This is from Bob Bly’s Direct Response newsletter. It is written in the context of copywriting, but it is good advice for anyone who wants to avoid the tempting pitfall of perfectionism: polishing and polishing and refining and tweaking and reworking and retooling until we get it EXACTLY RIGHT, as absolutely error-free, bug-free, infallible and inerrant as possible.
Problem: this is usually not possible. It is usually not practical. Not if you want to stay on time and under budget.
It clearly applies to any business or personal endeavor that has time and/or money constraints. And let’s face it, just about everything we do has time and/or money constraints.
The idea is this: don’t be a perfectionist. Why not? Because people, that is most people, don’t pay for perfection. They won’t pay for perfection. It’s too expensive. Unless, of course, it’s part of the deal.
What will people pay for? Excellence. Quality. Value. That’s where you want to focus your efforts. “That’s where the money is.” Get it done. Get it right. Do it well.
The accompanying video conveys this powerfully. Graphs are good. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then moving pictures with graphs in them are worth at least ten times that.
So instead of reading ten thousand words on why perfectionism doesn’t pay, spend two minutes watching this. And another minute reading the words of wisdom that prove this to be true day in and day out.
A Copywriting Lesson from Michael J. Fox
The problem with copywriting — and just about every other endeavor — is this:
You can always spend more time and effort on the job … and the more time and effort you put in, the better the result will likely be.
But how do you know when it’s time to stop, declare the project done, and move on?
Answer: you are finished when the incremental improvement to be achieved by expending even more time and effort will not generate enough ROI to justify the cost of that additional labor.
This short video makes the idea clear:
At the beginning of the project, each hour spent dramatically
improves the product you are making, whether writing an ad or
building a bookcase (see point A on the graph in the video).
But then, as time progresses, each additional hour of effort produces less and less of a return, so by the time you reach point C on the graph, the small incremental improvements you are making do not justify the investment in them.
The sweet spot on the graph is between point A and point B. Here, while your rate of improvement is slowing, it’s still worth making the extra effort.
Most of your competitors stop at point A. If you continue to point B, you’ll be rewarded for your extra work by getting better results than others do:
But if you make the mistake of seeking perfection, and push past
point C on the curve, you are spending time and money for which
you will never get a positive ROI.
Actor Michael J. Fox once said, “I strive for excellence, not perfection.”
That’s the principle the video shows and that you should follow.
P.S. If you always want your writing to be better, reigning in
your impulse to keep on going forever is difficult — but
necessary to getting the work done and actually out the door.