Rules are important. They give us moral and logistical guidance that helps us make decisions, accomplish tasks, and be more productive members of society. But you know the old saying about rules: they’re meant to be broken. In order to evolve, improve, and nurture innovative change, we need to be unafraid of challenging norms—whether they are sociopolitical, philosophical, creative, or technological. This is especially true in marketing circles, where lists touting the latest best practices are pervasive and constantly changing.
Because while marketing best practices really are a vital part of developing sound and effective marketing strategies, sometimes the smartest approach is to say, “Thanks, best practices—but no thanks.”
Here are four reasons why daring to be different is the right move.
1. Your Market Demands It
Your brand is unique. Regardless of what industry you’re in, or how many competitors you have, your brand is bound to provide something that people can’t get anywhere else—and that makes the people who appreciate your brand unique, too. If your audience is one that prefers a certain kind of messaging, delivered at a particular time, on a specific platform, then best practices can oftentimes clamp a limit on your ability to get creative and find the right way to reach them.
Sometimes the smartest approach is to say, “Thanks, best practices—but no thanks.”
Alternately, if you’re in an industry where the competition is fierce, your audience will be inundated with a lot of the same kinds of best practices-driven messaging; to get to those folks, you’ll need to think and act beyond what everyone else is doing.
2. You’re Testing the Waters
No matter how well you study your target market, it’s likely you won’t be able to discover exactly what they want or need until you try out some different things. While it’s certainly a smart idea to pay attention to the marketing trends and tactics that have a proven track record, keep in mind that your specific audience is full of individuals with different pain points, interests, wants, and needs; testing will help you figure out what works best and for whom (and oftentimes, testing is a small risk that can yield big returns). And if the point is learning what your audience responds to best, you may as well mix it up and push the limits to see what gets a reaction.
3. You Can’t Always Follow the Data
Here’s a fun fact: research shows that emails containing more hyperlinks (especially those containing more than 30)—even to the same destination—had higher click rates. If this sounds like a solid plan to you, let’s chat about why this is a bad idea: there’s a good chance if you have a short, sweet, optimized email with 30+ hyperlinks in it, somebody will eventually click one—probably by accident. This is not representative of great marketing; instead (and especially for today’s digital-savvy consumers) it smacks of desperation and deception.
This statistic is one example of how context is so important when determining so-called “best practices.” Is it worth sacrificing design, brand aesthetics, or common sense because there’s a chance a ridiculous amount of hyperlinks will net higher click-through rates? A smarter plan would be putting a priority on developing content that is better at earning a customer’s click, rather than relying on someone’s wayward thumb.
4. You Want to Disrupt
People throw the term Disruptive Innovation around so often, and in so many different contexts, that it has kind of lost its meaning. At its heart, however, disruption is about changing an accepted construct so drastically that it creates a new market or value. So, if shaking things up is your goal, don’t immediately start cranking out messaging, ads, or strategies that conform to best practices—that’s what everyone else is already doing to reach the same goals everyone else is trying to reach. Instead, deviate from what’s tried-and-tested to define new goals and new paths to reaching them. That’s not to say disruptive innovators can’t find value in best practices—but knowing what most other people are doing will help you start thinking about what you can do to stand apart.
Don’t get us wrong, best practices are important—in the same way that knowing regional laws are important. After all you wouldn’t want to be caught in Woburn, Massachusetts, holding an alcoholic beverage while standing. Not only do best practices provide you with a great baseline or starting point when you’re learning or implementing a new strategy, they also give you insight into tools that will assist you in your efforts. For example, when you’re using Google’s tools, your most prudent course of action would be to familiarize yourself with Google’s rules and suggestions—both because they’re really a helpful guide to developing your strategy, and because nobody knows this stuff better than the folks who created it. But as useful as these best practices are, there’s a reason why they’re always changing—that’s what happens when some daring soul strikes out and tries something untested, only to find that it’s the new best way to get things done.