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The Only Profession That Pays You to Break the Rules

22 Jun 2016 | 4 MIN READ

Marketers break rules and get paid for it, the same does not apply to finance, legal or just about any other career.

There is little to no value in reading and doing the same things that everyone else is doing. The key to unlocking great creativity is to challenge your inner comfort zone, and constantly be working in new places, traveling, meeting new people and doing new things.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my 25 years of marketing is that best practices are like beacons in the night that keep you from running ashore. Since people like to be led, they follow the beacons. The problem is, so is everyone else.

Creative Commons. Attribution: Bryan Hutchinson

Most marketers are generally afraid of failure. If you’ve chosen marketing as a profession than you have to understand that your work is on display for the world to see 24/7. With that comes ridicule, failure, embarrassment and when done well, praise, accomplishment and pride.

Most successful marketers fail at least 50% of the time. When their campaigns do take off and succeed, they far outshine their failures. However, without those failures they never would have been able to unlock the creativity necessary to be successful.

I’ll give you an example. Back when I was running demand generation for GoToMeeting we decided to test local and national radio. We failed for 12 months straight. However, we looked at it different. We knew that we were 12 months closer to figuring out the formula that would work. And when it finally took off, we won big, and it became the brand that most people know today. The key takeaway is not to quit after the first failed test, or the twentieth.

Creative Commons. Attribution: James Korte

Also, stop hiding behind your data. Data is directional, but it’s used by marketers to justify killing campaigns. Ask yourself this; how many things in your life did you get right the first time, second time or third time?

Did you ride your bike the first time you tried? Did you surf the first wave you paddled toward? Did you get the first job you wanted? Was your first campaign a monster success? The answer to all these questions is NO!

Successful marketers understand how to leverage data to inform, not justify. For example, last year I set up complex lead nurturing and lead scoring for a tech company in Silicon Valley. Anyone who has done this knows it can take a couple of months to set up and months longer to reveal meaningful insights. Overtime, its value is immense and it becomes indispensable.

However, at first it was wanky, which was to be expected. We were constantly gathering feedback, updating the score, testing creative and learning about the customer behavior. But alas, it didn’t pay off immediately and was unceremoniously cut by the client.

That’s what happens when you allow data to make decisions without the benefit of context, experience and frankly, guts. 12 months from now, the company will once again make the same, but now more expensive investment, and without the benefit of 12 months worth of customer insights. I hate to say that this is an outlier, but the behavior is all too common.

Photo credit: arsenalfitness.com

The best, most successful marketers are not always the most popular. However, they are respected. Mental fortitude is critical to success. You will be the least popular person in the department, if not the company, when you fail. This is where your communication skills can can either save your job, or where the lack thereof, will sink you.

I’m speaking from experience when I say that being this type of marketer can get you fired. It will also raise you to the highest levels of success you’ve ever imagined.

Creative Commons. Attribution: Brad Noyes

To be successful you need get out of your head, and let go. Start traveling. Go hangout with people completely different than you. Read Shakespeare. Go to Fargo (really…go to Fargo!). Subscribe to a fashion blog. Get a tattoo. Go cliff diving. Take a train across the US or another country. Become a minimalist. Do something that scares you shitless. Once you break all your own self imposed rules; breaking marketing rules will come naturally.

Hang on tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Get ready to fail, and to succeed like you have never imaged. Both are glorious. You will be remembered, and respected. The people you pissed off will look back and realize you were right. Marketing is about turning the average into the extraordinary.

Average is what everyone else has done, extraordinary is what everyone else is afraid to do.

Remember, the best practices beacons will always be there. Lighting the way to ordinary. So think of them as guard rails, and don’t be afraid to smash right through them.

Got questions? Hit me up on twitter @davidbaeza