Your Boredom is a Bad Way to Measure Success

I get this question a fair amount, and it came up in the Direct Mail for Small Nonprofits E-Clinic this week:

Once we find the voice and style that works for us, how much do we need to get creative every month? By that I mean, as long as we have the high energy and conversational tone and compelling story, do we just keep replacing the story and hook, and saying the same message again and again? We pretty much have the same ask month in and month out for our organization.

Here is Tom Ahern’s answer:

Short answer: yes. Getting creative is NOT a high value goal in direct mail. (I could argue the other side of that, but let’s keep this simple for now.) The goal of direct mail is to find a “formula” that works and then do it until it stops working. You’ll know you’ve succeeded if your appeals make money and you’re bored with them.

When I talk about messaging and especially about repurposing content (like I will be doing during tomorrow’s webinar on taming your editorial calendar and content creation process), I’ll often say that if you aren’t personally bored with it as the communications pro, you haven’t said it enough times. 

Your personal level of boredom with something is a terrible metric for when you should stop talking about it or doing it — at least in marketing.

Granted, this isn’t necessarily the easiest rule to live by. It can make parts of your job boring or annoying. But you have to resist the temptation to make it all about you and how much fun you are having.

Trust me,  there are a few nonprofit marketing topics that I would be perfectly happy to never talk about again, but YOU keep bringing them up as important topics, so I listen, and we keep discussing them, because what really matters to me is what matters to you. (Or, I get someone else to talk to you about them, thus Kerri Karvetski is teaching our Facebook webinars!)

So what’s a good way to deal with this?

1. Measure the right things. 

Your personal boredom with your formulaic appeal letters is irrelevant, if they keep raising good money. You should always tweak and test to see if you can do better, but never abandon a winning formula just because you are bored.

2. Listen constantly.

If you are good listener, you’ll know when both you AND the people you are talking to are bored — or approaching boredom anyway. Then you should move on.

3. Experiment with little bets. 

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative – far from it. I think it means that you employ the little bets strategy instead. Take little risks. Try out something really different, but for a limited time, or with a smaller part of your constituency, or as an A-B test to your list.

How do you fight boredom with the stuff that is still working?