7 min read

The Practice of Marketing: What doctors and lawyers can teach us about marketing

The field of marketing is a practice, though it is not treated like other professional services. But it should be.

In many respects, that fact that it’s not just might be the reason that many businesses aren’t winning in their marketing efforts…

What is a Practice… and Who Gets to Have One?

Consider this: Doctors, lawyers, consultants, engineers, accountants and architects operate under “practices.” A practice is a business where an individual or a number of associated professionals are engaged in offering specialized services based upon proficient methods, processes and procedures.

So, when legal representation is needed you visit a law practice. When you’re not feeling right, you visit a medical practice. When the financial books become unruly, you visit an accounting practice. But where do you turn when you have a business marketing concern?

Failure is data

When you visit a practice, you walk in with very different expectations than when you walk into a marketing agency.

Let’s say you need to visit the doctor. You set up an appointment and explain your situation to the physician and sit back for a diagnosis and course of action. You don’t necessarily know what’s wrong with you – you just know that something doesn’t feel right – and you know you really want to feel different. You might have a hypothesis about what’s wrong: I think I have strep throat, I might have a bulging disc, I could benefit from a specific medication… but in most scenarios, you’re not walking in spelling out your diagnosis and solution saying “I need this and this and this…”

Can you imagine walking into a law firm saying, “I’m in this kind of situation” and then spelling out to the lawyer what statutes they need to argue and briefs that will be most effective? Doctors, lawyers, accountants and the like are all given the opportunity to understand the situation and stipulate a course of action that they believe to be most effective in achieving your desired outcome.

Now, let’s consider that you visited that doctor and they recommended a course of action, ordered some tests and wrote you a prescription. Is there an expectation that things will be better if you take an alternate course of action, skip a few steps, or forget to take the medicine? What if you do everything as prescribed, but it doesn’t work? Do you immediately decide you’ll never visit that doctor again? If you’re in a court of law and your lawyer is overruled, do you tell them to hit the road?

Both scenarios would be a pretty short-sighted approach.

Much more likely, you would probably return to the medical practice and say something like, “Hey, doc, your approach didn’t work out. The medicine made me feel ______ and that’s not going to work out. Let’s try something different. What else can we do?” What you’re essentially saying is “please work with me and let’s figure out a way to solve this problem.”

And you probably would.

Why Thinking of Marketing as a Practice is Necessary

Very few businesses engage with marketing practitioners the way they do with a lawyer, doctor or accountant. But the fact is, a strong marketing practitioner has a very similar role to the physician. S/he knows there’s a problem and an outcome that the business needs to generate… but does not necessarily have immediate clarity on which levers – or how much of any one/multiple levers – need to be pulled.

Sure, there are certainly some proven and reliable methods that have been shown to work in some or many cases… You may have seen some success from these proven methods or they may be working now. But what happens when all of a sudden they don’t, and you need to try out some new things. You’d be glad to be working with a marketing practice like Rogue that adheres to an 80-15-5 rule.

Alas, too many businesses lack the virtue of patience. They’re driven by a need for immediate results. They want to have the latest trend they heard about implemented and returning leads right away.  But as any good practitioner would say, it’s important that the business gain an understanding that everything you try won’t necessarily work right away… or in the order it’s first being tried… or even for very long.

Now, an interesting side effect with marketing tactics is that sometimes the solutions applied offer a positive bump. They work. But then they don’t. Algorithms change… Competitors catch wind of the idea making it harder to stand out… Solutions get more expensive making them cost-prohibitive… They return leads, but uncover larger challenges the business isn’t prepared to handle…

Just like a medicine or balm, sometimes you can find something that works. But it’s not a guarantee that it will work forever. You may become resistant or immune to it… and all of a sudden, what once worked for you, has to be changed up so it continues to work for you.

And that’s absolutely the case in our marketing world today.

Now certainly things change in the world of accounting, medicine and law. New regulations hit the books, viruses become resistant, and new advancements become known… But the frequency of change that has taken and continues to take place in the business marketing space is unrivaled. In other practices, you can literally “practice” your way to proficiency in your craft. But in a fast-paced industry like business marketing, there’s less of an opportunity to perform tactics and functions over and over. When things change as often as they do, marketing practitioners can’t just keep practicing the same things over and over.

How Marketers Can Move Their Practice Further Faster

In an environment that’s so dynamic, it’s never been more critical for marketing practitioners to be given the runway to experiment. And for businesses to demonstrate the patience that allows these marketers to experiment.

And as risky as that might sound, this is actually a process and method that returns results. It’s not really a shot in the dark… it’s a commitment to three areas:

Planned Progression

There’s a difference between simply “trying things out,” and progressing toward a proven strategy. Marketers involved in the practice of marketing understand that there needs to be a rhyme and reason to what you’re doing. Rogue’s planned progression methodology is called 80-15-5. It offers clients the ability to dabble in emerging technologies and tactics à shifting greater effort and focus behind things that show promising results in early tests à until you can fully invest in those areas as a proven results generator. As we learn more from the results coming in, you won’t find us sitting by idle. We adjust: shifting budget, testing new channels, finding new tools and engaging new platforms

When your marketing agency engages as true practitioners, they’ll provide a methodology that ensures you’re never caught surprised by emerging tools, trends and technologies.



When rote practice won’t do you any good, then you need to experiment early and often. This is where the 15% and 5% come into play. As a practitioner, it’s a marketer’s job to know all the levers it’s possible to pull. Then it’s an ongoing experiment to discover which ones you pull, and make strategic decisions on how much of your budget to experiment with and set metrics to evaluate performance. When the combination is no longer working as well as it once did, what levers exist behind the ones you’re already working? It’s Rogue’s position that marketers shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. That’s why we developed the 80-15-5 rule to give some method to the madness. When you experiment using this rule, it gives you a strategy for how, what and how much to try. Should you discover that various tactics are not working as well as you expected, you should clearly get rid of them. It’s time to insert the next option. What’s great is that you can feel confident explaining to your team or board of directors that even though this experiment didn’t work, you only dedicated 5% of your budget towards it, and then you have the opportunity to discuss what you learned.

Here’s the surprising reality: the more experiments you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to uncover successes. It’s actually the people that don’t take those chances who have a whole lot fewer opportunities to be successful.

Measured trajectory

Outcomes and goals are critical. You want results. And you deserve to get them. But in decades of working in this space, it’s rare that any business achieves the results they hope for within the timetable they lay out. Just as it took time to get into your current situation… it takes a lot of time to get out.

BUT, if you can identify hypotheses stated, experiments undertaken and results that put you on a path toward your stated outcome, this is what you want. Rogue calls this measured trajectory. And it’s the key to not throwing the baby out with the bath water. By measuring trajectory, we’ve led clients who were ready to throw in the towel because “this digital stuff isn’t working” to give us one more quarter, and that extra time made the difference – to the point that they’re now raving fans… We can point to lead generation efforts that fell short of original stated goal, but were far better than previous attempts. That “better-than-before” benchmark gave us some runway to move further faster the next time with the knowledge we had already gained. And it resulted in overshooting the stated goal by 35% the next time around. To their credit, these clients built up the patience to say, “that’s not working, what else can we try?…” rather than “you’re out” which is all too common in this marketing space.

Measuring your trajectory toward results, that’s the metric that really matters.

When Will We Get There?

Sometimes, a doctor can be the wrong one for you… or that attorney just isn’t a fit. That could certainly be true in the marketing realm as well. But considering a marketing agency as a mere vendor, rather than the practitioner they are can stunt your business growth. While today’s marketing environment doesn’t really permit an agency to perform the same functions over and over until perfection, there is an action that can be performed over and over that has incredible long-term results. Practicing failure.

Trying one point of view after another until you find the one that works. Trying unconventional things that may not succeed… until it does. Digging deeper and deeper searching for the one driving principle that makes your work unique. This is what the practice of marketing does. And the sooner business leaders realize the service that marketing practitioners truly provide, they’ll put their trust in the “physician” and not simply the bag of tools.

Then, and only then, will there be a realization that there’s a reason why changing vendors in favor of a lower-cost team that “does the same thing” stalls growth. There’ll be a discovery that there’s often an upside to sticking with it so long as trajectory is trending in the right way. That it’s folly to dismiss a team that knows a lot about you but didn’t meet the exact results you hoped in the timetable you expected.

Who’s ready to join us and put this into practice? The doctor is in.

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