I got on the phone with an entrepreneur I admire yesterday and we were chatting. She’s been in business for four years and she told me she used to send email to her list weekly, but over the past few months she hasn’t felt perfectly clear about every aspect of her business. She doesn’t quite know what to say because she’s not exactly sure what she wants her list to do. So she stopped emailing them regularly.
“The only thing worse than sending no email is sending a terrible email and having people go, ‘What the hell is this?’ And hitting unsubscribe.”
She said this. To me. Completely convinced.
But guess what! I think she’s wrong.
Gather ’round while I take us back in time…
… a time when Macbooks were called iBooks and their clamshell covers featured orange or green plastic (but I was too poor to afford one).
Back then, I was a hack. A muckraker. A person who should have been ASHAMED OF MYSELF, according to our Very Stable Genius-in-Chief.
I was a reporter at a daily newspaper.
Sometimes, I’d get an assignment to cover an event happening that day. In that case I would go out, watch the event, interview the speakers or performers, maybe some audience members if I had time. Then I’d trot back to the office, and write the story. My story was due at 11 pm. If the event started at 5, the story was due at 11. If the event started at 8… the story was due at 11.
Talk about “done is better than perfect”! When 11 p.m. hit, I turned in something to my editor. If I didn’t, that meant I would hold up the printing of the entire newspaper.
The newspaper I worked for wasn’t going to hold up the presses for me and my perfection issues.
Because missing the press deadline cost money!
This ain’t Woodward and Bernstein – it’s a reading at the downtown Barnes and Noble. GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE, FRANK!
Do you see where I’m going with this (besides mourning the death of the local newspaper)?
Back when writing on deadline was literally my job, I learned that when you turn in something that’s not great, that IS BETTER than turning in nothing at all.
I’ve never forgotten that lesson, even when I worked with clients who refuse to hit “publish” because they’re afraid some day they might change their minds and what the wrote will be wrong.
Even when I encounter clients who don’t think they should send marketing email unless they’re undergoing a life-threatening emergencies, because they don’t want anyone to unsubscribe, ever.
Because I know that when you write every single week, as though you were on deadline, three things happen:
1. You refine your mission. You figure out what you’re trying to say by sharing it with your audience, week after week, and getting feedback from them on how it lands, whether it helped, whether it felt clear.
2. You clarify the value you provide by articulating over and over the problems you solve and the benefits of solving those problems
3. You test the validity of that Ideal Client Avator some online GURU told you to create that one time, because you get a sense for who on your list is actually paying attention.
Plus, you make connections that can help you actually get someone on the phone or sell them something they need.
But even leaving aside the selling, (which I do teach), a weekly writing practice strengthens your business.
Let’s return to the first part of what that entrepreneur said. “Sending something terrible is worse than sending nothing.” OF COURSE some of your emails are going to be bad. What, are you Shakespeare now? Or maybe Leonard Cohen? GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE. ???
Sending nothing is worse.