Marketing from the future: next practice versus best practice

Earlier this month, ExactTarget (disclosure: my employer) ran a ‘Future of Marketing’ tour across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. As the tour wrapped up, a thought crossed my mind: while looking to the future is a wise and necessary idea, it doesn’t mean you should ignore everything you’ve done up until this point to grow your client base.

For example, there are established best practices for everything from social media marketing to email marketing to mobile marketing, and though these may change over time, they’ve remained reliable long enough to become a consistent part of many marketing life cycles.

In short, it’s important to weed out the useless or out-dated marketing techniques, but make sure you don’t uproot the future flowers from your garden in the meantime.


Casting off the crutch

An issue arises, however, when these best practices become a crutch, or something marketers fall back on when they no longer have any fresh ideas. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can employ to identify which ‘best practices’ are still working and which you are using simply because they’re easy.

Assemble a list of all of your best practices, those marketing methods you use time and again because you feel they are helping you grow your strategies and client base. While examining this list, ask yourself and your team if these methods are still working, or if they’ve just become ‘best practice’ because you’re used to doing them. For this step of the process, it may be best to call in some fresh eyes – perhaps by asking junior members of the marketing team for their input, or even reaching out to your email marketing recipients with a survey asking about how they use and view your marketing techniques.

There are certain tools you can use to determine whether your techniques have gone stale. For example, tools that allow you to track and analyse your social campaigns, meaning you’ll be able to gauge whether the techniques you’re currently using are actually having an impact.

Once this is done, you can begin to streamline your marketing lifecycle, weeding out those ‘crutches’ and finding a new strategy that can stand on its own two feet.


Now the tricky part

There are easy ways to eliminate unnecessary practices – the hard part is creating new ideas that are ahead of the curve. There’s no marketing crystal ball to gaze into, so how can you predict what “next practices” will work for your lifecycle needs?

For one, you can take a look at the ‘best practices’ you cast aside when streamlining your strategy. Was there a pattern or any similarities amongst these old techniques? Look at these old practices as ‘problems’ – they weren’t working for one reason or another. Why? Answering this question can make it easier to come up with marketing practices that will act as solutions to fill in the gaps.

On top of this, it’s a wise move to align yourself with other forward thinkers in the marketing world, even if this means reaching out to your own competition. You will want to be able to gauge where marketing is going in general, and you can’t do this if you’re acting as a fortified island in a sea of innovation. Instead, lower your barriers and take a hard look at what other companies in your industry are doing. Allow your colleagues and competition to be your divining rod when it comes to finding innovative ways to reach customers.


Ryan Bonnici
BY Ryan Bonnici ON 9 May 2014
Ryan Bonnici leads marketing at HubSpot Asia Pacific and Japan. For more frequent updates, follow him on Twitter at @ryanbonnici.