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Are marketing best practices an oxymoron?

By September 9, 2008December 4th, 20202 Comments

Are marketing best practices an oxymoron?

Can best practices improve your marketing?

Here’s what a best practice is, according to Wikipedia:

With proper processes, checks, and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. Best practices can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Problem is, if you ask 100 marketers how they’d do a brand audit, develop a positioning statement, create an ad or craft a news release, and you’ll get a slightly different answer from every time.

Standards are a necessity if you want to introduce best practices into anything you do. In marketing there’s little standardization in the approach taken with even the most fundamental of marketing tasks.


For starters, it’s next to impossible to develop best practices within an in-house marketing department. It’s not for lack of talent, but repetition.

Think about it.

If your marketing team one does certain things a few times a year (ads, news releases, etc.) and other things once every few years (branding, naming, websites, etc.) how can they ever become as proficient as folks that do this kind of work every day?

Then agencies must have best practices in place, right?

Well, yes and no. Most agencies are creatively driven (thank goodness), not process-driven. And when someone does nail it on a process, they don’t want to share it with the world—it’s a competitive advantage.

There’s even more to this conundrum than meets the eye.

Who do you use to help you with your marketing? Most agencies, process-driven or not, are biased by their model: Ad agencies recommend advertising, PR firms recommend PR, and so on.

At Outsource Marketing, we’ve worked to rectify these challenges by offering a strategic, seamless and sustainable way to get marketing done, and we try to build standards and best practices into everything we do.

We’re definitely not for everybody, and there are other firms striving to do the same thing.

Here are three things you can do now to start building best practices into your marketing:

  • Start with benchmarking. You have to know what you are trying to beat. Is it the number of leads, printing and promotional costs, number of unique user sessions, subscribers to your RSS feed… brand awareness? Really, everything is on the table.
  • Embrace project management. That means you should have people that understand project scope, timelines, deliverables and budgets involved in every marketing project.
  • After each project, discuss what you learned. Are all the players on the team contributing? Was the creative as good as it could be? Where were the logjams?
  • Apply that learning to the next project, then repeat.

So, given the challenges above, what are other things marketers can do to develop best practices into their organization?

Comment below to share.

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No turtles were harmed during the creation of this post.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • How bizarre — I just started working on an article about “best practices” that I planned to share with my marketing students! Well, I’ll just have to cite this one…

    My basic premise is that marketers need to be very careful about emulating “best practices,” since one of the core functions of marketing is differentiation. Following in your competitor’s footsteps negates that function unless care is made to differentiate on other lines…

    That said, if you write about “best practices,” and I follow suit, does that not make it a “best practice”?


    P.S. Love the turtle picture!

  • You make some great points regarding using project management tools, benchmarking etc. We are firm believers in best practice too, and I agree with your points about competitive advantages – you don’t always want to give too much away.

    Having said that, it’s relatively easy to define a checklist of things that must be done, and stick to it.


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