The Problem With Marketing Best Practices


There are some popular digital marketing best practices out there enjoying an unusually long shelf life:
  • You need to choose between content quality and content quantity.
  • When it comes to video — shorter is better.
  • Publish your content on a specific schedule, for example, every Thursday at 1 PM.

Umm… no.

Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve watched the evolution of digital marketing best practices. In the early years of digital marketing, everyone was forced to use the same tools and channels. We also fought over the same customers. Today, content generation and promotional tool options have exploded in complexity and utility. My audience has become easier to reach and harder to persuade.

The tactics I use to reach this audience has grown exponentially in complexity and breadth.

Think about it. My team can create blogs, photos, short-video, long-form video, podcasts, ebooks, special reports, email drip series.

We can publish our content via Medium, Instagram, YouTube, IGTV, Twitch, Facebook, LinkedIn, iTunes, Amazon, even via connected set-top cable boxes such as Roku.

Throw in four distinct audience segments and you would agree that the thought of a tried and true best practice is nonsensical. Complexity is too high for one-size-fits-all best practices.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get serious about getting smart and nimble with our approaches.

My team has learned that the first step after identifying a problem is searching for the factors that contribute to the problem instead of searching Google for an applicable best practice.

For example, we recently launched Eats in The D, a foodie-focused Youtube show for our audience. During production, we needed to settle on a preferred time length for each episode. The common best practice is to limit videos to 1 minute or below. Shorter is better goes the mantra.

We chose another path by asking different questions.

How much time does our audience have to make a restaurant selection for lunch?

In our case, we found that 5–7 minutes between 11:30 AM and Noon (lunchtime) is the sweet spot.

The next question was —

“How can we help an out-of-town visitor feel comfortable going to our featured restaurant in 5 minutes?”

We decided on finding a true Detroiter who connected to our target audience with a mix of sophisticated grace and street-smart sass. The end product is an informative show that makes both our audience and restaurant owners happy.

What’s the best practice?

There isn’t one. Just an approach to consider:

Ask questions
: Effective marketing starts with a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished before work is done on the “how”.

Challenge “rules of thumb”:
Marketing changes too fast to allow “rules of thumb” to grow underfoot without being trampled.

Question your “Gut”:
We used instincts when we needed a way to make sense of very few data signals. Now, we have an enormous amount of data at our fingertips. We don’t need to solely rely on our gut. Seek out data-based insights instead.

The Real Problem With Best Practices


When you use a best practice, you throw in the towel and copy someone else’s solution. If you’re honest, you know that best practices are a lazy way out.

Don’t take the easy route. Sustainable competitive advantage only comes from smart people, problem-solving unique solutions that match the strengths of their organization. Forging your own path takes time but it pays.

Give it a try.

© 2020 Stanford Smith