— March 31, 2018
As a business writer, journalist, graphic designer, and digital marketer, I’m often courted by clients looking to get the “most bang for the buck” as the saying goes. Consequently, during the Dot Com days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was often hired by startups wanting to become the next Yahoo! I performed work for five startups in five years. The first four went belly up so quickly the ink on the business cards were barely dry.
Looking back on those days now, I’ve tried to isolate if there was something they had in common to help new clients to possibly sidestep the same mistakes and thrive. In fact, management at the first four did have one thing in common: the quest for perfection.
The perfect person, the perfect mate, the perfect home, the perfect job – none of it exists. So why would you strive to create the perfect company? I remember founders agonizing over logo fonts, the order of items on the nav bar, or comma placement in the mission statement, more than carrying out the mission statement itself. I soon learned the other department heads – Sales, Operations, Customer Service, Technology, Finance, HR – were dealing with the same micromanagement. At some point, you need to make the leap of faith.
I’m not saying proper punctuation and grammar isn’t important in portraying a positive marketing image. It is, but errors happen when marketing is rushed so if you want a consistent image, allow the proper time for it. But do not confuse consistency with perfection. In today’s digital world, things change rapidly – and often. Just look at Google’s logo changes over the years. Pretty evident that it focused on perfecting search technology over typography, huh?
That fifth company, by the way – the one that survived? It was more important for its management to achieve first-mover advantage than it was to win first place in website design awards. It put up its rudimentary site – warts and all – concentrating more on feature accuracy than on AP style versus the Oxford comma. Visitors would call and point out typos on the website to which clever salespeople would thank them for, then turn around and sell them a product. They’d tweak the logo, the tagline, the language on the website, even the pricing almost daily. They offered a better product in lieu of white-glove service, valuing honesty over perfection. The typos disappeared as the sales and staff grew. The website went from rudimentary to sophisticated. The sales grew. And yes, that company’s still thriving today.
An elusive quest for perfection isn’t just the bane of startups of course. I see it all the time in blogs and social media. So many companies continue to get bogged down by the details, debating on which image to use in a Facebook post or Tweet that they don’t get around wishing you Happy Thanksgiving until the fifth of July.
So then what – excuse the typos?! Ignore the inconsistency?! Settle for mediocracy?! No. Take time to avoid errors and ensure consistency. Focus on communicating what’s legal, accurate, responsible, ethical, while remaining engaging, relevant, useful, valuable and striking. Then move on. Strategize before deploying tactics. Correct errors when they happen and accept that they will. Most will likely never see them anyway. Those who do will likely forget them – just like those previous Google logos.