Marketing 101: Done is better than perfect (as long as it’s actually done)

About 6 months, ago, Pancake undertook an internal redesign project.

We wanted to update our site, this site, to reflect our growth in the last 4 years. We’d moved from a one-man shop to a full-fledged agency, with processes and employees and all the pain, learning and personal development that goes along with that type of transition.

We tasked Jonathan to take the Pancake Foundation, the proprietary WordPress framework upon which we build all our sites, and completely rewrite the Pancake website’s codebase.

After a couple of weeks of work, Jonathan presented us with the fruits of his labor, a demo site from which to work, and we launched into the design revision process that we use for all external-facing sites. It was a

After 4 rounds of revisions the design was ready, and I personally spent a day hours migrating the site over, setting up redirects, and making sure everything was polished and beautiful.

And beautiful it was, I thought, oh so lovely and clean.

Things got really busy just after that, and there were a few (small, in my estimation) details that needed to be addressed. We hadn’t yet written intro content for our projects section, the projects headers had been affected by a shift in the direction for the header, and we’d been so busy taking care of client needs that we hadn’t dedicated the resources to clean up these small issues.

Unfortunately, they weren’t as small as I’d believed, and a couple of months later I received an anonymous contact from our update contact form.

The user, whoever they are, had attempted to browse through our portfolio and spotted our “lorem ipsum” demo content beneath our carefully crafted portfolio images. This was a deal-breaker for them, and they decided not to contact us because of it.

This, to me, was a heartbreaking revelation. In a small way, our attention to our clients (and subsequent neglect of our own website) had been our undoing. We’d been so focused on external work, that we’d not taken the 2 hours we needed to update all the projects and give them content.

Lesson learned, we updated the projects that same day. They’re all shiny and beautiful now.

Done is better than perfect, they say, and I agree. But when you’re applying that rule, learn from my mistake, and make sure your project is actually done.

  • As one of the few Americans ordained as a traditional zen buddhist monk (teacher in the American idiom), I saw this and had to write to you. When one of your employees has static work hours they are “done” at 5pm with no regard for quality, or contribution. As the owner when you leave the office at 1am you know you are not “done.” More easily put, “done” is a minimum standard. “Done” can be accomplished by checking boxes, or by doing the absolute minimum in order check a box and go home. If I understand your thought correctly, you are referring to “Done” as the highest standard.

    Perfection is a concept that is much like “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” things are already perfect so it is not a good description for an outcome. “Finished” is a better descriptor because (sorry for the lack of brevity) “Finished” is the best you are capable of producing. It’s a thing that has no check boxes, and only the person who is doing the job knows the truth about whether or not is the very best they can do. Finished is hell on deadlines, but I’ve never seen a client, or anyone else receive something that is finished and is unhappy with the outcome. The world has begun to accept “Done.” To quote Bill Gates; “Launch early and often.” That is probably why for many years Apple was much smaller than Microsoft and its products were far more expensive, yet Apple remained the most profitable enterprise in the history of commerce. Can you imagine Steve Jobs, the man who held the iPhone back for more than a year because the glass wasn’t right, ever allowing an employee to utter words that could well be the Microsoft motto; “Well, it works doesn’t it.”

    Please accept this note as an admonishment to listen to your heart. Done leaves at 5pm. Finished has no clock. Finished is who you are at your best, and what your company can hang its hat on. Anybody can do done.

    I took the time to write this because I saw your website and I was very impressed with your commitment to excellence. You obviously strive for a very high standard and I wanted to offer this as food for thought.

    In gassho (good word to look up),

    Scott Zagarino