• Curt Mercadante

Excellent, Fast, and Cheap?

Good. Fast. Cheap.

Pick two.

It's long been some of the simplest advice to setting expectations with your clients so you can scale your business.

It's also some of the toughest advice to put into practice, especially for entrepreneurs who want to bend over backwards to please their clients.

These days, however, thanks to technology and an increasingly global marketplace, I think it's time to revise the advice.

Today, you can have GOOD, fast and cheap.

But you can't necessarily have EXCELLENT, fast, and cheap.

Of course, it depends on your market and your expectations.

If you're a business owner who needs a basic, one-or-two-page Web site – you can certainly find a designer who can provide one that's good, fast, and cheap.

And you can buy good, fast, and cheap local online advertising using dashboards provided by Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

These days, you can find good, fast, and cheap service providers of every type on a variety of freelancer Web sites.

There are plenty of commodity brands out there who will provide good (enough), fast, and cheap. These brands are happy to compete on price, and grind through a mass of clients to hopefully turn a profit.

But excellent, fast, and cheap? That's another matter.

If you're truly building an authority brand, you won't attempt to provide all three.

Perhaps you'll end up having a product or service that costs less than someone else in your industry, but cost isn't your defining characteristic.

With my former agency, we were paid hefty retainers to help our clients by strategically managing their public relations and advertising programs.

Were we the only agency engaged in public relations and advertising? Of course not.

Were there other agencies in our industry who charged less? Absolutely.

But our authority didn't just lie in the product or service we offered. The authority for which our clients paid us had to do with the strategic counsel we provided; it lied in the fact that we were a trusted advisor; it lied within the unique ideas we had for how to have a positive impact on our clients.

Our clients paid us for excellence. Some even paid enough for us to provide excellent services fast.

But clients who also wanted cheap — weren't our clients for very long.

The key was owning who we were.

The key is knowing you are an authority.

Then you're better able to community that authority to attract your ideal clients, and then set the expectation of "Excellent, Fast, Cheap — Pick Two" on the front end.

Perhaps you'll have an Platinum-Level offering that is Excellent and Fast.

Then a Silver-Level Offering that is Fast and Cheap.

The client chooses and pays you accordingly.

When you set the expectation with your client up front and you draw that line in the sand, you do so for the long-term health of your relationship with that client, and your business.

It takes the confidence and willingness to have your potential client say "NO" and look elsewhere to find excellent, fast, and cheap (they won't).

It takes the confidence to know you can create the type of company you want to create with the clients whom you want to serve.

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