Life is about success, not perfection…and so is marketing. Case in point: A few weeks ago, I sent out my weekly newsletter that wound up having a couple of typos in it. Obviously, I didn’t think twice about the issue. But, several people emailed me right away to point out my so-called “mistakes.” That kind of reaction is ridiculous and reveals a misguided understanding of what marketing (and life) are really about. As imperfect human beings, we can never achieve perfection. But, we can achieve success, even in the midst of being fallible.
Success in marketing is about making people curious, wooing them to your ideas, and challenging their misconceptions. You don’t have to write typo-free material to achieve this goal. The more you self-edit out of the desire to be perfect, the more you slow yourself down from reaching your goal.
Management consultant, Alan Weiss, says, “When you are 80% done, then move forward. The final 20% is dysfunctional.” Too many authors impede their own marketing progress by overanalyzing, obsessively self-editing, or worrying over other people’s potential reactions. Too many businesses or non-profits delay launching new initiatives, because they can’t get unanimous signoff from everyone. Their own self-analysis creates promotional paralysis. Nothing gets accomplished. For example, some authors never finish a newsletter article, press release, or book chapter, because they’re scared it’s not perfect. Other authors won’t dip their toes into the social media pool, because they’re afraid to be themselves and show vulnerability.
The pursuit of success is admirable, but the pursuit of perfection is impossible and will only drive you mad. To get off the treadmill of promotional perfection, try this exercise: Challenge yourself to write a professional-quality 300-word article or press release as fast as you can without doing any self-edits. Then, ask yourself if anyone would really notice the difference if you went back and edited the material. You may just find that the speed of your momentum squashes your fear of perfection and shoots you to your goal.
(By the way, I wrote this article in less than 20 minutes in one pass with no self-editing. Can you do the same?)
This whole article seems like it was written to justify the typos in your newsletter. I don’t think correcting your spelling and grammatical errors should ever be seen as over-editing.
Rob Eagar says
Thanks for your comment, but I think you’re missing the point of my article. Correcting typos is fine. I’m not encouraging people to write in a sloppy manner that lacks proper spelling and punctuation. Instead, I’m encouraging you and everyone else to prevent self-editing from becoming a block that keeps you from getting things done quickly and efficiently. In the world of marketing, speed is a faster way to success than slowing down to make sure everything is perfect.
I get the point, but a writer shouldn’t think of a typo as a “so-called mistake” (especially when typos, by definition, are actual mistakes). People don’t mind a few typos in a tweet from Ocho Cinco, but they expect professional writers to meet minimum standards. If you have typos in your query letter or in your Amazon description, no one but your mom is going to read that book. You can’t just explain to a reader they have a misguided understanding of marketing.
Rob Eagar says
You’re still missing my point. People don’t expect writer’s to write perfect marketing articles to their constituency, such as newsletters, blog posts, press releases, social media posts, free resources, etc. It’s the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law, that matters. It is okay to have a couple of typos on those type of promotional documents if it helps free you up to get more done faster. If you capture people’s attention through compelling writing, they’re not going to care if you have a couple of typos. However, if you have a lot of typos in an article, then they will question your credibility. I’m not condoning unprofessional writing, I’m speaking against the problem of self-editing that leads to paralysis.
I get your point Rob. There are errors in textbooks because of our human imperfection. Nothing will always be without error but on the other hand don’t make a practice of being sloppy. Spending a lot of unnecessary time editing and rewriting will produce less if any work at all. Don’t get me wrong, all writers have to edit and rewrite but there comes a time when you have to let it go. Sometimes we can ruin a perfectly good manuscript by editing it right off the page.