is usually the result of not knowing how to optimize systems that are not working. However, once optimization skills are learned, many broken marketing systems can be fixed and made profitable.
Optimizing broken marketing systems has been the dream of marketers for eons. Many of us in the advertising industry have gained wisdom from the lament often attributed to department store magnate John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” This was a complaint about the lack of accountability in advertising.
Accountable advertising is a system, and so is the process for repeatedly generating predictable results. If we stay focused on building systems and optimizing them, the process of scaling a business becomes much more methodical and less foggy. That’s good, right?
But even with fine-tuned optimization skills, there are many companies which can’t be scaled to the moon. The market demand might be too small, or the capacity to deliver at scale might be limited. Or there may not be an existing medium which allows the business to inexpensively reach the best target audience.
There are many reasons why a business might not be scalable or even sustainable. But all things being equal, every company can do a better job of scaling if they have repeatable marketing systems that are profitable and predictable.
Examples Of Marketing Systems
• Reliable ad campaigns to generate reasonably priced, high-quality traffic to the website
• Sequential email messages for the most common follow-up scenarios
• Conversion optimization workflows for improving closing ratios
• Scripts for common customer interactions (telemarketing, belly-to-belly presentations, etc.)
• Remarketing campaigns to reach back to stale website visitors or customers
• Consistent return on investment analysis reports to check and confirm ad campaign profitability
• Checklists for everything (such as testing new marketing automation configurations)
The list goes on. The bigger a business gets, the more marketing systems it must develop. If you are serious about scaling your results, you must think in terms of systems, not merely ideas, because the best marketing is repeatable marketing.