“Best Practice” Doesn’t Mean Everyone Is Doing It

The worst way to start a paper (according to the faculty in my social network) is with the way the dictionary defines something. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do here.

Merriam Webster, everyone’s favorite dictionary on Twitter, defines “best practice” as:

“a procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption”

Reread that definition. Let it sink in. For something to be a best practice, it only needs to work well in a few instances and be deemed suitable for widespread adoption. Just because something is a best practice doesn’t mean everyone is doing it.

photo credit: Nabeelah Is on Flickr

Best Practices That Are Relatively Uncommon

Here are some best practices that I’m pretty sure haven’t been adopted widely in marketing, especially in higher education

  • Starting every initiative with clear, measureable goals. And then actually measuring them.
  • Gathering customer (e.g., prospect, student, alumni)  information and interactions in a central location (i.e., CRM) and using that CRM to drive automated, personalized experiences.
  • Using data to make decisions.
  • Using research to understand the wants, needs, emotions, and experiences of an audience.
  • Committing to A/B or multivariate testing of marketing messages.
  • Combining owned data with third party data to develop a better understanding of your audience.
  • Developing predictive models to better focus our efforts on the people who will benefit or need it.

The list goes on and on. We are surrounded by best practices that many of us fail to practice.

I’m not writing this to shame you. I’m writing it to give you hope.

Best Practices Start With You

If you read about a best practice and realize your organization isn’t doing it, you have an opportunity! Read up on it, figure out how it fits, and implement or propose a change. This may take weeks, months, even years. Many of the best practices I listed earlier impact core technology infrastructure, deeply entrenched organizational culture, and the way we do our work. But they’re best practices because research has shown they work. So it’s worth the time and effort to get them implemented in your organization.

I’d love to hear more about your experiences with best practices. Leave a comment, or feel free to contact me.

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