Let’s start with an understanding: businesses run at breakneck speeds because sales and service are what keep the doors open. We get it.

Here’s the big BUT: if those businesses are working without a solid marketing plan, then their marketing efforts are going to get confusing and ugly, potentially turning off the next wave of customers.

Working without a plan means adding a random page to the company’s website without checking that it matches the rest of the site, that a social media page gets created with the wrong logo, that sales materials don’t look anything like the rest of the company’s communications.

With a tip of the cap to the State Farm agency: We know it because we’ve seen it. We call it Duct Tape Marketing, and it’s dangerous.

We believe that most serious businesses launch with a marketing plan in hand.

Precisely what that marketing plan is, though, varies wildly.

Over the years, we’ve seen companies open their doors with nothing more than a hand drawn logo and a box of business cards. (We rebranded that company a couple of years ago!)

We’ve read about multi-million dollar launches where separate branding, public relations, advertising, communications, and digital agencies are attempting to create a cohesive look and voice. A strong CMO can guide that process and bring all those pros together.

Back in 2015 we started a corporate rebranding project in a conference room in Austin, Texas and ended up on the New York Stock Exchange introducing Everi to the world.

If the goal is to establish a name, build a presence, and drive business, then there’s no wrong way to go about it.

These are the arguments we’ve heard for the DIY route:

  • We don’t need a professional logo for this business.
  • Why would I pay that much for a website when I can get one for free?
  • I don’t believe social media moves the needle.
  • We don’t have a budget for that.
  • We’ll get that done as soon as we make some money.
  • I can do it myself.
  • I’ll have my cousin’s son do it. (more than once)

We understand budget concerns. We’re a small business, too. We look for ways to save money. We tried to do our own accounting for a while there. Yeah, that wasn’t pretty.

A founder/owner understanding the business better than anyone else makes sense as well. We agree. That’s why we changed up our operating philosophy to the Democracy of Good Ideas concept.

What’s that? As we practice it, Democracy of Good Ideas in action means that collectively (client and agency) we can come up with great ideas and it doesn’t matter where those originate. Solo genius is hard to come by. Collective smarts, though. That’s something.

Not investing in brand creation and a professional logo for financial reasons makes sense. At the same time, business owners need to consider the cost of a first impression, especially when it’s so easy to investigate credibility by looking at a website or social media channel.

We could go on.

Today we’re concerned with that thing called Duct Tape Marketing — adding marketing without a plan or thought towards consistency.

Let’s take our imaginary friends Acme Zippers as an example.

Acme’s founders invested by hiring a branding and marketing/communications agency who delivered a comprehensive strategy, logo, website, advertising, and communications efforts. Looked great, resonated with their target audience, helped build credibility and driving business.

That was 15 years ago.

Then this thing called social media happened. The company’s owners opened accounts that their 14-year-old kids told them were hip.

Then some consultant came in and told them that they should blog — great idea. Here come six blog posts that were written for the wrong audience. The last one was published in 2014.

Then Acme Zippers bought Jolly Buttons. They needed to talk about it on the website and their social media accounts. So, someone there copy and pasted the pages from Jolly Buttons’ website and added it to Acme’s site. Does it look like any other page on the website? No. Is the message the same? No.

Potential customers were confused. Panic set in. The executive team started yelling.

“Do some PR!”

“Buy some advertising.”

“Does anyone have a friend with an iPhone that can shoot a video for us?”

Cue sad trombone sound. Turn the volume up to 11.

That’s Duct Tape Marketing.

We recently saw this practice first hand when a potential client called asking if we could redo their 25-year-old website. When they added a new service, somebody added a new page. When they bought a company, they merged the old site and added it to theirs. There were conflicting “About” pages, no service description complimented another… It wasn’t great.

Then the company changed their name, and someone told them they needed a logo, so they held an employee contest and picked the best one.

The Marketing team hired someone to do a video, but it never was seen. The blogging program started, and four posts later ended.

At our first meeting, the client had a lot of things to say about where they were headed and what they had done. We asked them to play a little Mad Libs with us: You are a (type of company) _____________ and you provide (type of service) _____________. Four different answers from two people came back. Not great.

Sure a company like this can serve multiple industries or provide many services, but they need to be able to answer the question: What do you do? It is impossible to sell, market, or communicate without answering that question.

Here are some questions to think about if you’re wondering if you’re in trouble:

  • 1. Can you fill out this Mad Lib easily? You are a (type of company) _____________
  • 2. How about this one: You provide (type of service) _____________
  • 3. Does the logo on your business card look the same as the logo on your website?
  • 4. Is your company’s message consistent from the website to collateral materials to social media pages?
  • 5. Do you have a brochure website or an engagement platform?
  • 6. When’s the last time you added something to your blog?
  • 7. Have you engaged with anyone on your social media channels lately?
  • 8. Look at the photos on your website. Do those people still work for your company?
  • 9. How about in the corporate video?
  • 10. When is the last time you got a lead from your website?

We get that in the scramble to stay ahead of the competition and sell, things like brand and messaging consistency go out the window.

At what cost, though. Potential customers are looking at your website, your sales collateral, your social media channels, your business cards. They could be thinking:

“If there’s confusion in your company’s messaging or logo, why wouldn’t there be confusion in how you’ll deliver service?”

“If there’s inconsistency in your messaging, wouldn’t that bleed over to how you’ll help?”

Such a potential mess that, from our perspective, is so avoidable.

So, do businesses need to break the bank to pay for marketing services? The real answer is that it depends on the marketplace, competition, and corporate sales philosophy. But, for most, that answer is no. Agencies like ours thrive on helping businesses grow. It’s how we get professional satisfaction.

Okay, last thoughts … Avoid Duct Tape Marketing by:

Establish a thought out marketing and communications strategy.

Build a cohesive, engaging, and inspiring brand.

Stay consistent.

As always, please let us know if we can be helpful.