Don’t Follow Best Practices!

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MarketingYaagneshwaran Ganesh, head- global marketing at Corporater, on how not to follow the herd and focus on being distinct

If you are a fan of best practices, thing again! A closer look at some of the most successful organizations in recent times and also the organizations that have been lost in the clutter, it is becoming very clear that best practices may not be an option anymore. This might actually challenge your current marketing approach but will surely give you a taste of times ahead.

To give you some reassurance, I’m not calling for a blatant disregard for existing methodologies or practices, but strongly recommending you to take a critical eye as to whether or not they are appropriate; despite the fact they’re already in use.

 Let’s understand why the best practices might not be your option anymore.

Marketing goals of one organization may be completely different from the goals of an immediate competitor.The more an organization is inclined to best practices, the more they look like their competition.Surveys suggest that even if organizations follow a practice it for good; it would be advisable that they ensure the practice is tweaked according to their organization. “Alignment” is the buzzword when organizations try to adapt these practices.

The classic caseof Amazon Fire Phone failure

Putting perspective to the classic recent failure of Amazon Fire Phone, it did not manage to kindle fire. (Although Kindle and Fire are both Amazon products, no pun intended). Historically, Amazon has a reputation of understanding their customers well and being very precise with innovative devices such as Kindle e-readers, which was the first of its kind and highly successful.

But when Amazon launched the Fire Phone last year it tried to enter into the smart phone market that was already crowded with several players and it never really took off.The move seemed more like following the herd and was vastly contradicting its DNA that is based on differentiation. Neither was the product different, nor was their pricing that averaged alongside the existing market players.

Beyond organizations, sometimes best practices may not even suit a geographic market, for example, we have seen that organized retail has enjoyed very limited success in India. More cases of failure due to this herd-like behavior are the busting of several companies during the dotcom crash, failure of several automotive companies in Detroit. They all have one thing in common, i.e. their commonality among peers. They followed all industry standards and best practices, but didn’t have much to differentiate.

 Don’t Play the Pricing Game

We cannot have a world of marketing where everyone does the same set of things, with ATL and BTL media and spam everyone possible. By doing so, one not only upsets a prospect, but loses the opportunity to create a genuine chance to do business with them. Further, the approach might seem completely contradicting when the organization tries to differentiate your product from the competition. Successful organizations have always shown differentiation in their approach. They wouldn’t want to be sounding and offering the same as their competitor, where it all boils down to the pricing game and customer settling for the cost-effective one. More so for a start-up, that is trying to establish its market space or trying to attract investments should think twice before implementing a best practice.

It is important to challenge the status quo especially the ones surrounding best practices, as these debates usually lead to a very fertile ground. It has been my experience that whenever methodologies and benchmarks become a priority, objectivity is removed from the equation.Differentiation may not be appreciated initially at the top, but the cult around Harley Davidson would have never been possible if not for the differentiation, LinkedIn would have never been a star, had they gone the Orkut or the Facebook way.

But throwing light on differentiation, one needs to be cautious and recognize the fact that being noticed and being remarkable are never the same. Crossing the road naked will get you noticed but only to get stoned. Marketing is beyond pulling out stunts, it’s about being sensitive to customers and their personalities and getting aligned with them. What and how to differentiate, would depend on what the customer or the market cares about and yet understanding that what is relevant today, may not be relevant tomorrow, so it takes commitment to not rest on your laurels and keep the momentum.

Aligning with the customer is more important than aligning with a competitor or a best practice.