7 “Best Practices” That Are Actually Terrible for Your Business
Assume nothing. Question everything. Think outside the box. Move fast and break things. Experiment. Iterate. Adapt.
That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about… or at least supposed to be.
So it’s ironic that so much business advice out there is based on assumptions, generalizations, conventional wisdom of dubious quality, and sometimes — outright copying what big-name companies do and hoping it works.
Spoiler alert: just because something is framed as “best practices” doesn’t mean it will produce results!
All too often, business advice that seems common sense can actually be disastrous for your company — slowing growth, wiping out profit margins, eroding trust within your team, driving away your ideal customers, and more.
That’s why, in today’s article, I want to cover 7 of these so-called best practices that are, in fact, the worst! I will explain how these “best practices” can hurt your company, and also show you some useful alternatives for each.
Let’s get started!
1. Paying attention to “industry averages”
Lots of brands use industry average benchmarks — like, say, email open rates or conversion rates — to try and evaluate their performance.
Now, here’s the problem with this approach: “average” benchmarks are, for the most part, wildly inaccurate.
Think about it: every industry has a tiny number of exceptional outliers who are crushing it… offset by the overwhelming majority of companies that are performing poorly. That’s how you get “industry average” email open rates of 10%, or “industry average” conversion rates of <1%!
As entrepreneurs, what exactly are we supposed to do with these metrics? They can’t serve as a meaningful baseline for performance — and they sure as heck don’t give us a worthwhile target to shoot for!
At best, they are 100% irrelevant. And at worst, they hamstring your company’s potential by setting a mediocre standard.
So… my advice?
Ditch external benchmarks altogether! Measure your company’s performance in the present against its performance in the past, and use both to make intelligent projections for the future.
2. Trying to appeal to absolutely everyone
Your business is not for everyone — and that’s OK. In fact, that’s exactly how it should be! You wouldn’t create a product or service that absolutely everyone on earth would love… because that’s impossible.
So why try to market your brand in a way that appeals to everyone and their mom? That’s equally impossible! You can’t make everyone in the world buy from you, no matter how good your offer is.
Here’s the formula for successful marketing: attract your ideal customers + drive away everyone else. That means, sometimes you’ll have to take a strong stance. You’ll have to be contrarian. You’ll have to challenge the status quo.
By doing that, you’ll send a clear message to your ideal customers that says: “Hey, here’s what our values are. This is what we’re about. If you feel the same way… welcome.”
Everyone who doesn’t vibe with your values and beliefs will simply go elsewhere.
And again, that’s OK!
Don’t be afraid to exclude people if they don’t match your ideal customer persona. Counter-intuitively, this will bring 10X more leads, prospects, and customers to your door!
3. Driving sales with constant discounts and promotions
If you look at your inbox right now, it’s probably overflowing with emails from different brands… all saying the same thing:
- “Limited time offer! 30% discount on [Product]”
- “Just for you: 10% off code (expires in 24 hrs)”
- “This is BIG! 75% off sitewide”
(These are real subject lines from my personal inbox. And they’re not even from Black Friday — I checked!)
And oftentimes it’s the same company bombarding you with promotional offers for weeks on end!
Do these emails make you want to drop everything and buy? Yeah, me neither. And a big reason why is…
…I know there’s going to be another sale just around the corner.
That’s the problem with constant discounting. It removes any urgency from the equation, and it cheapens the value of your brand.
My advice? Be strategic with your discounting — only do it when you know it will lead to more business. For example:
- Give a repeat customer a discount on their next order.
- Notify customers when an item they wishlisted goes on sale.
- Plan and execute 1-2 big promotions a year, tops.
- Replace discounts with other incentives, like free shipping or bonus items.
4. Trying to compete on price instead of value
Here’s an idea: being affordable is highly overrated.
Competing on price and using it as a selling point is almost always a race to the bottom — and there’s no prize at the end. Well, except for razor-thin margins, poor cash flow, and a business that’s always one surprise expense away from disaster.
The only way to win this game is to refuse to play. Do the opposite of what your competition is doing and go premium instead!
Conventional wisdom is wrong: your customers aren’t as price-sensitive as you think. People are happy to pay well for things they value and really need, even when they aren’t high rollers. You just need to show them how your product or service will change their life for the better.
Besides, high-paying customers (on average) buy more often, complain less, barely ever ask for refunds — and happily spread the word about your brand. So by not serving them, you are missing out on way more than just money!
5. Pursuing growth above all else
Just because your business is growing doesn’t mean it’s sustainable and healthy. It’s an idea that should be self-evident — but somehow, it has become a radical notion.
You might be asking, “Summer, what do you have against growth?” And my answer is: nothing!
…If it doesn’t harm the long-term future of your company.
And that’s a pretty big “if”!
When growth happens at the expense of profitability, reliable cash flow, or building a great team, it stops being an indicator of success — and becomes a ticking time bomb.
If you fixate on growth above all else, you risk building a brand that’s highly valuable on paper… but keeps losing money and employees. We’ve seen many growth-obsessed companies like that lately. Do we really need any more?
Ask yourself: what are your business goals? And are they really best served by this relentless “growth is everything” mentality?
Staying small, maximizing profitability, and focusing on your core customer base may not be “sexy” — but it’s a much more sustainable and rewarding path.
6. “Customer is always right”
Now, this isn’t true in two different ways.
Let’s start with the obvious. Of course you should be gracious and generous to your customers… but only if they are acting in good faith.
If a customer is being toxic to you or your employees, you don’t owe them anything. Trying to please them at any cost won’t bring you any benefit and undermine the trust your team has in you. If an employee is in the right and a customer is in the wrong, stand by your employee, always.
Another way this “best practice” can fail you is with customer research and feedback. Oftentimes, customers will tell you what they think you want to hear — but keep their actual, unfiltered opinions to themselves.
E.g. they might say that your offer is too expensive, when in reality they just don’t see enough value in it, or maybe it’s just the wrong fit altogether.
It’s your job to dig beneath surface-level answers and uncover the true motivations behind what your customers say!
7. Underestimating email as a marketing channel
“Email is dead.”
Ah, that old chestnut. This one has been debunked seven ways to Sunday, and yet somehow it keeps showing up. Well, I’m not above doing it again! *wink*
The truth is, even now, at the end of 2020, email is still one of the highest-ROI marketing channels — bringing in as much as $44 for every dollar you invest in it!
It’s universal, it’s targeted, it scales like a charm, and has unlimited potential for segmentation. And even though most people’s inboxes are overflowing with unread messages, email can still feel intimate and personal… if you can make it work.
Sure, there are other scalable marketing channels that reach people 1:1 at scale — like SMS marketing and Facebook Messenger, for example. However, they come with pretty significant trade-offs: message length, lack of trust, higher cost, lack of design/formatting options, technical complexity etc.
There may come a time when email is dethroned… but whether you like it or not, for the foreseeable future, it’s still king.
Grab your ideal customers’ attention in 30 seconds or less
We’ve refuted a lot of questionable advice today… so I want to leave you with something that’s the opposite of that.
Something that’s true and can help you grow your business if you act on it.
Here it is:
Whenever you interact with a potential customer for the first time, every second counts. You have precious little time to grab a new prospect’s attention — so it’s vital that you get them excited about what you do immediately.
Ideally, in 30 seconds or less.
I know what you’re thinking, “There’s no way I can hook people on my business in 30 seconds!” I disagree. My team has already helped dozens of businesses formulate an irresistible Elevator Pitch — and we want to create one for you, too.
An Elevator Pitch is designed to cut through all the distractions and grab your prospects’ attention as fast as possible. It’s a single, memorable statement about your business that you can deliver in 30 seconds or less. And it has ONE job — getting potential customers excited enough and curious enough to say the 3 all-important words…
“Tell me more!”
All you need is to hop on a 30-minute consultation with one of our expert copywriters here at The Draw Shop. They will help you define the problem you solve, how you solve it, and the life-changing results your customers will see from working with you.
Then we’ll transform your input into a unique Elevator Pitch for your brand — a powerful 30-second statement scientifically designed to stand out, delight, persuade… and convert.
And we’ll top it off with a one-page, one-of-a-king infographic that makes your pitch into an engaging visual story! That’s going to be a valuable marketing asset in its own right — you can use it to…
- Share it with your team
- Feature it on your website
- Use it in your email signature
- Put it on the back of your business card
- Spread it on social media