Perfection Is Not The Goal

Last week my wife Linda and I moved our family to a house in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Among the short (hah!) list of things she gave me to do over the weekend was a request to hang a coat rack for the kids in the back hallway.

Although I freely admit that I’m no home improvement expert, I didn’t expect a coat rack to pose any particular challenges.

I got one end of the wooden rack successfully screwed into the wall, and — fully aware of Linda’s proven ability to spot architectural imperfections that Frank Lloyd Wright would miss — I got a level out and rested it on top of the rack as I prepared to drive in the second screw, so that the hooks would be perfectly straight.

A second before drilling into the wall however, I noticed something.

When held perfectly level, the coat rack didn’t line up straight with the wallpaper border just below it. Apparently, the former owner of the house had been married to somebody else, and had somehow gotten away with putting the border up slightly sideways.

So here’s my question for you. Was it better to:

1. Hang the coat rack “correctly” according to the level, or

2. Hang it so that it lined up with the wallpaper that was already there.

(Note to experienced husbands: Obviously this is a trick question, since the correct answer is “go ask your wife,” but just play along for the purpose of this illustration.).

In the end, I chose option 2, and hung the rack so that although technically “wrong,” when viewed next to the wallpaper it looked good. Clearly, sometimes being right is not the same as being effective.

What’s this got to do with E-Newsletters? I thought you’d never ask.

Every day I interact with E-Newsletter publishers who seem more interested in forcing me to use their publication “the right way,” than in making my experience with their E-Newsletter as easy and effective (for me) as possible.

For example:

• Some newsletters don’t allow me to just click “reply” to send a comment. Sure it’s easier to track and manage responses if I fill in a little form with my feedback, but we’ve all become conditioned to respond to emails by using the reply button. It’s fine to direct people to a form, but don’t disable this obvious alternative.

• Some newsletters force me to follow a certain procedure to unsubscribe. After sending a polite request to a company last week asking to be removed from their E-Newsletter list, I received a curt response telling me I, “must go back in and follow the instructions to get off the list.” The newsletter you’re reading now also has a self serve unsubscribe mechanism, but when somebody sends us an email with the same request, we just do it for them (and we don’t make them feel stupid for doing it “wrong”).

• Some newsletters require name, rank and serial number before they’ll let me get on the list. Why is it that the same companies that will gladly hand me $10 worth of glossy brochures when I meet them in person at trade shows, guard their (zero variable cost) electronic publications like they were gold? If somebody wants to subscribe to your newsletter, make it as easy as possible, and don’t let your curiosity about who they are lead you to construct barriers. Don’t worry, if they like what you’ve got to say, they’ll call you!

Bottom Line: In the day to day quest for E-Newsletter excellence, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re doing this in the first place. Remember, you’re not publishing a great E-Newsletter because you want to publish a great E-Newsletter. You’re doing it because you want to grow your business, and with that in mind, perfection is less important than effectiveness.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the weekend’s almost here and Linda’s got another list ready!

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