Perfection Paralysis

Bullseye I would guess we’ve all witnessed it.  A business owner or marketing decision maker who can’t pull the trigger when it comes to marketing tactics. 

Something about the piece (be it a website, brochure or direct mail piece, etc.) is off for them.  Often, they can’t even tell you what’s off, just that something is.  "it’s just not quite right," they’ll say with a rueful smile. And so the team tries again — revision after revision.

What was that sound?  It was the window of opportunity slamming shut.  In many cases, the piece never gets completed and marketing dollars slowly swirl down the drain.

And your prospects and customers wonder why you’re ignoring them.

Pretty darn good trumps perfect every time, if it means you get to market faster (or at all) with your message.

Next time you feel your team (or yourself) begin to stall a project because perfection paralysis is taking hold, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does it clearly communicate our key message?  (no more than 2-3)
  2. Does it offer some response opportunity? (website, e-mail, phone number, etc.)
  3. Does it protect and respect our brand promise and look/feel?
  4. Is it error-free?  (typos, grammar etc.)

If you can answer yes to all 4 — give yourself 24 hours to futz with it if you want and then get it out the door.

Perfect or not.

30 comments on “Perfection Paralysis

  1. Nice points for review and analysis. We can fret about the little things forever, and this time costs money. These types of questions (best when less than 5), make the process a lot easier so we can move on or go home (if it’s getting late).

  2. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    I love this story. It just made my life a darn lot easier (being in the middle of a revamp of our websites – and being a Capricorn perfectionist!)

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  3. Shama Hyder says:

    Hi Drew,

    I call this the Perfectionist’s dilemma and continue to work with clients to help them get over it.

  4. Jeff Gwynne says:


    In these situations, I like to think (and often quote) what George S. Patton might have said: “Good marketing, violently executed now, is better than perfect marketing next week” or something like that.

  5. Drew – I really needed this today. I agree with this 100% get recently experienced a little paralysis and broke through last night! ahhhhhh! – Have a great one!

  6. Chris Kieff says:


    I’m going to plug
    Mike Moran’s book “Doing It Wrong Quickly” because it’s about exactly this idea.

    I love the concept of getting it done good enough for today and fixing as we learn more. This is most true in the online world. We can change it tomorrow, so let’s go live today and fix it tomorrow!

    Great Post!

  7. Lori D says:

    AMEN!!! My director invented this method of holding up production. I’ve started printing small quantities at a quick print so he can wrap his brain around the whole piece. I’ve really struggled with “campaigns” or companion pieces. He wants every piece to have ALL the copy on it. Companion Pieces turn out to be just repeat of the same thing. Any wisdom on this topic?

  8. Arlin Pauler says:

    Karin H.
    great point about perfection being the enemy of “Good”. I’m also thinking it is the ATTACHMENT to either perfection or good that is the enemy of “Great”.
    Was again Drew has defined a “middle way” that cuts to the case and gets it done.
    Have a fun and fulfilling day, Arlin.

  9. Arlin Pauler says:

    I missed rule number four. In my eagerness to comment quickly I just posted my comment without it being “error free”. I don’t know how to correct it. So I’ll just have to live with it. I have turned out to be an example of why rule number four is important.

  10. Mike Sansone says:

    We’ve all heard “good is the enemy of great” – I think sometimes (always?) “perfection is the enemy of good.”

  11. Mario,

    Fretting is a very good word. It’s not the big issues or elements that get over scrutinized — it’s tiny details that most people aren’t even going to notice.

    It’s a time and money waster, to your point. Do you have a secret for moving a stalled project along?


  12. Karin,

    So what are you going to move past or let go?


  13. Mike,

    We’re our own worst enemies when it comes to keeping projects moving forward. I think it’s important to know what level of great you need to have. Not every project needs to be stellar.

    Sometimes good is plenty good!


  14. Shama,

    So….how do you counsel them? How do you help someone change this behavior?


  15. Jeff,

    LOL! Excellent quote. In this equation, time is more valuable than the incremental gain that perfection might garner.

    How do you help others get past this mindset?


  16. Cyndee,

    Congrats! Tell us how you were able to achieve the breakthrough, please.


  17. Chris,

    I just reviewed that book a couple weeks ago. I agree — this is exactly what Mike is writing about and trying to teach us to change.

    It was a very good read.


  18. True!

    I would love to hear more about this one..
    It make me thought of browsing more about articles in this blog to get more insights and tips..

  19. Lori,

    Sounds like you have a co-worker who lives in fear that your audience is actually not listening so he’d better cram everything into every piece.

    Here’s an idea. Outline the key messages in a campaign. For example, let’s say you are doing a membership series.

    Mail piece one: key message A, B
    Newsletter lead article: build on A, add C
    Mail piece two: key messages A, add D

    And so on. Let him see how you are strategically building your key messages and remind him — no more than 2-3 messages per piece. Ideally 1.

    Maybe if he sees it spelled out, that will help him panic less, micromanage less and actually give you a chance to create effective campaigns.


  20. Arlin,

    But you also prove that a good idea doesn’t have to be presented perfectly to clearly communicate!


  21. Richard & Edwin,

    Welcome to the Marketing Minute. I hope you did take the time to do a little browsing and found other posts of interest. I’d love to hear your feedback!


  22. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    Me revamps are taking up so much time because I even want the design to line up text exactly with the pictures etc (both in Firefox and IE). I’m saving time now by accepting the design as it is is good and can now concentrate fully on content and ‘calls to action’ 😉

    (p.s. Arlin, those great words came from Mike Sansone, but to which I fully agree too).

    Karin H.

  23. Jeff Gwynne says:


    Re: getting past the mindset

    I don’t have any great magic. But, marketing tactics are executed for an event (in a broad sense, not as in a trade show). So, time just runs out and the decision is made, I guess. You really can’t change people’s behavior, so you go with it.

    As consultants, “we just explain it, and then we get our checks in the mail” (Eminem). (As a former marketing boss, I like to think that I only spoke, wrote, or acted to add value.)

  24. Karin,

    Sounds like you have broke free of the paralysis! Congrats! When can we look at the new masterpiece?


  25. Jeff,

    That’s sort of why I like tight deadlines. The client cannot afford to be paralyzed for very long. It forces everyone to accept good or great, as opposed to over-tweaking.


  26. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    Any time of course, it’s always a ‘process/project in motion’ – if you want your website to work, you’ll have to work on your website 😉
    And, I’ve tried to keep it simple 😉 but of course!

    Karin H.

  27. Karin,

    It sounds like you have the perfection thing licked and are being very pragmatic about how to successfully go to market with your tactics!


  28. Ginger,

    You’re a woman who is bursting with ideas. So I can imagine when you’re having coffee with someone or just hanging out…you get to talking about their business and BOOM — here come the ideas.

    How do you manage that situation? How do you decide how much to give away and when to try to move towards a paying relationship?


  29. LVN classes says:

    I enjoy marketing personally, but i know what you mean about the paralysis. Sometimes you take so much time considering how something should be done that you tend to get nothing done at all!! I find the secret is to put your head down and work work work until you have messed up enough times to get it right. No matter what you will end up with an end product.

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