Cliche -- Or Result?
“Best practices” is one such cliché. The concept of taking a set of ideas used by others and copying them, with hopes of doing them better than “best,” is a cliché. Great ideas have merit. Broadening your perspective is valuable. But copying aggregated ideas and thinking that you’ll perform better than your competitors is just a lack of creativity.
Email marketing is littered with best practices that mean about as much to a business as industry statistical benchmarks. Your goal of best practices is to combine ideas used by your direct competitors and innovate off them, not copy them. I read so much about best practices today -- and the term that comes to mind is “recycled.”
“Low-hanging fruit” is another cliché -- and in the email space, it usually means you’re not getting any more budget. I’d change this term to “wring the sponge.” When I hear a company say their goals are to focus on low-hanging fruit, I typically think, you must have little regard for the talent in your organization. Clichés like this simply scale mediocrity.
One example of low-hanging fruit is the testing of subject lines. It’s the most unsophisticated tactic in your arsenal and should be done, but you’d think insight would drive this practice, not a copywriter who thinks “sale” out performs “20% Off.”
“Real time” is a cliché that plays on the insecurity of being one second late. I’m a technologist and product/strategy guy, so I’ve likely used this term more than all of you combined. While I do believe content delivered at the point of consumption is going to shift our industry, and data in real time will be the future of marketing intelligence, the reality is, businesses don’t operate in real time unless they’re customer service -- and in many cases, that’s not real time either.
So why promote an unrealistic standard? Instead, let’s commit to thoughtful interactions when we apply excellence to strategy. Real time is not your key to next-generational marketing. Real thought is.
The last cliché I hear more and more is “mobile first.” I’ve used it in product marketing, since I truly believe that email and digital marketing have transitioned to be a pervasive mobile petri dish. I’m not as down on this cliché as others, probably because it’s relatively new. The problem I have with it is, most use it to oversimplify a very complex consumer and marketer shift. It’s not just about mobile, it’s about a new generation of consumers who have no idea what a mouse is and have no attention span for interruptive marketing.
Apply “real time” and “mobile first” and you have a business challenge that doesn’t seem scalable to the vast majority of the “optimize”- oriented brands. Remember, “time is money” -- and to configure a business for real time on device-shifting consumers takes time, planning and agility. Now that’s a cliché!
To be different, you have to take risks and not just rely on thinking differently -- you need to act differently day in and day out. There are many companies that have succeeded in simply doing the same thing as their competitors, just doing it better and faster -- that’s called a scale advantage. Few have this enviable position. Those that don’t and apply this strategy are what I call the “get it out the door” marketer. My advice? Keep clichés for the vendor pitches. Challenge your day-to-day and those contributing to it to infuse your business with different thinking, even if uncomfortable at times. Our business will only get faster and more diverse, and clichés won’t help with differentation, just create a different version of average.
“The future’s bright, wear your sunglasses” – “Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder