Responsible Marketing

The Patto Approach: The cure for paralysis by analysis

By March 19, 2008August 19th, 20203 Comments

George S. Patton sez, get outta yer rut!

A few years ago, Outsource Marketing fell into a little rut.

We suffered from classic paralysis by analysis as we fussed over everything from positioning to ad copy to font treatment to the air around the logo. We bickered over the types of research we were doing and if we included all the questions we needed to include in a survey. We fiddled with creative concepts and conducted rounds of revisions upon past revisions.

I’m not sure how or why we got there, but it might be because we’re a mostly detail-oriented lot, and one of our values is indeed “we champion better ways of doing things—for ourselves and for our clients.”

It was brutal, and it was beginning to hurt morale. “Where are our best practices? We’re supposed to be a well-oiled machine!” we told ourselves. “Where’s my super team?” I wondered. Of course, charging our clients for our indecision wouldn’t have been responsible. After all, it wasn’t their fault we had caught a bad case of perfectionitis.

Then one day, my partner Bill Boyd forwarded me an email a client had sent him. Its content wasn’t the thing he wanted to share, it was the small block of text in the footer below the signature block that stood out:

“A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.” -General George S. Patto

The irony of the dropped “n” in Patton’s name helped drive the message home, and the conspiracy theorist in me thinks Bill did it on purpose. Intentional or not, it worked. We got tangible value even though the quote wasn’t perfect, and our slump ended almost immediately.

“Patto it” is now a part of Outsource Marketing’s culture. It’s our shorthand for, “Hey, I know you’ve done more than your due diligence on this one, but you are beginning to spin your wheels and you aren’t improving anything. Your work is good, you’re just too close to it to know it. Time to move on.”

I’m not condoning quick and dirty. To the contrary, we won’t work without a plan and our #2 corporate value is “We always work from strategy.” There’s plenty of detailed analysis being done and we take the steps necessary to do marketing right. Yes, we’re still obsessive, and if our clients witnessed the internal battles we have on their behalf they’d be shocked.

But we simply won’t let the pursuit of perfection stand in the way of good marketing.

How do you break out of a rut? I’d love to hear about it.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Oops – looks like you did a Patto.

    In this sentence, containing “beginning spin” you were missing an “to”!

    Is that what you meant? 😉

    I can’t help but tease. OMG! These are the types of mistakes I make, too, in trying to get a blog article posted, or other email correspondence.

    We’re all human, right?


  • Doh! Fixed.

    Nice catch, Scott.


  • This reminds me of an experience I had working for a Silicon Valley startup. To create awareness of a celebrity-driven contest, I proposed running an ad in a Hollywood magazine that would have cost $3000 — nothing for a company with $30 million in funding. The so-called VP of Marketing (a former engineer with an MBA) would break out in hives whenever she heard the word “advertising.” She insisted that I create a spreadsheet with projections of potential ROI using multiple scenarios. Based on my salary at that time, the spreadsheet wound up costing $500. She then looked ONLY at my “worst case scenario” and rejected the campaign. The contest got only a few dozen submissions. I left the company shortly afterwards.

Leave a Reply