Attention is rightly paid to best practices — hard-won wisdom that tells us what has worked in the past. However, there is also a lot that digital marketers can learn from failure, mistakes and missteps. At least, we hope there is. My recent research report (subscription required), with the same title as this blog post, sets out the academic ammunition and examples behind seven diabolical “digital don’ts.”
It has been 14 years since Utah State University professor Stephen R. Covey published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The book sold 25 million copies and still so permeates our corporate culture that his habits sound like common sense. Who doesn’t want to “Be Proactive” and “Begin with the End in Mind,” meanwhile striving to “Think Win-Win.”
On the other hand, human nature, the madness of crowds, and the pressures of the present day conspire to make some of us — for now, we won’t name names — fall into the following bad habits:
- Bias for Research — Don’t make a move unless it has been validated and revalidated with primary, secondary and tertiary research. Discount hypotheses. Move methodically down internal pathways. Don’t field anything without unanimous buy-in.
- Always Be Closing — Treat every customer as a target. Do what it takes to convert. Pelt them with promotions and pop-ups. Make them register for access to anything. Put prominent links on your videos. Don’t waste time getting to know them too well. Pull out a contract at ‘hello.’ Practice ‘sign and dash.’
- Begin at the Beginning — Who doesn’t like a surprise? When designing your marketing strategy, start with Wired magazine’s “What’s Hot” column. Do the same tomorrow. Put out fires. Focus all your attention on pain points, and don’t worry where you’re going. You’ll get there.
- Fire the Know-It-Alls — People who know a lot about a certain subject can be opinionated and difficult. Who needs that? There is no ‘Ph.D.’ in team. Expertise is expendable. The smartest person in the room is the youngest. Why? Because he gets it. What’s ‘it,’ exactly? Nobody knows.
- Repeat Yourself — What works best is what worked best. Whatever the product, service, channel, technique, creative or execution — if it worked before, it can work again. Refresh, don’t revise. You know what you know, and that’s all you know. You know?
- Ask “What Would Google Do?” — Best practices are best — that’s why they’re called best practices. Apple and Google do everything right. No matter what business you are in, ask yourself, ‘What would [big popular company] do?’ Example: ‘How would Google groom dogs?’
- Think Win-Lose — Marketing is a zero-sum game. There are winners and losers. You know which one you want to be. It’s not complicated. Play to win. Bad-mouth competitors, and ‘borrow’ their ideas. Extract every cent from customers. Be cheap.