The truly great marketing ideas will never come from a best-practice report.

Running With the Bulls

Stock market analysts, those who dabble in an even blacker magic than us, often encourage newbie investors to look forward, not back. They say, looking at a company's past performance is no indication of their future returns.

Indeed, the market is full of those running to the trends that dominate yesterday's results. The trouble is, once the results have occurred, they're literally yesterday's news.

Guess what? It's the same story in strategy and marketing.

“The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was.”
—Thomas Carlyle, May 13, 1853.

In the hope of revitalizing their product or service, it seems companies immediately look to the competition or history books to see what has worked before: case studies, success stories, winning examples of what other companies did well at some previous point in time. If it worked for them, the logic goes, it shall work for us.

Their are two problems with this approach:

  1. Different place, different time. Case studies, benchmarks and other best practice reports—all discuss products or services that were launched by different companies, at a different time, in a different geographic location, in a different industry, in different market conditions… and a stack of other hard-to-replicate variables.

  2. Best practice is average practice. There is nothing at all wrong with analyzing best practice. Your approach will almost always uncover the industry's better performing processes and ways of doing business. But that's the problem. It won't uncover the best.

“If you keep looking back to see where your competitors are,
you'll never be out in front.” —Anon.

That's left up to you. I fear that marketing departments that look only at best practice will never be truly great. They'll be efficient, sure, and they'll be above average, perhaps.

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Peter Majarich is an occasional contributor to