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One of the most dangerous habits we practice in marketing is holding strong convictions in beliefs not founded in data, in proof. We believe that X tactic is the best, that Y and Z things never work, that ABC only applies to other industries and not us.

The reality is that we have very few firm rules in marketing. In fact, I could distill down the corpus of marketing strategies to four simple precepts:

  • Measure what you’re doing.
  • Do more of what works.
  • Do less of what doesn’t work.
  • Try new things until you find out whether they work or not.

Let’s look at a couple examples of how we might be too bound to certain points of view. Let’s say we’re a local business that sells video game hardware and software. Which is the better marketing tactic for building awareness?

  • Display advertising
  • Flyers on pizza boxes

If we’re digital practitioners, we might lean towards the former. If we’re the local pizza shop, we might lean towards the latter. Either way, we have a belief about what works; however, there’s no way to know which of these two tactics is better unless we test and measure. To assume that one is automatically better than the other is foolish.

Let’s look at something more subtle. Which is better for building a business as a digital influencer?

  • Robust social media channels
  • Robust email marketing list

Again, depending on your point of view, you might believe strongly in one of these two tactics. For me, the second is more effective; I’ve got significantly higher open, clickthrough, and conversion rates from email than social media. However, that doesn’t mean I should stop trying new things. Just recently, I started testing out my newsletter on LinkedIn as a Pulse post. Which is better? I’ll find out during this testing period. I don’t have a belief or firm conviction.

The opposite of a strongly-held religious belief is agnosticism, a claim of neither belief nor disbelief. That’s where I am in marketing today; what works for one company will not necessarily work for the next. What’s a best practice in one industry may be a capital mistake in another. Only through measurement, testing, and validation will we find what works for any given use case.

Anything else and we risk delivering less impact than we’re capable of creating.


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