As Winston Churchill once said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” When it comes to marketing content, no truer words have ever been spoken. We can’t tell you how many times we, as well as our clients, have become totally paralyzed in the pursuit of perfection. Perfectionism isn’t a bad thing, but it can creep into your marketing machine and slowly paralyze it from the inside out. It probably already has.
- It’s in the brainstorm meeting where you shelve a perfectly good idea because it’s not as perfect as you want it to be.
- It’s wasting time adjusting pixels on a social media promo image for an event that will be done in a week.
- It’s the hesitancy to experiment with something new for fear you won’t do it right.
We know all these scenarios very well because we ourselves have fallen victim to them time and time again. And although we know that perfectionism can be one of our biggest saboteurs, we haven’t thought much about how to fight it—until our recent conversation with Devin Zimmerman, VP of Brand at Greenlight on our Best Story Wins podcast.
Zimmerman joined us to chat about the way she and her team tackle marketing financial literacy to a tween and teen audience at Greenlight, and she said that one of the biggest lessons her team has learned is to let go of perfectionism.
“We’ve all gotten out of our comfort zones to find that balance…not everything needs to be 100%.”
— Devin Zimmerman, VP of Brand at Greenlight
Zimmerman says it can be uncomfortable to adopt a less-than-perfect mentality if you’re a marketer, designer, or writer who prides themselves on their work (and is often untangling years of perfection demanded by bosses). But if marketers want to be successful, they have to move quickly, adapt to ever-changing markets, and stay ahead of the curve. That’s why Zimmerman says you really have to balance how and where you should spend your energy—and keep your perfectionism at bay. It can be complicated, though.
7 Tips to Make Marketing Content Without Perfectionism
Perfectionism is really just deep-seated fear. (And it’s especially insidious because you often don’t realize it’s making decisions for you.) This fear keeps your blinders on, makes you afraid to try new things, and generally keeps you stagnant. So how do you ensure that ingrained perfectionism stays in the backseat and doesn’t take the wheel? Take a seat, take a breath, and follow these tips.
1) Define clear objectives—and measure.
Perfectionism can make you second guess yourself, but with clear goals and a strong measurement framework, you can measure your efforts with confidence and adjust as needed.
“ Measure, measure, measure.”
—Devin Zimmerman, VP of Brand at Greenlight
Start by setting clear, realistic, and achievable objectives for your marketing campaigns. This way, when you brainstorm or have other decisions to make about your content strategy, you can always sanity-check them against your goals on paper.
You should always focus on maintaining momentum and moving toward those goals—not obsessing over minute details. If you need, break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks, focusing on essential elements that contribute to the overall success of your campaign. By setting achievable targets, you can relieve the pressure of unattainable perfection and focus on tangible progress.
Of course, you need the right infrastructure to properly measure those goals. As Zimmerman says, “Testing is an insurance policy.” So ensure that you’re measuring the right things, that your tools are appropriately set up, and that you are regularly reporting your progress.
2) Set limits on the amount of time you devote to things.
You can spend hours, days, and weeks in endless ideation to perfect your marketing content ideas. You can also spend as much time procrastinating because you’re actually paralyzed by perfectionism. Yes, an idea can always be refined. Yes, you can always try to improve copy. But there is a point where you are investing far more than you’re getting back. If this is the case for your team, think critically about where and how you’re spending your time, then set up parameters to ensure you’re not wasting it.
That may mean limiting the amount of time you brainstorm, the number of people you invite to a meeting, or reducing revision rounds. Remember that delivering your message to the target audience in a timely manner is more important than obsessing over minor details.
Tip: There are plenty of tools, templates, and resources that can reduce the amount of time you spend doing certain marketing tasks. See our roundup of 100+ content marketing tools to help you work smarter, not harder.
3) Embrace the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach.
Perfectionism often leads to a paralyzing fear of making mistakes, resulting in delayed or abandoned marketing initiatives. Instead of striving for a flawless end result, adopt the concept of the Minimum Viable Product. Launch your marketing campaigns with the essential elements necessary for success, then iterate and improve based on feedback and data.
When you shift your mindset from striving for perfection to valuing progress, you can learn, adapt, and get better results over time.
Tip: The best marketing campaigns pair a simple concept with clear messaging. Make sure you have a strong brand messaging framework, and use our free marketing campaign template to make sure your ideas are aligned with your goals.
Remember: Progress and growth come from learning and adapting, not from unattainable perfection.
4) Bring other minds into the fold.
It is so easy to get paralyzed when you’re working in a silo. You end up pressuring yourself to achieve flawless results—and shouldering the burden all alone. However, successful marketing requires collaboration and fresh perspectives. (This is one of the biggest benefits of hiring a content agency to guide your strategy; their experience and expertise can help you uncover marketing gaps and opportunities you may have missed.)
When you’re stuck, it’s always helpful to get outside help and invite feedback or ideas from colleagues, team members, or trusted mentors who can help problem-solve.
Tip: Your fellow employees can be a great source of knowledge—and legitimate content creators in their own right. Showcasing their expertise and ideas is a smart way to expand the type of content you create and put your people front and center. To do this effectively, see our tips to turn your team into marketing content creators and maximize your content while doing it.
5) Test new things.
Zimmerman is all about trying lots of different things in your marketing content—even if they’re not perfectly precise. In fact, this is one of our biggest tips for all marketers. It’s easy to get stagnant, and you can usually tell when you’re trending that way because it’s reflected in your analytics.
Although markets are more crowded than ever, marketers have more creation tools than ever too. This has lowered the barrier to entry, making it easy to produce a wide variety of content fairly painlessly. From TikTok videos and social graphics to live streams and Q&As, there are so many ways to engage your audience, and sometimes just adding one or two things into the fold can generate surprising results.
For example, we’ve been mixing up our sales outreach by asking people what their biggest content marketing challenges are. We’ve received a healthy response and highly valuable feedback that helps us understand what our audience is struggling with and what type of content we might want to experiment with in the future.
Tip: One of the best ways to ensure your content is impactful is to use the right format for the right message. (It’s also the key to creating a healthy content mix.) See our guide to find out which formats are best for which stories.
6) Hold postmortems.
Trying something new is scary, especially if it doesn’t work out. But there is always something to be learned. Although life is hectic for marketers, taking the time to hold a postmortem is a great way to ensure you’re getting valuable insights from everything you do.
- How did this experiment work compared to previous experiments?
- What did you do differently, or what can you do differently?
- What can you learn from the process and/or how can you improve?
No campaign is going to be perfect. But if you can critically analyze your efforts and iterate, you can ensure that the choices you make are backed by real data and experience.
Tip: A content audit can also clue you in to what is and isn’t working for your brand, as well as where you may have messaging gaps (aka opportunities) to create more content. Use our guide and template to conduct your own content audit.
7) Turn your wins and fails into content.
In our opinion, this is the number one way to offset any fear of failure. Whether you win or fail, you can learn. Most importantly, you can share with others.
Sharing your knowledge is one of the most generous things you can do. It establishes you as a true thought leader. It demonstrates vulnerability and a willingness to grow. And it shows people that you are always pushing yourself to do and be better. Also, by acknowledging and appreciating the effort and progress made by your team, you cultivate a positive work environment that fuels motivation and inspires continued growth.
If you have a big win, celebrate that (and the team members that brought it to life). If you have a disappointing failure, share what you might have done better.
For example, we’ve talked about the biggest mistakes we’ve committed in content strategy as well as the biggest lessons we learned in our first decade in business.
Tip: Many marketing teams generate quarterly reports but let those finding die in the document. Comb through previous reports to spot opportunities to share wins or learnings.
Above All, Keep Learning
One of the best ways to improve your marketing (and get the confidence to counter your perfectionism) is to keep up on the latest trends and best practices in marketing.
You can pop over to our Resources library for more tools and templates to get things done effectively, and subscribe to our Best Story Wins podcast to hear from the best thought leaders across industries. If you found today’s tips helpful, go ahead and check out Zimmerman’s full episode for more strategies to tackle your marketing. And as you keep working toward your goals, remember: progress—not perfection.