I’ll start by clarifying what I mean by The Rules. I’m talking about The Golden Rules of Marketing – the widely accepted “good things to do” when you’re trying to sell stuff or services.
Those things that people sometimes post about on social media that transformed their business from a loss maker into a 7-figure unicorn overnight.
Those things that also make you feel like a shitty business owner or marketer for either not having the time to do or being hesitant about doing because you’re not sure if it fits well with your brand.
But then you read something telling you that you absolutely need to do THE THING or you’re never going to make a single sale ever again so you should just give up right now.
Enough, I say. Breathe. Stop beating yourself up. There is another way.
Who makes The Rules, anyway?
Every Rule of Marketing first came to be accepted as best practice because one person, one time, had some success with a particular strategy and wrote about it or advised other people to try it.
Those other people tried it and some of them also found it worked so they spread the word too. So on and so forth until every man and his dog is doing it and writing about WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT TOO.
But that doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon or feel bad about not wanting to.
Selective, constructive rule breaking
Instead of bandwagon jumping, I’m a big proponent of selective, constructive rule breaking.
This doesn’t mean acting like a teenager or a rebel without a cause, pushing back against The Rules simply because they exist. That won’t get you anywhere at all.
What it means is knowing what The Rules are, understanding how they came to be and why they work for other people, and then carefully considering whether they’re right for you.
If you come to the conclusion that they are right and absolutely worth your time, hop up on that bandwagon and ride it all the way to the bank.
If you’re not sure they’ll work for you, give them a go and see. If they don’t deliver good returns don’t waste your time. Kick them to the curb and look for something else.
If just reading about them gives you the boke, move swiftly on and forget they even exist (I challenge you to find a cold emailing “strategy” that doesn’t have this effect on me).
In the spirit of full disclosure, here are some rules I’ve selectively and constructively decided to break, along with my reasons why and what I do instead.
I don’t have a content strategy for my blog
Read just one or two articles about Blogging Best Practice and you’ll be convinced you need a content strategy for your blog or it will fall flat on its arse.
I don’t have one and my blog is just fine.
I used to have one though. I used to do all the things a “good blogger” is supposed to do like consult Google Analytics and social media metrics to work out my best performing content, study trending topics and plan future content accordingly.
Each week I diligently stuck to my schedule and churned out what past me had decided it would be a good idea for future me to write about.
And you know what? My blog sucked.
My writing was limp, my blog posts were lifeless and because I was never particularly inspired by what I’d assigned myself I found the posts really painful and time-consuming to write.
So I gave it up.
Now, here’s how I decide what to write about:
- I write down every single blog post idea I have, even if it seems crap at the time.
- Every week or so I look at my ideas and select a shortlist of ones that jump out at me.
- Only the ideas that keep me up at night make the final cut – the ones I’m absolutely itching to write about.
The result? I’m writing about things with passion, energy and enthusiasm. That shit is infectious and it resonates with people. They want to share it and come back for more later.
My posts aren’t shackled to my long-term business goals and don’t always have a clear “purpose”. But marketing isn’t cut and dry cause-and-effect anyway – I’d be out of my job if it was.
Sometimes, my blog posts don’t have calls to action
As I’ve already said – my blog posts don’t always have a clear purpose or call to action.
I was trying to work out how to explain why when I found that Rand Fishkin had already summed up my feelings far more eloquently than I could manage:
… content that’s focused on existing customer targets is (at least much of the time) boring, dry, unimaginative drivel… Start with “create this for the journalists, podcasters, authors, amplifiers, influencers, and media that reaches our audience”. I promise you’ll be far more likely to achieve your marketing goals.
I’m not saying this approach is right for everyone, but it’s right for me and that’s kind of the whole point of this piece.
I don’t offer a newsletter signup freebie
For the longest time, I didn’t even have an email newsletter solely because I couldn’t find the time to create a signup incentive (a lead magnet if you’re feeling fancy). I’d read some articles about starting an email newsletter and had been led to believe that this was THE ONLY WAY to do it.
I then realised I might never have time to create a lead magnet so I should just launch my newsletter anyway, magnet or no. It at least increases my chances of building a list from zero to vaguely possible.
Also – and I’m not the first person to say this – I’d rather have five loyal subscribers who open every email and love what I do than 5,000 subscribers who signed up for the free gift and send my emails straight to the bin.
I know people do this because I do it all the damn time. And I’m too lazy to unsubscribe so I just languish at the bottom of people’s mailing lists forever. Sorry, guys.
One day I might get round to creating a signup freebie to build the mailing list of my dreams, but right now I’ve got other priorities.
For the most part, I don’t worry about SEO
I’m not really that bothered about my web pages or blog posts ranking on the first page of Google. Or, I’m not bothered enough to invest a huge amount of time chasing that particularly elusive white whale.
(If you know anything about SEO this will not surprise you in the slightest – the state of my H1s and H2s alone give it away.)
Rather than my website’s search engine ranking, I’m more interested in metrics like time spent on page and bounce rate.
I’d much rather two people a day visited my website, read every word, loved it all and decided to make an enquiry than 1,000 people finding my website only to surf straight past it.
Obviously, everyone’s different and for some businesses ranking well on Google is really, really important. But for me, as long as people are still finding, sharing and enjoying my stuff, that’s enough for just now.
So that’s why I do what I do.
I guess the overarching message is to not get sucked in by the hype of the latest MUST DO marketing fad just because a lot of people are shouting about it. Carefully consider whether it’s right for you before investing any of your precious time doing it.
And don’t ever, ever do anything that compromises the integrity of your brand just because it promises quick and easy results. It’s not worth it and probably won’t work anyway – Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is any business.
If you’d like a copywriter to help you break the rules, get in touch.
(Turns out there was a call to action for this blog post after all 😉).
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