Break the Rules Recap

It’s been nine weeks since the launch of our “Break the Rules” weekly blog series. In that time, we’ve covered a number of standard marketing best practices and told you why you should go against the grain and dare to break the rules.

Last week was the final new post in the series, so we wanted to briefly recap all the rules you should break here.

  1. Use Shorter Subject Lines
  2. Don’t Mention Competitors
  3. Lower Your Prices
  4. Keep Your Text Short and Sweet
  5. Use Social Media
  6. Do Anything for the Sale
  7. Charge Enough to Cover Your Costs
  8. Offer Discounts

Stay tuned next week for the announcement of a brand new weekly series that will take the place of this one on Mondays as we move into the new year.

Break the Rules – Part 8

Welcome to the latest edition of our brand new weekly series, Break the Rules. Each week our plan is to highlight something you will have heard from some marketing expert as a best practice to be disobeyed at your peril. And we’ll tell you why it’s a rule you should break.

Last week’s rule was Charge Enough to Cover Your Costs.

This week’s rule = Offer Discounts

Special offers bring in new business. That’s a fact. It’s been tested and proven over and over again.

But not every company does it. You would think that if discounts work to bring in customers, everyone would offer them. But they don’t. Why?

The answer to that question is the reason I’m telling you to break this rule.

Discounts and special offers can carry a negative connotation. In the mind of the consumer, you are changing the value of what you offer. And offering too many discounts can train consumers to look for discounts, meaning fewer and fewer people pay full price.

It’s a nasty spiral that many companies get caught in. Business is slow, so they start discounting to drive new business. It works so they start offering more discounts, bigger discounts, more frequent discounts. Soon, you have no choice but to continue to offer discounts because stopping would mean no more customers.

Companies that don’t discount at all are protecting their brand’s integrity. Luxury brands don’t discount, because discounting would mean they are no longer luxury.

So you have to decide as the marketer or brand manager how you want the consumer to view your company. If you want to compete at the high end of the price scale in your market, own it. Don’t fall into the discount trap when business slows down. All of your marketing efforts should go toward supporting the value you offer over and above the competition. If you succeed in that effort, you won’t have to discount.

So decide, and decide fast. Because once the discounting bug takes hold, it’s hard to shake it off.

Don’t believe me? Ask JCPenney.

Have a “rule” you think we should write about? Share it with us in the comments below or post it to Twitter @zheller using #marketingrules

Break the Rules – Part 6

Welcome to the latest edition of our brand new weekly series, Break the Rules. Each week our plan is to highlight something you will have heard from some marketing expert as a best practice to be disobeyed at your peril. And we’ll tell you why it’s a rule you should break.

Last week’s rule was Use Social Media.

This week’s rule = Do Anything for the Sale

Your customers are your lifeline. They put money in your bank and food in your mouth. So they’re always right, right?

That’s what many people will tell you. They’ll tell you to bend over backwards for your customers. They’ll tell you to do anything for the sale.

Well I’m telling you today that they are definitively wrong.

Do I think your goal should always be more sales? Of course. I would be a pretty crappy businessperson if I wasn’t interested in growing your business.

But some of the most successful companies are the ones that have found the ability to identify good customers and bad customers. The bad customers are the ones that will cost you more time and more energy for less money. The good customers are the ones that are easier to service, that spend more money, that are happy with what your company provides them.

We all know bad customers. Some of us might even be bad customers of other companies.

Bad customers haggle on price every chance they get. Bad customers spend hours on the phone with your sales reps or customer service teams. Bad customers ask for refunds for no reason. Bad customers threaten negative reviews and BBB complaints to get what they want.

I don’t believe the customer is always right. And I recommend creating a team that is able and willing to identify these potential issues in customers and turning them away. Set firm policies on discounts and refunds. Don’t break them unless you absolutely have to.

Think about the money you save by wasting less time with bad customers, or the money you could make by instead focusing that time on other activities. Stay eager to please your customers, just know that you won’t please them all.

Have a “rule” you think we should write about? Share it with us in the comments below or post it to Twitter @zheller using #marketingrules

Break the Rules – Part 5

Welcome to the latest edition of our brand new weekly series, Break the Rules. Each week our plan is to highlight something you will have heard from some marketing expert as a best practice to be disobeyed at your peril. And we’ll tell you why it’s a rule you should break.

Last week’s rule was Keep Your Text Short.

This week’s rule = Use Social Media

The world is more social than ever before. A lot of people will have a problem with me saying that. But regardless of how “social” social media really is, it’s definitely changed the landscape of online marketing forever.

It goes beyond saying that most marketing experts will expect you to be actively participating on major social networks like Facebook and Twitter. If you’re not, they’ll say, you’re missing out on key opportunities to interact with potential customers, existing customers, and the market at large.

“It’s one of the most important marketing channels!”

But what if they’re wrong? What if, for you, it’s more of a time suck? What if you have a hard time proving the ROI of your social media activity (which is true for so many companies)?

If social media is a rule, I think you should break it.

Why do I think that? Because if you avoid social media, you will have more time and energy to activities that you know are effective.

I’m not arguing that social media is not effective. I am, however, arguing that many small companies spend too much time worrying about social media when it’s not the thing that is helping them grow. And, in fact, it may be the thing keeping them from growing for the simple reason that they do spend so much time on it.

Start with those activities you know are working. Can you do more of them? Are there other activities that are similar you can test? Focus your resources on these actions and take them off social media. I promise you that the sky won’t fall.

Have a “rule” you think we should write about? Share it with us in the comments below or post it to Twitter @zheller using #marketingrules

Break the Rules – Part 4

Welcome to the latest edition of our brand new weekly series, Break the Rules. Each week our plan is to highlight something you will have heard from some marketing expert as a best practice to be disobeyed at your peril. And we’ll tell you why it’s a rule you should break.

Last week’s rule was Lower Your Prices.

This week’s rule = Keep Text Short and Sweet

The conventional wisdom these days when writing copy is do everything in your power to keep it short. People don’t like to read, they have no time for it, so you need to present something to them that is easy to grasp in a hurry.

Shorter = Better.

But it’s been too long now that we (read “marketers”) have been saying shorter copy is better. Too many of your competitors are receiving the same advice from the same group of people. And today, everyone writes short form copy. Whether it’s on their website, in their ads, in emails or direct mail pieces, companies are rapidly moving away from longer form copy and into bullet points, headlines, and lists.

So why should you buck that trend?

Because you want to stand out from the crowd. That’s what marketing is all about. Do something different and unique that gets people’s attention.

If you have something to say, say it and don’t worry how long it takes you. If you don’t have something to say, find something to say very quickly.

Give more detail than your competitors do on your product pages. Get more personal in direct mail and email. Don’t stop at five reasons to buy from you, give me ten.

In a world where everyone is speaking in tweets and vines, be the company who tries to forge a deeper connection with the marketplace. And don’t worry if it goes against the advice of marketing experts telling you to make it shorter, because your goal is to stop doing what everyone else is doing and be on the front lines in a shift back to long form copy.

Have a “rule” you think we should write about? Share it with us in the comments below or post it to Twitter @zheller using #marketingrules