True Confessions of a Digital Marketer #3: “Best Practices are My Only Practices”

As a former CMO, I’ve seen and heard a lot of unique (and some downright crazy) marketing techniques along the way, and “True Confessions” is my way of sharing it with all of you. Like all good legends–marketing or otherwise– there’s always a mix of truth, exaggeration, outright fiction, and just plain wishful thinking. We’ll let you decide which is which below.

We all want to kick ass at our jobs. So why do we settle for doing the same routine and expected stuff everyone else does? 

I’m talking about the dreaded-but-slavishly-trusted best practice.

Be honest: how many of them do you blindly adhere to?

  • Make your website readable: Hopefully this needs no explanation!
  • No cluttered pages: Use white space to make important messages stand out
  • Make it mobile-friendly: Because those free-spending millennials on their tiny phone screens all day….
  • Make the CTA stand out: Use a bright red or orange color and put near the top of the page
  • Make it purpose-centric: Ensure your visitors can accomplish everything they come to your site to do

Best practices? More like “basic practices.” More like “these are the practices that keep marketing mediocre and everyone on the same page.” They’re mere table stakes.

Are these the best we can do as online marketing professionals? Because this is the stuff college students learn in Marketing Design 101. This stuff is COMMON SENSE. And, really, used correctly, it is a set of guidelines or rules that every good marketer should consider.

People, this is the lowest common denominator. But why do we stop there?

Ok, granted: there’s no three-box for good-better-best practices. But maybe the value of the best practice is proportional to the amount of money you paid to attend the marketing conference where you learned about it?

“But Janet,” you might be saying, “why should I waste time and money researching what will work best when there are already a million blog posts out there that will tell me for free?”

Honestly, ”best practices” should be called “basic operating instructions we all should follow.” But that’s clunky, and BOIWASF isn’t exactly a sexy acronym. Maybe the only best practice we need to remember is “avoid the stupid practices.”

Look at 10 clickbait best practice websites, and you’ll come away with 10 different to-dos when it comes to most compelling button color, how much text to include, the highest-converting format of a lead gen form.

And here’s a big dose of truth tea for you (iced, because it’s currently 89 degrees in Boston as I write this): what’s widely considered to be webpage “best practices” may not be what works best for YOUR AUDIENCE.

So here’s another question: should it be incumbent upon us to create our own best practices? Ones that reflect your brand. Your product and service. And, for the love of all that’s holy, your customer.

For instance, we all “know” Comic Sans is the last typeface you should ever use if you want people to take your website seriously. But if you provide services to people living with dyslexia, it’s a best practice to use it. We all “know” we’re supposed to put the button above the fold, but maybe our clients are Deliberators and won’t click until they read our whole pitch. Best practices say “use a red or orange button,” but what if you’re Kit Kat, Pizza Hut, or Santa Claus? You’ll need to make it purple plaid in order to stand out.

The upshot here is that best practices in digital marketing are helpful. But they can be contradictory. They only get you so far. They should be targeted to your specific clients, and not based on what some design guru thinks makes a pretty, artsy, award-winning page for their portfolio.

Sure, it’s helpful to know “the rules.” And when to break them. Maybe that’s the idea we should be following instead: pushing the envelope to create breath-taking and audacious marketing that (reminds us why we love our jobs again) thrills our customers and makes them excited to associate with our brands. What say you?

To learn more about WEVO and Pre-Live testing, contact us.

About Janet

Janet was the first CMO of Constant Contact, and part of the team that created much of what is known as inbound marketing today. She has also held leadership marketing roles at what is now 3M MicroTouch and HP. After creating HSG, a product and marketing consulting firm, alongside fellow entrepreneur Nitzan Shaer, they soon realized that market research is long, expensive, non-actionable, and does not work at the pace of digital marketers. As a result, they created WEVO – the first company to optimize website experiences before going live. WEVO uses target audience testing to diagnose web pages without the need for live traffic. With actionable, validated insights, WEVO enables you to pinpoint reasons why customers aren’t converting, empowering marketers with a low-risk way to uncover why people take action.

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