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The plumber’s leaky tap: notes on a website 20 years in the making

To mark our 20 year birthday, Mint CEO Jeanne Zweck shares insights,
tips and warnings for small businesses online, and explains what took
us so long to launch a new website. 

There’s an old adage about the plumber who works so hard fixing other people’s pipes that the tap in his own home is always leaking. As founder and CEO of a marketing agency that has operated for almost two decades without a website, this one has always struck a chord.

The irony of designing and producing web content for other businesses without launching my own in all this time is not lost on me. Nor has it gone unnoticed by some of our long-term clients, who haven’t been able to resist a few friendly jibes about the eternal ‘coming soon’ holding page. 

[Do we have a screengrab of the old holding page? It might be funny to insert here with a caption like ‘Hello, old friend.’ or something]

Truth be told there have been quite a few false starts over the years – pages mapped out, layouts conceived, copy drafted – never to see the light of the monitor. I’ll admit, it’s hard for a team of perfectionists to ever let go. But we are used to the most demanding of billion-dollar bid deadlines, so that’s not the cause of our proverbial leaky tap.

It’s not that we are a sect of clandestine Luddites, either, or we would never have survived this long. 

No, I’ll let you in on a little secret – and let it be a cautionary tale for all those time-poor business owners who feel pressure to jump on every shiny new platform that comes along. 

Ours is a service-based business serving other businesses. The essence of service is what you can do for your client, not how prettily you can present what you do online. Mint is a business built on a solid foundation of relationships. With positive, productive relationships comes repeat work, referrals and continued growth 20 years on. Our clients continue to engage us, website or not.

So for 20 years we have striven to serve our clients and live our values, which has left little time to prioritise our website. While we’re far from perfect, I think the proof is in the pudding. We have just taken a brief from our oldest client which attests to the success of our relationship-based approach. 

There are even a few perks of operating website-free that are a little under-sung in our digital world. Websites and social media platforms aren’t just a ‘one and done’. They’re voracious beasts that demand attention, updates, and a constant stream of content. Our old holding page and minimalist social media footprint have saved us countless hours and spared us the risk of an out-of-date or old-fashioned site, which can do a brand more harm than good. Our clients also know we aren’t hiking up our margins to support an unquenchable craving for followers or fame.

Given a large portion of our work is based on confidential tenders, I’d even say that our absence from the web has created a safe harbour as well as a bit of mystique. On meeting new people in the industry, they have often exclaimed, ‘Oh, we’ve heard all about Mint’ – a testament to good old-fashioned word of mouth. 

Of course, it all comes down to your business and your industry. Our approach wouldn’t work for product marketers or retail operations. In our sector and for a business like Mint, I would encourage business owners to spend their time and money on building relationships with existing and past clients because, as the proverbial plumber knows, small businesses often have to prioritise what is most important. 

I would also warn not to go to the effort and expense unless it is right for them. Before you sweat over a new website, YouTube channel, or Instagram Reels, remember your investment in digital marketing should be determined by a carefully thought-through strategy. Most businesses struggle to master all platforms, so:

  • Work out where your clients really are (ours, for example, are generally not on TikTok, but you’ll find us all over Instagram and LinkedIn)
  • Think about your lifecycle stage – Do you need to create awareness or convert sales, or is it simply a matter of maintaining a community of existing clients?
  • Prioritise doing a couple of things really well and commit to a consistent program – A half-hearted, ad-hoc approach can be counter-productive
  • Consider outsourcing – Lots of firms like ours (remember I said we do this for everyone else) offer competitive startup or ongoing content packages to maintain a consistent presence
  • Review – Look at the social media insights freely available through your platforms and be brutally honest. Is all this effort translating into new clients, or is it just an ego exercise?

The impetus for Mint to finally go live in 2021 is no coincidence. It’s come at the time that is right for the business. 20 years in, our team is growing larger than ever, and we have some products in the pipeline that will make a website an effective tool for engaging with new audiences and sharing new initiatives. 

So welcome aboard our long-awaited website, 20 years in the making. Take a look around, let us know what you think, and have a think about your own leaky tap. Is it time to get onto it, or can you stand to wait a little longer?

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