Developing a set of best practices for all categories of your business model is not only important, but essential. Loosely defined, a best practice is a way of doing business that has been proven to work based on previous experience and research. For example, best practices in software development may encompass industry standards that include a specific development process (e.g., Waterfall) and quality control. To become a best practice, the method has shown consistent success over time and should be used as a model for business going forward in the future.

Why is it important to follow best practices for marketing? One reason is that developing a set of best practices for any area of your company, but specifically marketing, allows you and your team to move together toward a positive end result, whether it be a 10 percent increase in inbound calls from a direct mail campaign, or adding 100 more qualified connections or friends to your social networking circle. Through continuous improvement and development of these best practices, you will ultimately find the most effective and successful way to achieve an objective or task. Track your progress and your setbacks, as these will play an integral role in creating marketing excellence.

Last year, the American Marketing Association redefined the definition of marketing, steering the theme away from functionality and emphasizing the societable aspect of marketing. In other words, marketing is social, educational, and no longer just another business function to be included in overall strategy. The new definition reads:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Whereas the old definition read:

“Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”

Let’s take a look at the difference between various marketing best practices and how they relate to your business:

o Product driven versus market driven – or even better, “market driving.” You no longer want your product to be driving your marketing initiatives nor do you want the market to be the influencer. Best practices here are when you are pushing a specific market forward with your marketing initiatives, generating energy and engaging with your customers. You are the driving force, not a product or a follower.

o Mass market versus segmentation, but ultimately niche marketing. In today’s fledgling economy, mass marketing simply doesn’t work. You must connect on a very human level with your customers and the best way to do that is to target specific niches as they relate to your business, products. services, and core values. You will have a higher ROI targeting a smaller, yet more finely focused market.

o Function-oriented versus process-oriented versus outcome-oriented. Customers are going to show quicker buy-in when they are presented with outcome-oriented information and ideas specific to their day-to-day needs and problems. Presenting a dog and pony show about the latest features in Product X isn’t going to win over customers. Showing customers how Product X can specifically save tens of thousands of dollars to their bottom line will.

o Exploitation versus partnership. Creating partnerships with your vendors and distributors is best for all involved. Instead of trying to see “what you can get out of them,” work together with your partners to develop your own collaborative best practices that will benefit you both. What can each of you bring to the partnership that will ultimately benefit the end-user? Create an end-to-end solution together rather than trying to develop individual solutions.

o Average products and services versus legendary. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all provide legendary products and services? There is no reason why you can’t. Developing best practices that make you legendary will only help to build brand recognition and trust with customers and potential leads alike. As marketing guru Seth Godin preaches, “Be remarkable.”

Developing key benchmarks within your marketing initiatives will help you grow your ideas into best practices that you can successfully use over and over again. It’s important to take the time to work through strategies, analyze setbacks, and fix mistakes. Soon you’ll have your own best practices for marketing excellence.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.