I have a friend who is constantly coming up with what I think are usually good – occasionally great – ideas for things like new businesses, apps, websites, songs and movies.
In all the years that I’ve known him, none of these ideas has come to fruition. Not one. It’s not that he never starts any of these projects; he does. The problem is that he’s chasing a level of perfection that prevents him from getting anything done. Somewhere in that chase, he gets bored or distracted and it’s on to something else.
You may have heard the quote, “Done is better than perfect.” For growing businesses, marketing is never done, but there are projects that need to be finished to keep things moving. When things stop moving, you’re in real trouble.
For my friend, it means he’ll probably never be the serial-entrepreneur-songwriter-screenwriter millionaire that perhaps he could have been. For businesses, this common marketing mistake can mean missed opportunity, lost revenue and potential extinction.
Let’s look at an example where marketing progress can easily grind to a halt for small businesses.
Building or redesigning a website is already a big project that requires strong project management to avoid getting bogged down. Throw perfectionism into the mix and it’s not a matter of if the launch will be delayed, but by how much.
Guess what? Your website won’t be perfect.
I’m not recommending that you accept the prospect of a crappy site; you should absolutely aim to build the highest quality website possible. In fact, you shouldn’t settle on something you’re not proud of. But in the process of building it, there will be differences of opinion. You may not always get your way, and some things might fall out of scope or push your launch date back so far that you miss other important targets.
For many businesses, having a strong website is critical – especially today when the average person has zero patience for anything less than a beautiful and frictionless user experience. (Thanks Uber!) But strong doesn’t mean perfect, and chances are that to hit your goals, your website needs to get finished on time and within the budget.
I’m using websites as an example because, in my experience, websites often get the most scrutiny from business owners and executives. It’s often seen as their “baby”, which means there are no shortage of expectations, opinions, emotions and notes involved. (People give their babies lots of notes, right?)
While some notes are good, too many notes can not only push your timeline back, it can easily dilute the voice, style and tone of the website.
Crippling perfectionism can kill momentum on other projects, too. A few other high risk areas include:
- Ad copy
- Branding and graphic design
Each of these areas presents an abundance of subjective choices and decisions: should we use this word instead of that? Should the color be warmer? Is the background song in our corporate video going to alienate people who don’t like subdued but inspirational piano music?
If the definition of “finality” is that every person involved is 100% excited about every decision being made, these marketing pieces will never see the light of day.
How to Avoid Getting Bogged Down
Here are some ways to stop perfectionism from derailing your project.
- Remember that marketing is never finished. You can – and should – continually update and improve your marketing assets based on the data important to your business such as user engagement and conversion rates. Especially if your marketing mix is heavy on digital, don’t forget that you can change or correct most of these things at any time, as opposed to print – which at some point really does need to be finished.
- Decide on a timeline and stick to it. Reinforce this by keeping in mind any negative consequences of pushing that timeline back. What other targets will be missed?
- Limit the number of involved stakeholders. There’s a reason the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” is used so often. When you invite several people to give their opinions during creative development, you’re courting death by committee.
- Consider your competitors. While your project is languishing in a never-ending cycle of revisions, your competitors are putting things out there, getting feedback, making changes and trying new things. What do you lose by falling behind?
- Accept that nothing is perfect. Even the biggest brands in the world continually update their messaging, websites, design and logo. Sometimes the changes work and sometimes they don’t – but they keep evolving. If they’re okay improving on less-than-perfect iterations, shouldn’t you be?
Keep these things in mind to ensure your marketing projects stay on track while remembering what you’re working toward: consistent improvement. And that’s the thing about improvement – you need something to improve upon.