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Done Is Better Than Perfect

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I was listening to Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In on my drive a couple weeks ago. Lots of things to think about in her book (and not nearly as controversial as I was led to believe), but one small section stood out from the rest. At one point, she discussed a poster that she noticed shortly after starting at Facebook:

“Done is better than perfect.”

Interesting, I thought. Truth be told, I’m a recovering perfectionist and am perfectly content being quite type-A. But for some reason, I found myself resonating with what she was saying.

Is done better than perfect?

This summer I spent a good amount of time working through a few projects. Due dates were getting pushed back as we worked through the nuances of a word choice, a photo selection, or a slight color tweak. If I’m honest, it was a little draining at times. But more than that, I found myself wondering, is this extra time worth it?

I think that’s why I resonated with Sandberg’s comment. Our projects didn’t seem to be significantly more “perfect” even though we had spent an extra couple days or weeks.

Done is better than perfect.

But I still wasn’t sold. Embarrassing projects of the past floating into my head. Let’s just say, I’ve had my fair share of unfortunate typos, incorrect URLs, and email blunders. I may or may not have sent an email an incoming class of students, greeting them with the wrong name. Were these mistakes preventable with a little more time? A lot more time? How many rounds of proofing? How many rewrites and design comps? Where do you draw the line?

After some time to think and forget the mistakes of the past, here’s where I ended: Done is better than perfect—when something is done right. And something that’s done right is different than something that’s done perfect.

Here are the 3 keys to something being done right.

1. It accomplishes the goals/objectives

At the end of the day, the communication needs to do what it is intended to do. If an event postcard doesn’t entice people to attend, it’s not accomplishing its objective. What if there aren’t clear goals for a piece? Well, that’s a problem.

We need to have clear goals for our work, but also be willing to try new ideas and methods for accomplishing them. Some days our ideas won’t be right, but we need to try new things and new ways of communicating. In 21st century communication, “Tried and true” is rarely an accurate statement.

2. It’s within our brand and personality

Bottom line, what we do needs to sound and look like Bethel. No matter if it’s a prospective student, an alum, or a church partner, the recipient should feel like they’re hearing from the same Bethel.

Our new brand highlights a lot of great keys to making this happen, but here are two important ones—be inviting and not complex. Be inviting—I don’t care if it’s a gift receipt, a thank you note, or details about a financial aid package, the message needs to invite others into the conversation. Talk with others—not at them. Avoid complexity—people read, but they’re not going to read a novel disguised in an email, letter, or postcard (novel postcards are the worst!). Get the point, make it understandable, and be done with it. My wise colleague Kelsey Lundberg always suggests writing your content, cutting it in half, and then cutting it in half again.

Our new brand is just as much about design as it is content. It’s important that our visual representation reflects Bethel well and follows the same guidelines. So, when royal blue, navy, or Bethel gold get’s old—they’re still our colors and being consistent makes for a better brand experience.

3. It launches when it’s time to launch

Everyone suffers from some buyer’s remorse and a little bit of nervousness when it’s time to launch something—but that’s why we set deadlines. We could always edit, rewrite, redesign, and reimagine every webpage every day. But if we did that, we’d never have time for new projects. More challenging—would those webpages (or print pieces) be significantly better? Would the improvements justify the additional time spent?

Harvard Business Review did an article on What Really Happens When You Extend a Deadline and I’d encourage you to read it. Spoiler alert, more time isn’t as great as we think.

So, I’m going to try it. We’ll have ambitious timelines and some days will feel like a constant sprint. But I think it’s worth it. The message we are communicating is that important. As my high school math teacher would say, “Ready? Go!”

Introducing Carlyle Delivers HTML Emails

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I mentioned a couple weeks ago in my post on The Anatomy of an Email that we had a new friend we would be announcing soon. Well, today is the day. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Carlyle Delivers.

Carlyle Delivers Logo

Yep, he's an ice cream cone who rocks a monocle.

What is Carlyle Delivers?

Short answer, Carlyle sends beautiful HTML emails that work in a wide variety of email clients and on your phone, iPad, or computer. If you receive Bethel eNews or the Royal Recap, you’ve already seen Carlyle in action. Last year’s Christmas video and email was also made possible by Carlyle.

What can it do?

What can’t it do? Well, it can’t write a good email for you and it can’t make people respond. But, it can help make your email better and hopefully encourage more people to respond. Some of the great features of Carlyle:

  • Beautiful email templates. They look great—and they’re easy to use. Drop in a photo or two, add some content, and get your message out. We’re starting with some great reusable templates and plan on adding some additional ones as we reveal Bethel’s new visual identity next year.
  • Usable response data. Wonder if people are reading your emails? Maybe you’re not even sure if they’re receiving it. Carlyle can let you know if your message was successfully delivered, opened, and if the recipient clicked on any of the links (you do have a link or two, right?).
  • No-fuss lists. If you’ve sent out a large email from Bethel before, you know it tends to be a lot of work to pull together and finalize your list of email addresses. That’s why we’ve integrated Carlyle Delivers with Banner. All you have to do is run a simple Argos report to pull your list of email addresses and any data you’d like to include in the email (name, grad year, etc).
  • Automatic unsubscribes and bounces. If you’ve been to email training or seen You’re Probably Spamming and Don’t Even Know It, you’ll remember the strict federal requirements about bounces and unsubscribes. Carlyle handles all of this. A recipient can unsubscribe with one click and it is automatically recorded in Banner for next time. Bounced email addresses are inactivated automatically, too.

Ready to go?

We spent quite a while testing and launched Carlyle in stages over the past 10 months. Just this month we moved to Carlyle for alumni, parent, and donor emails—all made possible by Eric Moberg, Sandy Gritzmacher, and Lisa Carlson who have been instrumental in the web development and Banner integration.

By Thanksgiving we’ll have admissions and Church Ministries in there too. Carlyle will be used much more exclusively for those areas, so we started with them.  As for our current students and employees—you’ll see some Carlyle emails come your way, but sometimes a plain text email is all you need.

Want to know more?

If you’re a part of the Bethel community and think Carlyle might be great for your office, department, or program, send an email over to web-services@bethel.edu. We’re working on some more information about how to use Carlyle, but in the mean time we’d be glad to chat.

If you’re an institution who uses the Banner ERP or would like to know more about how we integrated our systems with a great product from our friends at Campaign Monitor, just let me know.

The Anatomy of an Email

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It’s been about a year and a half since we first circled around to talk about email. It seemed so simple that I imagined people walking out, throwing things, or just falling asleep (fortunately, my colleagues are very kind people). Fast-forward to last week and it was the same situation—email workshop to our alumni relations friends at the CCCU Alumni Conference. As I prepared, I thought it was again too obvious and I would bore people to tears.

But that wasn’t the case—from blacklists, to vendor trouble and horrible open rates, it was one horror story after the next. So I find myself needing to spread the word about email once again. There are so many things we could talk about—from spam and email preferences to a new friend Carlyle Delivers. You’ll have to wait to hear more about Carlyle, but I think there are some important things about email you should know.

If you want the full presentation, check out You’re Probably Spamming & Don’t Event Know It on Prezi. Otherwise, here is a section that I use every time I’m writing, proofing, or dreaming up an email.

The Anatomy of an Email (pdf) is a helpful cheat sheet for working through an email. You’ll find this guide on the desks of most of our editors as a cheat sheet for keeping our emails in line. Here are the 6 areas to look out for:

From address

  1. Who is this email coming from?
  2. Does the recipient know this person?
  3. Is a generic or personal email address best?

Subject line

  1. Don’t sell what’s inside—tell what’s inside. Think going through security at the airport—surprises are bad.
  2. Subject lines are not advertisements. Cheap pharmaceuticals, anyone?
  3. Avoid the words “help” and “reminder.” Overused and ineffective.
  4. Even good subject lines go bad. You don’t want them to think “I’ve already seen this.”
  5. If going to a broad audience, include “Bethel” in the subject. Use familiar words to build legitimacy.
  6. 50 characters or less. Try reading a novel on your phone.
  7. Don’t use the “important” status. It’s a bit presumptuous.

Body copy

Do:

  1. Speak like a human. If you want to be formal or classy, send a letter.
  2. Avoid humor and sarcasm. They don’t translate well.
  3. Use short paragraphs, bullets, and numbers. Make the email easy to scan.
  4. Link actionable words. Please no http:// or “click here”
  5. Only underline URLs. Hopefully this isn’t a surprise.
  6. Limit yourself to 2 unique URLs. Don’t give them 10 options—it’s confusing.
  7. Keep the font simple. Times or Verdana, it doesn’t really matter what you choose—just choose one and stick with it.

Don’t:

  1. Use “dear.” Who begins an email with “dear?”
  2. Use all CAPS. Shouting?
  3. Use more than one exclamation point. You end up sounding like you’ve had too much coffee.
  4. Bold, bold, bold. If everything is important, then nothing is important.

Call to action

  1. Clear and singular. The recipient shouldn’t have to guess what you want them to do.
  2. Facilitate a quick response. Don’t make them wait to respond—if they’re ready, they should be able to.

Signature

  1. Who to contact with questions.
  2. Can be an office or individual.
  3. No images, disclaimers, slogans, etc. Save the inspirational sayings for the card you’re sending in the mail.
  4. Should include:
    1. Sender’s name
    2. Title/Office
    3. Phone number
    4. Email address

Footer

This let’s them know why they’re getting the message, what they need to do to unsubscribe, and where to find you. It’s the right thing to do—and it’s the law.

You’re receiving this email because you’re a Bethel [role]. If you’d no longer like to receive [role] [category], you can unsubscribe at any time.
Bethel University | 3900 Bethel Drive | St. Paul, MN 55112 | 651.638.6400 | www.bethel.edu

Tip of the Iceberg

Looking at the content of your email is just the tip of the iceberg. But, it’s a great place to start. Once you have a better handle on what you’re saying, it’s a lot easier to be strategic about missing or conflicting messages and to…wait for it…think about effectiveness and relevancy. I’d say don’t treat email as a lower form of communication, but in reality, don’t treat your constituents with such disregard. They’re too important.

Maybe next time we’ll talk the horrors of spam, email preferences, or introduce you to our new friend Carlyle Delivers. Until then, stay classy and say something worth saying.