I confess, I’ve always been a “rule breaker.” Not intentionally, of course. It’s just that I walk to my own rhythm and often this means breaking rules that are considered to be the “norm”. This has been true for my personal, as well as my professional life. For example, I’ve always lived a non-traditional lifestyle, attempting to keep my life as simple and non-materialistic as I can. More often than not, freedom, as opposed to security, has been my guiding principle.
Professionally, I’ve allowed my career to evolve and change over the years, switching paths when I felt moved to do so. Variety and change have been constant themes in my work life, as well as following my intuition, regardless of what people think about my decisions.
For example, I started offering marketing coaching to therapists in 1999 when only a few other therapists on the Internet were doing this. Other marketing experts advised me not to target a group that didn’t appreciate how much marketing could help them because it would be more difficult to succeed (hard to believe, but most therapists and healers at the time didn’t think of getting help to build their practices).
Likewise, a few years later when I started offering copywriting services, one of the top copywriters on the Internet whom I consulted told me I should not offer copywriting services to anyone who doesn’t understand the value of copy. She believed that copywriters should focus on marketing to medium and large sized businesses because they understood that great copy could significantly increase their sales. In spite of these warnings, I blasted ahead and carved out a successful niche for myself with helping professionals…and, I became successful at it. I succeeded because even though there were drawbacks in what I was trying to do, I had studied enough
In spite of these warnings, I blasted ahead and carved out a successful niche for myself with helping professionals…and, I became successful at it. I succeeded because even though there were drawbacks in what I was trying to do, I had studied enough marketing to have a sense of how to overcome these drawbacks. With a lot of effort and commitment, I made it work.
More recently, my characteristic of being a rule breaker has resulted in not publishing my newsletter for several months. As a marketer, not publishing is breaking one of the cardinal rules of online marketing. In fact, I tell my clients that if they choose to write a newsletter or a blog, they should publish regularly if they want to build a following and be successful.
So, why did I not follow the rules that I know work?
AND, how can I get away with doing this?
The following points will help you understand.
When to break the rules of marketing:
1. When you have a better reason for breaking the rules than not breaking them.
Even though I know it’s important to publish a newsletter regularly, I wanted time to re-group and re-focus. While taking a break from writing may not be the need of everyone, I find that sometimes I need to pull back in order to have more space and time to think clearly. Further, I focused some of my energy on other business and personal projects that were important to me. Third, I was lacking inspiration for writing about marketing.
Although I love the creativity and challenge in marketing from an authentic and ethical place, sometimes I can become cynical about all the awful, in your face marketing that is out there. I also can get burned out on the consumerist mentality that is constantly pushing us to buy more, want more, be more, etc. Marketing is a necessity for those of us who have a business and need to make a living. It can also be very rewarding. However, in the larger scheme of things I am more concerned with things like poverty, social justice, and the destruction of our planet.
Finally, because one of the things I greatly value about having my own business is doing what I want, when I want. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a structure or make plans because I certainly do. Rather, it has to do with my goals being more focused on having freedom and a good quality of life, rather on becoming a millionaire.
Some will argue that you can have it all, but most people I know who make a lot of money, work their butts off for it. There is nothing wrong with that of course, if they love what they are doing. In fact, I’ve had many periods in my business where I’ve worked very hard as well–and made more money because of doing so. But in the long term, my life consists of so much more than my business.
2. When you understand the rules well enough to break them.
Having ran my business for 16 years and having studied marketing for even longer, I have a strong grasp of marketing (even though there is always more to learn). I know what I need to do to bring results and to keep my business running at any level I choose. I know that when you are consistent with your marketing activities, you get better results. I know how much time I must spend marketing to get the results I want. I know that writing my newsletter regularly brings me more business. I know that offering classes and workshops bring in more money and feed my client load. I know and understand my target audience of helping professionals and what most of them want –and I know how to give it to them.
When I took a break from writing my newsletter, I didn’t do it “hoping” it wouldn’t make a difference. Even though I broke a rule of marketing, I did it with an understanding of the rules, as opposed to blindly ignoring the rules.
Too often I’ve heard inexperienced people say, “Well, so and so didn’t do that and they did well”. When I start asking questions, however, I discover that they don’t know why breaking a rule worked for that particular person and what other factors played a role in their success. Marketing successfully can be a complex process and you often can’t look at one aspect of what someone has done, without understanding the whole. If you want to break the rules and still succeed, it’s best to have a marketing plan and know what you are doing.
3. When you are prepared to accept the consequences of breaking the rules.
Because I understand marketing, my target audience and have been in business for so long, I know that not publishing my newsletter for a few months may mean a little less “buzz” around my business, and maybe a little less business in general. However, I expect this and therefore accept it. Decreasing my visibility slightly in the short term, won’t destroy my business. If it did, I wouldn’t do it!
Furthermore, once I start writing again as I am now, my visibility will increase and the momentum will increase as well. I know that I am the one that is in control of the results I get and take full responsibility for that. Of course, occasionally there are factors that affect one’s business that are unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, I plan for and allow for these factors in case they should occur. That way I’m not disappointed if and when they do.
So if you choose to break the rules and fail to get the results you want, don’t complain–accept responsibility. Once you accept responsibility, you can change it. If you blame your lack of success on factors beyond your control, then how can you change them? Don’t let yourself be a victim of the circumstances you find yourself in.
The bottom line is most rules have exceptions–knowing what the exceptions are and how to apply them are key.
Any rules you intend to break this year? If so, what are they? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.