I’ve spent the last decade or so preaching the gospel of systems thinking for marketing.

I chose the word system as the cornerstone of the Duct Tape Marketing point of view because after working with small business owners for many years I found that they had no problem thinking about systems when it came to things like getting the product out the door or paying the bills. When it came to marketing, however, they never had anything that remotely resembled a system or systems thinking.

The White Board debate rages on

Over the years I’ve discovered that system is s big word and it’s up for lots of interpretation depending upon your dominant personality type or experience or whether you favor Demming, Drucker or Gerber.

See, I have a system for just about everything I do, but for someone that defines a system as manual, timeline, Gantt chart and task list, my system is rather maddening.

For me a system is simply a way to recognize how you practice your art, it’s not a stone carved tablet kind of thing.

The key to making this definition work is that you recognize and fully understand the pattern of how you get things done. Once you do that you can work inside of a framework that allows you document and collaborate in a systems kind of way.

For example, procrastination is a measured part of creation for me. If I find that I’m having trouble getting to something, it’s my universe telling me that I don’t have what I need fully formed yet – that’ just part of the process and I know it and adapt to it. It’s not a crutch when you recognize the power behind it.

To create forms and procedures or even rigid plans for how something actually gets done is one of the quickest ways to kill the unique art that’s possible.

While I firmly believe that you must align everyone’s thinking with a core set of shared objectives, you must stay equally flexible with how those objectives are achieved.

When you create an action plan that specifies every step along that path it’s a bit like jumping on a speeding train and saying I don’t know where we are going, but I know we’ll be on time.

A marketing system allows for innovation, ideation, new data, testing, refining, restarting and pivoting inside of a strategic framework that recognizes the need for checklists.

But, kill the art and you’ll kill the magic.

Join Our Content Community
Please leave this field empty.

First Name

Last Name

Your Email (this will be your username)

Password (at least 8 characters, 1 number, 1 upper and lowercase letter)

Already a member? Log In

John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • That is not really true. You should only have step by step docs for things which use this kind of thing. I am about to set up an invitation for our girl geek dinner. I can basically switch of my brain for the next 2 hours in what I have to do because it is a step by step instruction and I covered all that is needed over time. Even though I have not done it in a while, I am sure I will not miss anything.

    On the way I can adapt whenever I need it and I frequently do. Similar to other things. Procedures per se are not bad – but they and systems are bad when implemented and setup by people who do not understand what this is about. Which is basically everybody, which is usually why they suck and dont work.

    It is those people which will happily take your statement and run around shouting “see!! told you so!” and continue to work inefficient.

    So I would add to your sentence
    “For me a system is simply a way to recognize how you practice your art”

    the part “so you can measure and optimize it when applicable”.

    There are things where you need to fly free and other things where it is rather stupid to do something over and over again. 😉

  • All I know about marketing is that practicing ‘pull-marketing’ instead of ‘push marketing’ will bear fruitful results. Nice write up!

  • Lynda C-L Allen

    Love this article.  I’m a process gal but it’s a fine line you walk when dealing with sales/marketing.  Hard core processes are best for operations.  If you attempt to instill such ideologies into sales/marketing you kill the very things that supercharges the profession.  It’s the whole left brain/right brain thing…