Friday, June 4, 2010

A Term That I've Never Liked

Best practices.

When someone says to you that "best practices" recommend that you do something a certain way, what does that imply?

That they know more than you.

That they have more experience than you.

That this has been tested in the most thorough and objective manner and results show that a certain methodology is most effective time and time again.

In the words of my friend and mentor, "Show me the data."

I cringe every time a consultant tells their client that a certain tactic is "best practices." My reply is always, "Based on what criteria?"

In my experience, every program is different, every audience is different, and every offer is different. It isn't best practices until it works for YOU.

I recently put a test in place to gather data about the "best practice" of using a 3-ask script in telemarketing. I recommended telemarketing for a certain offer and was getting some resistance because, shocker, telemarketing has a bad reputation. There was significant concern about requiring a 3-ask script. This is a tactic by which the telemarketer pitches the offer, pitches it again using slightly different language, and then pitches it again with a softer offer before finally giving up, thanking the person for their time and hanging up. This was seen as too aggressive and possibly troublesome to our donors.

Let's put it to the test, I said: let's test a 2-ask script versus a 3-ask script. If we get a lot of complaints about the 3-ask script, we'll switch to the 2-ask script. If one script outperforms the other, we'll switch the entire campaign over to the winning script.

Awesome -- let's test it.

My telemarketing vendor strongly urged against testing the 2-ask script -- best practices, I was told, is that a 3-ask script is much more effective at raising funds.

Too bad -- if we want to do telemarketing at all, we're going to test both asks and see what performs. With some reluctance, they agreed. I could tell that they were anxious for the results so they could show me that indeed, their recommended "best practice" was the way to go.

Guess which is winning?

Neither -- they are both performing equally well.


Guess what our next step is?

We're going to test the 2-ask versus the 3-ask in our next campaign. Until you can repeat the results a couple of times, it's not enough to base a recommendation on. There's definitely an incentive to be able to have shorter phone calls, fewer complaint calls and still raise the same amount of revenue, so it's worth pursuing.

Until one tactic works for my program consistently better than another tactic, it is not a best practice...for us.

So unless you can tell me that you have 10 clients who have tested this methodology and 7 out of the 10 clients had a specific result, which is now their recommended tactic, don't try to sell me a "best practice."

Show me the data.

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