Best practices are sexy

I was talking to somebody really important last week. And I do mean Very Important as in, head honcho of a trade publication; catching her eye could make your career. We talked about things that designers do wrong. It was all the stuff I write about in my book and we lamented that nobody listens. It’s disheartening to us, such a waste of talent and money. Both of us get tons of requests for advice but hardly anyone listens. Many start ups say nobody wants to help them, but when we tell them what they need, they don’t listen because it’s at odds with what they want -which is not the same as what they need, which is usually something dramatic and sexy.

Have you heard of Help A Reporter Out (HARO)? It’s a free service designed to help journalists find people to interview for news stories. You can sign up (free) and receive thrice daily emails with a synopsis of story pitch, the profile of person to be interviewed, the magazine and the deadline. It might appeal to you, sometimes there are requests for fashion related leads. A couple of days ago, one reporter made a this request:

I am looking for a list of quick tips regarding how to identify best practices. What can you learn from your competitors? Once you identify a best practice that could help your organization, how do you go about effectively applying it?

This question has been gnawing on me ever since. The problem is, best practices are not obvious. They’re subtle. Most entrepreneurs go after the flash, what’s big and obvious. Best practices are mundane and detailed and most people are looking for a big easy button or a magic wand; something dramatic that will really turn things around overnight. Since best practices aren’t sexy and dramatic, it takes too long for the value of them to be realized -much less implemented- and the enterprise dies before its time. It is only after having weathered the adoption of best practices that is what enables a firm to get to the point of being a target that people want to copy -and even then, copyists copy the obvious, the wrong thing.

My VIP friend is annoyed by several things, she hates music on websites. Everyone who does it has an excuse cooked up for why they’re the exception to the rule. It’s annoying when there’s no real contact information on the site (a contact form does not suffice). Are you hiding or selling? Are you promoting yourself well before a show? Most don’t or they don’t do it well. At market, talking on cell phones and not seeking to make eye contact with people walking by is very bad. Maybe they aren’t interested in your line but someone else is watching you watching them. It’s how they know whether you’re worth investigating (I never fail to watch you watch others). And bad style numbers– she basically assumes those designers won’t be coming back no matter how pretty their line sheets and look books are. It bothers her that designers go for the sexy expensive strategy (gifting to celebs) instead of subtle but cheap best practices. Most of all she said was not following up or not doing it right. That buyers are frustrated by it. Like I always say, they’re watching you. They won’t buy right away because they won’t know whether you’re doing the boring best practices stuff that goes on behind the scenes until you’ve been around a couple of years because it takes that long to iron the kinks out. Until then, it doesn’t matter how glitzy your logo and brochures are or how many celebs are using the free stuff you gave them. Really. It’s exactly like a lottery because nearly everyone loses.

But back to the HARO reporter’s request for what amounts to a bullet point list of how to spot best practices and implement them quick-like and easy. His question seemed to make best practices itself into a big easy button (and don’t I wish!). Hopefully you will learn a lot sooner than that writer, that it’s not going to happen. Not like that at all.

And yeah, okay, the title is off but what other way to pull you in?

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  1. emily says:

    Lol Kathleen, you totally hooked me in with that title! raced over from google reader to see what all the fuss was! But I agree with dosfashionistas, best practices get my heart pumping. it’s my dream to work for someone who takes best practices seriously and actively tries to implement them.

  2. kpotenti says:

    Nice post, Kathleen. I seem to have missed this one and just recently discovered HARO. I just started using the service and was curious if anyone has had any success with it? They also have the gift bag request emails which I find are helpful because even if you don’t have anything to offer for the gift bag you find out about events and event planners in your area.

  3. Sarah says:

    Best Practices are definitely sexy – because if you make a lot of money you can buy gorgeous Italian lingerie (La Perla) – at least that’s what I plan to do if I make a lot of money as a DE.. (lol)

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