Growth Strategies: Ditching Best Practices in Digital Marketing

Growth Strategies: Ditching Best Practices in Digital Marketing

Entropy’s Head of Biddable, Amy Dawson-Hawkins’s number one takeaway from running digital marketing strategies for scale-up brands is this: there is no silver bullet. If “best practices” were the be-all and end-all, we could all just go home.

For scale-up brands that don’t have the resources of a big multinational though, it can be tempting to rely on “best practices” or heuristics. That makes sense, as decisions in scale-ups need to happen at pace and with a degree of confidence. After all, as marketers, our role is to make the best choices that we can, given the information that we have.

But, how do we know if those best practices are actually right for us?

Particularly for businesses with a high ratio of digital marketing activity, which is especially subject to a quick rate of change, there is a risk of relying on received wisdom. From having helped guide companies through periods of significant growth, there are two stages to moving away from best practices:

  1. Research thoroughly and question all your current assumptions
  2. Adopt a system of “trading up” your success metrics and embed an iterative mindset

Let’s look at how that breaks down further into actionable steps:

1. (Re-)research your audience

The full-fat version of this includes surveys, focus groups, and digital analytics tools.

The “quick and dirty” approach though is as simple as surveying existing customers via your site and email, complemented with a third party provider to survey non-customer target audience members.

On-site surveys, depending on your web platform, can cost less than $30 per month (for example, with Zigpoll), or may already exist within digital analytics tools you are using like HotJar.

Third party surveys aren’t always prohibitively expensive either – YouGov can provide a targeted audience of 500 people starting from around £600.

2. Understand different media platforms and channel options

The task here is to understand the state of play of different media platforms and marketing channels – not to dilute focus, but to gain confidence in your choices and give yourself options to pivot into. For example, Meta’s reach has earned it a place as a “best practice” channel but is it still as appropriate for you given the increasing CPMs?

Ad platforms continually update their capabilities, so this process may unearth some surprises, even for platforms with broad reach. Spotify for example, who announced their self-serve platform in 2023, will now design and execute audio creatives free of charge.

You can also delve deeper into smaller communities built around interest or geographic niches like Reddit (known for being able to reach audiences that are not prolific on other channels) or Nextdoor.

Moreover, if you do not have the resources for a full creative agency, new AI creative tools  offer an interesting, cost effective alternative. Entry-level solutions include, which starts from $15 per month for static images, and Canva Pro, which allows you to include AI videos in creatives from £8.30 per month.

3. Take inspiration from brands that align with yours in other verticals

Of course monitor your competitors, but relying on this could perpetuate an unhelpful set of best practices, and is unlikely to help with “cut through”.

Instead, take time to research other businesses who are selling other products and services to your target market.

You can do that easily by spending time on their sites, and signing up to their newsletters. That should provide insight to their customer journeys, creative, and messaging, organically building a database of ideas from outside of your industry.

4. Create a budget split that meets trading requirements and allows for innovation

If you’re trying to scale through digital marketing, it’s crucial to allow a budget for agility and testing, whilst also providing enough funds to your proven revenue drivers.

A best practice here is a 70:20:10 split for proven, rising, and innovation activity. If there isn’t enough headroom in your existing channels to achieve that split though for example, it is common sense to invest more in rising and innovation.

5. Review your measurement strategy

Reviewing and rebuilding your measurement strategy will help you gain confidence in your results, creating greater clarity of the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. That will help move away from heuristics and received wisdom to your own data.

Aim to build a measurement framework, focusing on a series of KPIs that cumulate in hitting your overall business goal. Heuristics and benchmarks can be used to set KPIs, but over time as your data increases, you can begin to “trade up”, using your own data and established benchmarks.

This process also embeds a practical, iterative approach to your strategy and measurement.

In summary, it’s natural to use received wisdom as the basis of marketing strategies, particularly if in the face of uncertainty if you’re trying to scale. But, using the above tactics, you can move from best practices to a tailored set of benchmarks in order to hit your targets and sell-in a marketing strategy you and your team have faith in.

Interested in hearing more? Contact Entropy today for more advice on marketing, measurement and commerce strategy.

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