As a Web Developer, nothing brings as much comfort and control as Best Practices. Within the technology environment, a list built on avoiding catastrophe and limiting frustration is a good thing. For web developers, Best Practices mostly revolve around testing and managing technology. Within the safety of these rules, technologists can operate with confidence and easily justify their actions. Outside these rules, there’s only the inevitable disaster of broken code and unemployment.
As a Digital Marketer, I also find comfort and control in the use of Best Practices. Within a marketing environment, “Best Practices” reveal how competitors and markets are likely to behave. This splendid list of rules outline the misplaced focus of my industry. Rather than being based on testing or management, Marketing Best Practices seem rooted in lazy assumptions, biases and mythology. This is especially true of “Digital Marketing Best Practices”.
“Digital Marketing Best Practices” make it easy to explain mediocre results. If following a checklist designed by the smart people at Google or Bing doesn’t work, what will? No technician can be blamed for following standard operating procedures. Besides, it’s easy to find experts with a vested interest in “Best Practices” to support a predictable approach. Since industry averages are so abysmal, “Best Practices” normalize poor results and protect technocrats who manage campaigns. Within the safety of these rules, technologists can operate with confidence and easily justify actions.
Marketers with the courage and curiosity to test assumptions, however, benefit the most from “Marketing Best Practices”. They’re given the blueprint for building brands cheaply, while increasing the costs of competitors. Understanding how consumers actually make decisions, marketers can reach consumers where competitors are absent. They can know when and where competitors are going to be absent by simple testing and probing. Over time, marketers depend on this predictability and are able to dominate markets.
Marketers believe in and pursue marketing objectives – such as being seen, creating awareness, building brands and generating profitable revenue. They know how to persuade consumers early in the buying process. They haven’t concluded that marketing principles no longer apply online or that every strategy must focus on clicks. If they had such doubts, they’d test them to uncover the truth – rather than abandon the core concepts of their profession. For marketers, the ultimate judge of strategies and tactics is the market they’re engaging.
Unfortunately, marketers are rare and expensive in the Digital Age. Technocrats who follow “Marketing Best Practices” aren’t nearly as scarce and are far easier to train. Armed with rules and tactics designed around clicks, they’re able to dismiss the basic principles of marketing online. “Best Practices” help to reassure clients and employers of technical competence – rather than marketing abilities. Technocrats premise their value on doing things by the book, just like everybody else. They produce results comparable to everybody else.
Marketers don’t need the safety of a technical manual. They have markets and results that stand out in markets. They know how to identify and reach markets that best match what they have to offer. They know how to persuade and demonstrate success. What’s more, they are a primary driver of business success – a competitive asset. When they find “Best Practices” for a particular market and a specific offer (product, service, etc.), these become assets that don’t get shared. When they discover that the “Best Practices” followed by competitors and entire industries are wrong, this becomes an asset that doesn’t get shared. Marketers build and grow strategic assets in relation to markets that support business outcomes. They create safety and comfort for themselves and their brands by doing this.
Unfortunately, if technicians rely on standardized assumptions, well-defined rules and open-source strategies – their jobs are destined for automation and outsourcing. In this environment, scale is the only competitive advantage. Strategy is already built into the “Best Practices” – along with its effects on markets, conversion rates, scalability and incremental revenue. When poor results are normalized but profitable based on what everyone else is doing – an application can be written for that. Applications have already been written for that.
Marketers and the brands they represent cannot have applications developed today that duplicate their value. Breaking their tasks into smaller components and developing a low cost production process won’t threaten marketers, right now. Good marketers aren’t threatened by tools and tactics that are predictable and unconnected to market realities. In their world, this is an opportunity -- a true gift that makes things easy for them and the brands they represent. Marketers and brands realize the benefits of being more than a commodity within the marketplace -- quicker and at less cost.