The first rule of marketing is:
Anyone else notice how there are so many ‘rules’ and ‘formulas’ and ‘tried and tested methods’ out there to supposedly guarantee your small business’ success? Good, I’m glad it’s not just me. I’m going to let you in on a little secret now, which probably won’t surprise you at all: marketing is all a massive experiment. A series of A/B split tests, endless iterations and pivots. There are no rules and no formulas and the tried and tested golden method that works for one business will completely fail in another. Here’s why I think as business owners we should break all the rules and start making our own that work for us.
Even the rules are an experiment.
What might surprise you is that in fact, these rules, formulas, methods and blueprints (that’s another one that makes me chuckle) you see as sponsored posts in your news feed on Facebook are in themselves huge marketing experiments for the companies promoting them – designed to capture your email address so they can continue running marketing experiments on you until they stumble upon something that makes you hand over your money (or unsubscribe).
There are no rules for marketing.
… more like guidelines.
To perfectly demonstrate this point, I’m going to share some stats from a recent article by social media scheduler Buffer. They collected some ‘rules’ for the best time to post on Facebook as dictated by some of the big players in the marketing and social media space:
- Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. says Hubspot
- Thursday at 8 p.m. is best according to TrackMaven
- 1–4 p.m. late into the week and on weekends is what CoSchedule recommends
- Early afternoon during the week and Saturdays is the official rule from Buffer
- and BuzzSumo reckon that off-peak times are best
As you can see, no one can agree on one rule to rule them all. The best way to understand your audience and what works for them is to break the rules and run your own experiments. Now I’m not saying you should completely disregard the years of research and data on the best time to post on Facebook and completely start from scratch, however, you should take these ‘rules’ as a guideline from which to run your own tests and see what results you get.
Your business is unique.
Besides avoiding feeling like a failure when these rules and formulas don’t work for your business, by making your own rules, you’ll also save your sanity. Work out exactly what does work for your unique business with your unique clients, problems and solutions instead of pulling your hair out wondering which of the two ‘rules of social media’ are correct; the one that says use a maximum of 11 hashtags or the one that says no more than 2 hashtags per post.
The ‘rules’ are constantly changing.
When you start running experiments to find out what works for your business, you too will stumble upon seemingly magic combinations that make your customers hand over their money – which is amazing news, congratulations… but don’t stop there! Your clients – just like you – are constantly changing so what might work really well once, may not see the same results again. You constantly need to be tweaking and adapting to ensure you keep meeting your customers’ needs so your business keeps growing.
You’ve probably worked out by now that I’m not a fan of rules. Just like the first rule of Fight Club, I think the first rule of marketing should be: you do not talk about marketing rules. It’s time that we acknowledge that marketing is a fickle beast that’s constantly changing and that we as marketers are but scientists tweaking conditions to find a sweet spot that our customers respond to.
What do you think? Do you love marketing rules or loathe them?