A Change Might (Not) Do You Good

One of the many jobs assigned to me around the house is the making of the kids’ sandwiches every morning before school. I don’t mind doing it, and in fact when stood alongside the much longer list of things I am responsible for fixing, moving, painting, building, cleaning and killing, this small task is one of my favorites.

When it comes to preparing lunch for my two youngest children (Emily 8, Jonathan 4), a short discussion is always required. “Do you want turkey and cheese? Do you want peanut butter and banana? Do you want tuna fish?”

In the case of my oldest however (Evan, age 11), no conversation is required. Evan has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day.

I don’t mean most days; I mean every single day, week after week after week. From the time Evan entered preschool seven years ago, up to and including today, he has eaten the same thing for lunch. Evan is the Cal Ripkin of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Once (I think it was during the Clinton administration), I asked Evan if he wanted to try something different, just for a change. He simply said, “No, I like it, so why switch?,” and that was the end of it.

While meeting with a client the other day, I was reminded of Evan’s PB&J fixation. During our discussion, my client confessed that he was getting “a little bored” with the look of his one year old E-Newsletter, and he asked if I thought it was time to make some changes.

With the kind of resolve that would make Evan proud, I cautioned him against tampering with something that was working.

Here’s what I mean: Updating the look of your newsletter (or web site or logo or marketing collateral) is fine, provided you’re doing it for a clear, business-oriented reason. Maybe you want to add additional sections which the current layout doesn’t accommodate; maybe you’ve changed your target audience and the look and feel is no longer a match; maybe your newsletter has some outdated design elements that make it look dated. Fine, fine, fine.

Doing it because you personally are bored with the look however, is not so good.

First of all, just because you’re bored doesn’t mean your readers are. You look at it much more often and much more carefully than does anyone else. If your newsletter is a monthly, your readers only see it 12 times a year (assuming they open each and every one you send).

Second, familiarity works in your favor, and there is a cost to making a change. Even when you make positive improvements like those described above, the change itself is disruptive and disorienting to readers who have to “relearn” where things go and what your newsletter has to offer.

I worked for many years in the cable television industry, and one of the most disruptive things we could do was rearrange the channel positions. We did whatever we could to minimize how often this would occur, because we knew it would cause the phone to ring off the hook with confused customers. I know, it seems ridiculous, but it’s true.

Here’s the bottom line: Giving your newsletter the occasional facelift is fine, provided you do it with specific objectives in mind. Making changes simply to shake things up on the other hand, may do more harm than good.

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