Recently, I was talking to my VP Marketing about best practices in what we do, and he expressed his frustration that so often we hear clients say “let’s implement best practice.”
This sentiment was to me, somewhat surprising. Working with clients every day, even the most advanced among them aspire to best practice in some aspect of their marketing ops and technology. Is something wrong with wanting to achieve best practice?
What Is Best Practice?
While most of us understand best practice as the best way to implement a process or program, oftentimes it’s rather the best readily available option. Being readily available doesn’t inherently make something better or worse, but it is by nature cookie-cutter. It is the solution that’s worked for a majority of people, it’s low risk, and it’s likely a lower investment than something custom developed. Depending on your particular circumstance, this could mean a perfect fit or it could mean a solution that simply doesn’t work in your circumstances. It’s likely to be a 75% solution – a solid B grade.
Echoing every client I had ever worked with, the voice inside my head yelled, “it’s not that simple.” Between resourcing, budgets, and system ownership differences, a tried and tested best-practice solution sounds pretty good. But, as our conversation went on, it became apparent that it was not the achievement of best practice that was frustrating for him, but the goal-setting itself. As a tried and true solution, best practice is a good way to play it safe, but truly great marketing has never been about being safe.
Are You Stuck in a Rut?
Marketing is a field of early adopters and first movers, risk-takers, and innovators, where creative people flock to make a living being creative. Somewhere along the wave of technology adoption, automation, and data-driven personalization, marketing departments started to look less like creative hubs and more like IT. “Don’t break anything” became more important than “try something new.” This left most of us clinging to best practices.
So how do you free yourself from the best-practice rut to do more and outpace your competitors?
Decide what’s worth fighting for. No one has unlimited resources, and going from best practice to best-in-class, can be risky and expensive. We are talking about breaking new ground here. So not every aspect of your marketing will be able to elevate at the same time. Targeting areas of your organization where best-practice might not be delivering the best results is a great place to start.
One of our clients has communications that target a highly entrepreneurial start-up audience. Best practice is to send emails between Monday and Thursday during work hours but, this was not giving them good engagement results. They relied on their knowledge about their audience and started sending emails on Sunday mornings.
Engagement rates skyrocketed. That niche audience consumed content on a different schedule than most people. Those marketers understood who they were trying to communicate with and took a risk.
Doing anything new carries an inherent risk. To balance out the risk and control the expense, we recommend rolling out changes on a smaller scale. A proof of concept that can deliver results on a shorter timeline is far more likely to secure buy-in and budget than an expensive project with an extended roll-out plan. Whether it’s a process, campaign or content, they can all be tested in a more limited environment to prove their increased effectiveness.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Ultimately, to roll out new innovations you’ll need support and buy-in from executives. There are really only two avenues, demonstrate a reduction in cost or an increase in revenue. So before you start your proof of concept, set up benchmarks and reporting to ensure that you can demonstrate one of these two things. Record the time, resources, and monetary investment current best practices deliver along with the pipeline and revenue created. Then compare these to your new proof of concept to demonstrate value.
The hope is that you’ll create a positive feedback loop to encourage further innovations and disruptions in pursuit of best-in-class.
Companies don’t go from best practice to best-in-class overnight. It takes time, commitment, and tenacity. It takes a change agent. If you desire to lead your team towards transformation and elevation, start with our Change Agents resource pack which includes the eBook and actionable playbook, plus 9 templates to help your process and document your transformation.
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