The reality for many marketers is that we have what I call a "makeshift marketing" problem.

Makeshift marketing is when we string together a bunch of small, free, or inexpensive tools in an effort to make a unified system. Over time, those tools and trends can add up--which isn't always a good thing.

It goes something like this: We adopt a tool for social media, one for content marketing, and then toss in a spreadsheet and some kind of ad-hoc solution for team management and productivity. The results are a confusing mess--and it's not just you and me.

In fact, there were about 7,000 marketing tools in 2018. No wonder everyone's head is spinning and our marketing tool stacks are spiraling out of control. 

At CoSchedule, I have the privilege of talking to marketers on a daily basis. No matter the size of the marketing team or organization, while the details may differ, the story is always the same--makeshift marketing plagues us all.

So, how do you know if your team has a makeshift marketing problem? How do you overcome makeshift marketing? And what's the real price of that pain? Here's what our team has learned.

It takes more than three tools to complete a project.

There are several key steps in a typical content marketing workflow, from ideation, planning, and execution to promotion. The reality is that most teams end up using a different set of tools for each step in that process.

It often starts with a simple spreadsheet, moves to some sort of task management system, and ends with a social or content publishing platform.

Think of all the copy pasting. Coupled with about 20 different browser tabs open at any given time. All those chaotic spreadsheets which try to cobble together something vaguely resembling a marketing strategy. 

Here's are a few that our customers have sent us. Oy!

The bottom line is, if it takes more than three tools to get a simple marketing project done, then you have a makeshift marketing problem. 

Fire drills happen.

When you have a makeshift marketing problem, it likely means that you also have organizational gaps and communication headaches. This is where marketing fire drills come from. Those last-minute projects that force you to burn the midnight oil, or deadlines like get blown out of the water like Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy. 

How often do fire drills happen on your team?

If the answer is more than you'd like, then you might need to spend 2019 cleaning up your software stack.

Your ROI is dipping or staying flat.

When your process isn't efficient, your results will be lackluster. Think about it, constantly pushing back deadlines means you aren't publishing nearly as much as you should be. 

Projects that should take one week end up taking two. Spread that over a full year and it will cut the number of projects you ship in half. It's only reasonable to see a dip in your results, as well.

With marketing budgets already under heavy fire, fixing your makeshift marketing problem could be a major factor in proving your marketing team's ability to drive business value.

You are overly reliant on free tools.

We all love free stuff, but we're wrong to assume that it doesn't come with a cost. The unfortunately true cost of free could be coming at the expense of your productivity. 

Starting your marketing process in a spreadsheet sounds harmless enough, but how often does it result in copy and pasting content from one place to another? How many extra "check-in" meetings do you need to have each week just to make sure things stay on track?

This is inefficient and wastes time. Free tools may save you cash, but they often eat up your team's resources and kill the vibe. And we all want more vibe.

You don't have a single bird's eye view.

Marketing has a lot of moving parts, and visualizing all of those moving parts in one place is both daunting and necessary for anyone trying to build an effective marketing strategy. If you have a makeshift marketing problem, the process of developing that bird's eye view is going have one key characteristic: It's manual. 

More copy and pasting. More tedious work making sure your blog schedule actually matches the calendar you planned out in Trello or some spreadsheet.

Also, what happens when your boss looks for a report on what marketing is doing in the upcoming quarter? You're left translating spreadsheets into slide decks, and that's just not fun or beneficial.

So, is makeshift marketing sucking up more than its fair share of your company's resources? Perhaps it's time to make 2019 the year that your team ditches makeshift marketing and finds something a bit more time efficient?

Published on: Jan 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.