I know, I know!
We can’t have all three.
I’m with you.
We’ve all seen the Venn diagrams plastered in articles, blog posts, and essays, reminding us that there is a dark void where these three variables are supposed to coexist.
And yet, that mindset has a way of masking better options within reach.
The whole debate is like a wide-load truck, taking up three lanes of our mental bandwidth, forcing us to stare at its backend and miss the beautiful scenery beyond it.
One reason this debate limits our perspective goes back to the way we conceptualize the problem. The other boils down to the language used to diagnose the issue and describe its solution.
Word choices matter. They can imply limits where none exist. Much like being offered chocolate or vanilla ice cream at a party, you’re happy with your choice until someone walks up from behind and says, “I’ll take strawberry instead.”
Wait. No one said that was an option!
True. But no one said it wasn’t an option either.
It all boils down to how the question is phrased, doesn’t it? The word “or” implies the request is limited to two choices.
In this post, we’re going to take a fresh look at an old problem, but only for the sake of bypassing that wide-load truck blocking our view of the horizon. Who knows, maybe with a better view of the landscape, you’ll go on to discover additional options beyond the one we present in the article―there are plenty. If that’s the case, be sure to come back and post your findings in the comments section.
A New Lens
When entrepreneurs want something good done fast, and cheap, what are the pain points they’re trying to ease with these requests?
Going to the source of the problem is the first step in bypassing the blockers in our way.
I Want Something Good
Most of the time, a request for something good is a business’s way of addressing quality control issues. Businesses want to offer their prospects quality products or services because that’s what builds a positive brand image. Even when the product or service is “cheap,” companies still look for ways to promise quality to their prospects.
Take McDonald’s, for example. The company serves “cheap” food, both in cost and in nutritional value. However, they portray the consumption of their food as a “rich” sensory experience.
Their commercials feature crisp images of their food looking fresh and perfect: sizzling beef patties, flexible and juicy, sitting on a warm fluffy bun; deep red tomatoes that look like they were plucked right off the vine and sliced to make your sandwich; bright green lettuce, freshly washed and so crisp it crackles under the pressure of a hand pressing everything together.
Next, they zoom in on their soft drinks, magnifying the sound of every little pop until you can practically feel those tiny bubbles of sweetness dancing along your tongue.
The closer? They cut to shots of happy people sharing a meal with friends or an individual quietly savoring their meal alone in their “happy place.”
Now, before you rush out the door to get a burger, let’s agree on one thing: serious businesses look for ways to promise their prospects some level of quality.
When they’re asking for something good, they’re asking for something that makes the prospect happy.
Do we really need to kick quality out of the picture when “fast” and “cheap” enter the scene? Let’s see…
I Need It Done Fast!
When a business puts in a request for something to be done quickly, on the surface, it might seem like time is of the essence (it is), but the real gain they’re after is most likely relevance or opportunity.
Waiting too long to get an idea out carries the risk of losing relevance over time. The other risk of waiting too long is that another company could seize the opportunity to be first to market with an innovative idea while your business is stuck tinkering with the same thought.
When we dig a little deeper, we find that entrepreneurs don’t rush requests because they lack respect for craftsmanship, talent, or artistry, but rather, they have their sights on a lure that is quickly vanishing in the distance. They need to work with someone who can move fast enough to help them chase it down.
One myth creating blockers for many is that all good things take time, or if an asset takes a while to create, then it must be good. Deep down, we know that’s not always the case.
While some good things take more time to create, and the scope of a project could influence how much time goes into making it good―fast is a relative term.
The context and nature of your project determine what “fast” looks like. Amateurs take a relatively long time to put out subpar work, while masters of their craft can yield high-quality work in relatively little time, making them a valuable resource.
For instance, a published author can complete a nonfiction book in six months, on average, or a fiction book in roughly twelve months. Yet, some authors can write a book of equal quality in two months. Why? Because they’ve mastered their skill and streamlined their processes. These authors produce results relatively fast, and their uncommon skills are incredibly valuable.
Think also of street artists who create stunning pictures or bizarrely accurate caricatures in less than 10 minutes.
While these examples are simple, the idea here is not to automatically resign yourself to the idea that fast and good can never coexist. There are times when they can. Evaluate the context around each project so that you’re not missing opportunities to have something done well and quickly.
“I already know you can have good and fast,” you say. “But it won’t come cheap!”
Well… about that. Let’s recap what we’ve seen thus far and then address the elephant in the room.
At this point, we’ve established that a request for something good is really a request for a level of quality that stands to please the customer. The request for a job to be done fast is really a desire to stay relevant and capitalize on opportunities to be first to market. As for the dreaded request for something “cheap”…
Can You Do It Cheaper?
The word “cheap” is like a mule. It’s loaded with so much baggage we lose sight of everything it carries. Like when the word is used to describe something of inferior quality (not what we’re after) or to describe someone’s handling of money as being frugal to a fault (not how we want to be perceived).
If we bypass the word “cheap” and look at what motivates its use, we find business owners aren’t truly looking to save a buck. What they’re really after is value, profitability, and affordability.
Most of the time, when a small business asks for services “done cheap,” it’s because their budget is tight, and they cannot afford to come out of pocket to finance the creation of a product or service the way they want to. Plus, there’s a bit of mental baggage cluttering their thought process.
You see, some business owners consider value to be the same as profitability. So they try to create the biggest gap they can between the cost of the product and its price. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but push your luck too far, and the game is a bust. You lose value, which directly affects the profitability of what you’re creating.
If there was a way to create the product or service you wanted without killing your budget, compromising on value, or holding profitability hostage, would you still ask creatives to limit their abilities and just make something “cheap” for you?
Value is determined by more than the difference between cost and price. Additional factors that contribute to the value of an asset created for your business are:
Originality and Creativity
Whether reconfiguring old ideas in new ways or acting on divine inspiration to create an asset for your business, novelty attracts prospects, and it does its part to drive sales. When we push for “cheap,” we kill all incentives for creatives to draw on the full range of their talents to produce high-value work for the business.
From lifetime memberships to an indestructible toy, working durability into your offer might not come “cheap,” but it yields a more profitable product or service. Customers value what doesn’t need to be repeatedly repurchased, fixed, or replaced, which translates to an increase in the lifetime value of the customer. They are more likely to purchase again and spend more with brands that provide durable products or services.
Investing in solutions that simplify your prospect’s life usually has them whipping out their credit cards to make a purchase. Ingenuity is often the driving force behind products that are said to sell themselves.
When businesses insist on getting things done “cheap,” they often kill many elements that contribute to the very thing they’re after: value and profitability.
While originality, durability, and ingenuity don’t come cheap, they are certainly affordable with the right approach.
By swapping out the word “cheap” for “affordable,” our perspective broadens, and we end up with elements that can fill the void in the middle of that dreaded Venn diagram.
So, what’s the approach?
Say Hello to Value-Based Pricing
Although the concept of value-based pricing isn’t new, entrepreneurs could stand to use it more.
To be clear, value-based pricing doesn’t invalidate the good vs. fast vs. cheap conundrum. It simply side-steps the squabble between those three variables and forges a new path toward profitability.
What is value-based pricing, and how does it benefit your business?
Value-based pricing is a strategy of setting prices primarily based on a consumer’s perceived value of a product or service. (Dholakia 2022)
A classic example of this concept in action involves charging more for a product or service based on what the customer is willing to pay. Their willingness to pay more is based on their perceived value of the product or service; however, there is a way to apply this principle that makes it mutually beneficial in business-to-business arrangements.
Thanks to influencers like Chris Do, Blair Enns, and others, more creatives are willing to produce assets for your business by agreeing to transactions that resemble affiliate marketing payouts.
By setting fees relative to the asset’s profitability, their service remains affordable, no matter how much they are compensated for their work.
Imagine launching a brand-new online course. You’ve got everything put together, and all you need is for someone to design a high-converting landing page to sell the course. You find a copywriter on a freelance platform, and here’s the deal: they’ll do all the work you need, to the best of their creative ability, for a small deposit (affordable) and 10% of the revenue generated by the page. Would you take the deal? Post your thoughts in the comments section.
What if they take no deposit but ask for 25% of the revenue generated by the page? Would you prefer a deal like that instead?
In either case, the fee paid to the creative is relative to the profitability of the asset they make for you, ensuring that it is always affordable. The creative also has a vested interest in the success of that asset, so they are likely to draw on the full range of their abilities to see it thrive.
Why fight over good, cheap, and fast, when you can have good, fast, and affordable? In other words, why play the game with the three cards you’ve been dealt? Reach into the deck and pick another card.
Caution! Don’t kill your golden goose.
Creatives and service providers who make high-value, high-quality, high-converting assets for your business can be difficult to find. When you find the right person or company for the job, pay them well and pay them on time. Always nurture their incentive to create high-quality work for you.
While value-based pricing can take on many forms—and it is not the answer to every scenario out there—it does create an avenue for you to get what you need, when you need it, without sacrificing quality or affordability.
The next time someone limits your outlook by telling you what you can’t have, or by using language that doesn’t reflect what you’re aiming for, kindly remind them of what you can have and focus on actions that support your true intentions.