When to Break the Rules in Online Marketing

Knowing how and when to break the rules in online marketing is important. In online marketing, there are often three categories that businesses can fall into:

  1. Low Knowledge/Low Returns: Some businesses hesitantly invest in online marketing after performing a little bit of research. They get mediocre results. These people think of online marketing as being high-risk and low-reward.
  2. High Knowledge/Fair Returns: Other businesses do a lot of research; they take classes, read books, consult with (or even hire) experts. They follow the rules and get pretty good returns and are generally happy with online marketing.They see it as somewhat risky, but well worth it.
  3. High Knowledge/High Returns: The last category is the experts. These are people who know all the rules, and follow them about 80% of the time. However, they also know when to break the rules. They do so about 20% of the time. They enjoy amazing returns. They don’t think of online marketing as risky at all. To them it’s just common-sense to invest.

The lesson we learn from the third category is that sometimes you have to throw the rules out the window.

What’s Wrong with the Rules

The great thing about following the rules it that they virtually guarantee you a certain level of success. They also help budding marketers to learn the basics and best-practices of the industry.

But following the rules means that you’re doing exactly the same thing that your competitors are doing. As time goes on, and your market becomes more saturated, it will only get harder and harder to achieve positive returns if you’re doing what everyone else is doing.

Following the rules doesn’t give you a competitive advantage.

So you can be successful with the rules, but won’t find wild, run-away success.

You Can’t Break the Rules Until You Understand Them

Of course that type of run-away success and massive ROI is what we all dream of? If achieving that is a function of breaking the rules, then why bother with the rules in the first place? Why waste our time learning tactics and strategies that only promise middling success?

There are two big reasons why the rules should not be completely discarded:

  1. Most businesses don’t need wild success to be successful. Think of it this way – does your business maintain a YouTube account? If so, are you competing with the likes of T-Series, Cocomelon, and PewDiePie for the coveted top spot? Of course not. The difference between your business and those brands is that the platform is not your business. It’s just where you promote your business.
  2. You can’t break the rules until you understand them. You have to know, and apply, the basic tactics and strategies first. When you know what you’re doing, then you can break the rules. Because then you know which rules to break. And it’s not something that can be taught, you have to see it for yourself. You have to get to know your audience really well, and you have to know your brand really well, and why people like it. Once you know all of that, then you can begin to make changes and you can tweak the formula intelligently.

The Shortcut to “Break The Rules”…

There is no shortcut. You have to learn the rules before you can break them. That’s just how it is. But…

There is one thing that you can do, that most business leaders neglect, that will lead to rapid growth and give you a competitive advantage even before you get to the point where you can begin tweaking the rules.

That thing you can do is: Be Genuine.

In a way being genuine is breaking the rules. It’s breaking the unspoken, stuffy-headed rule that you must at all times, be formal and professional; it’s breaking the rule that you must always using the empirical “we”; it’s breaking the rule that you must never show weakness or vulnerability in your brand.

Are You Genuine?

How do you know if you’re being genuine? Being genuine can be a very personal thing.  Being genuine means that you are:

  • Honest
  • Transparent
  • Vulnerable
  • Personal

You have to ask yourself “Am I genuine? And if not, how can I be better?”

But what does that have to do with business? Everything.

Your business is an extension of you. It’s  a reflection of you. Everything in your business starts with you!

Oh, I know: there is no emotion, in the corporate world, just faceless, toneless, committee-prepared, and lawyer-approved memos. I’m as guilty of that as any of you are.

But behind those memos, press releases, carefully-written ads, are people. It’s you. And no matter how much you try to bleach yourself out of it, all of those corporate communiques reflect you.

Just like this blog post reflects me.

In fact I’m purposefully not allowing any editing on this one, just to prove the point. You’re getting me, uncovered, and probably riddled with typos (God bless you, if you’ve made it this far!).

So if you’re not genuine, and if you’re not letting that bleed through into your marketing, branding, and advertising – then how can you hope that you business can have a positive impact?

Being genuine is how you connect with people; it’s how you build relationships with people.

I’m not great at being genuine. I’m trying to do better. Hopefully you’re better.

Let’s Recap

  1. Following the rules will grant you a certain level of success – and honestly, that might be enough for you.
  2. The great big, Top-1% level of success comes from breaking the rules.
  3. You have to know the rules, and be able to apply them reliably, before you will know how to break them
  4. One thing that you can do now to grow and build relationships with your audience is: be genuine.