There are some basic sales and marketing practices that will always serve you well.

Well. Almost always.

No gimmick or daring can replace a mastery of the basics. Nothing makes up for knowing your business inside out.

But if you truly have that knowledge, it’s important to wear it lightly – to have the humility and the sense of humor to be willing to improvise and have fun being creative, rather than always following convention. Sometimes you have to subvert the tropes. Turn an idea upside down and see what happens.

Here are seven ways you might want to do that for your brand:

  1. Abide by cultural norms. Always have manners! But think about what might happen if you let your marketing be unexpectedly emotional and human. What if you let your patients speak, and they did more than utter platitudes? What if a patient spokesperson talked about what it’s really like to have their condition? They might connect with your audience on a raw, real level – something instantly powerful.
  2. Be relevant. You need to know your audience and what they care about. But sometimes it can pay off to be passionate about something your audience doesn’t know anything about. If you’ve already built enough trust with them, they can be intrigued by your interest, and will come along for the ride to learn why you believe it matters.
  3. The customer is always right. Let’s be real: nobody’s always right. Including customers. Sometimes you need to challenge assumptions and correct misinformation – perhaps especially now, when “Truth Decay” has become a necessary term. Don’t be afraid to stand up for evidence-based science.
  4. Get a foot in the door. This method to build a marketing relationship is tried and true: get someone to do small things, building up to larger commitments. Often for pharma marketers, though, we have to think in reverse, because our relationship with a patient often begins after the big commitment: initiation of therapy. Our small steps can work to strengthen that relationship and justify that decision. It can be important to specifically acknowledge that flip, and appreciate the bravery in their action.
  5. Appeal to nostalgia. Many marketers harken back to their customers’ memories in order to sell themselves. Consider the slogan “make America great again.” But pharma marketers are in an interesting position to consider turning this upside down. After all, in the 1950s, doctors willingly recommended cigarettes! (We’ve come a long way, baby.) It’s worth talking about how much knowledge we’ve gained.
  6. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Many of us have five-year, one-year, quarterly, monthly, weekly plans – and often, that makes the difference between success and failure. But it’s also important to know when to go rogue – and to have that planned for too! Perhaps there’s a pop-culture moment that fits in perfectly with your brand. Perhaps one of your scientists has done something amazing. Perhaps one of your patients has. Don’t let your plan blind you to the opportunities of the moment.
  7. Rule of seven. This adage says that audiences need to hear a message seven times, because they won’t act until then. In some situations, that can be true. (Like lists with seven items!) But information can feel overwhelming, so sometimes it can be better to make sure someone gets an unbelievably precise message at exactly the right instant, rather than to give them more background noise.

How will you turn some old-fashioned marketing wisdom upside down for your brand?