5 Marketing Rules You May Want To Break

by Ilana Rabinowitz |

Rules tell you the way the average person does things most successfully.  If you apply them consistently you’ll have a better chance of success than if you don’t have a clue of what you’re doing, I’ll grant you that. But blindly following the rules will never take you beyond a mundane level of workmanship to art.  If Steve Jobs, Tony Hsieh, Howard Schultz, or Jeff Bezos were focused on rules you’d associate their businesses with the commodities that they sell.

You may be thinking, “Im not in a class with those people,” but why not aspire to more? It’s scary stepping outside the realm of the paint-by-number canvas.  It requires that you think, test, be present for your community, be patient and take risks that may not be successful. If you’re ready and willing to give it a try, go ahead and get outside your comfort zone by breaking one of these:

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Obsessively focus on your goal

Instead, obsessively focus on the customer.  Pay attention to the customer’s needs and she will lead you to your goal.  Let’s say you’ve been developing what you think is the next great product or service but lately there have been a few emails and requests on Facebook about something completely different—something you hadn’t thought of.  These requests, while not incredibly loud, have been persistent over time.  Unfortunately, you’re focused on some idea you had at your corporate goal setting meeting six months ago, so you turn a deaf ear.  Perhaps you don’t even have a system in place for knowing what customers are telling you online.  If you’re focused only on your goal, you may have just missed a fork in the road that you should have taken.

You should tweet or post a certain number of times per week

This type of rule, along with how long your blog posts should be, whether they should or should not have photos, whether you should answer all the comments in your blog or thank everyone who retweets you are questions you will need to answer for yourself.

If you are following some arbitrary rule about tweeting other peoples’ stuff and sharing other peoples’ content based on some ratio you’ve been told about, start there but don’t stay there.  Instead, spend time deciding what is really worth sharing.  Read through your Facebook page and engage to the extent that it makes sense.  Share links, comment and retweet when you find value, not based on a formula.

Never engage without knowing your objectives

This is a rule I love to break and I’ve written about it on this blog before.  Concern yourself with making a better world for your consumer, creating a place where people want to hang out, offering content that will help them, telling stories that connect people with your product, and creating meaning that makes peoples’ lives better.  Objectives such as getting more followers, increasing customer loyalty, generating more revenue, or getting more newsletter signups will result when you’ve set the stage and made it easier for people to do those things.  But all the buttoned-up objectives in the world won’t help if you haven’t changed the world for your consumer in some significant way.

Your mission is to capture the hearts and minds of the consumer

Ultimately, this is the outcome you’d like but in the same way you cannot go out and create a viral video, you also cannot go out and capture the hearts and minds of your customers.

The way to get there is to attend to what’s in your own heart and mind.  Are you thinking of the sale or do you care about whether your service is making it easier for your customer to do business?  Are you scheduling your Facebook and Twitter posts days in advance in order to get them out of the way or are you making sure that you’re there in the community, reassuring people who are concerned, confused, upset and acknowledging those who have said something nice?  You can’t control other people, especially not en masse in social media.  Your own attitudes and behavior determine whether people choose to give you their hearts and minds.

Develop a marketing plan and stick to it

The value of a marketing plan is in analyzing where you are, who you are, who your customers are and what you think they want.   But once you start planning into the future your marketing plan needs to be flexible, needs to live and breathe on a daily basis, unless you don’t think that the environment is changing every single day (was Pinterest in your marketing plan?) One of the greatest tricks that marketers need to learn today is how to be nimble without being fickle.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with rules. It’s when businesses become rule-bound that they set themselves up to become average.

It’s important to learn the mechanics and rules of social media, yet, every time I hear people laying them down like the Ten Commandments, I bristle.  What do all these departures from the rules have in common? They are more about the process than the endgame. These are the kinds of rules I like to break because they are in keeping with my philosophy, but you may like to think outside the lines of other rules.

Have you ever broken a marketing rule and if so, what happened?

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About the Author

Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.