When to Break the Rules in Marketing

I write all the time on this blog about the “rules” of marketing. What these are are best practices, the things that have worked for people in the past. But they are not gospel. Because as much as some pundits would like to think otherwise, there is no one size fits all approach to marketing.

So how do you know when to follow the rules, and when to break them?

Here is a quick guide:

  1. When you test your way out of them. If you’re just starting out in a specific area, it’s best to find out what the best practices are. It should be viewed as a starting point. But you should always run tests to see what works best. If you break the rules and it outperforms the other versions, stick with it.
     
  2. When breaking the rules is already working. You may already be doing something that the “experts” tell you is wrong. But if it is working for you, don’t feel the need to shift strategies just because you’re not following best practices. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
     
  3. When your audience is unique. Best practices are usually the techniques that work for the masses. The work for the average of all people. But your business might serve a niche market, whose needs and actions are unique. That’s all it takes for those best practices to no longer work.
     
  4. When your competition is breaking the rules. Keep a close on what other companies in your space are doing. If they are having success by breaking the rules, you may be missing out.
     
  5. When your competition is following the rules. I know this sounds like the opposite of #4 above, but noting how important it is to stand out from the crowd, you may want to try something completely different than your competition. Therefore, if your primary competitors are following all the best practices in a certain area, you should try breaking the rules to help differentiate your company and offerings from theirs.

Best practices exist for a reason. They are a guide to what has worked for the majority of marketers in the past. But they are not, and never will be, a determinant of future success for your brand. They should provide a starting point and nothing more.

Do yourself a favor and break a few rules. Then come back here and share the results with us!