Do it fast, do it cheap, do it well: pick two. (But which two?)

2 min read

It’s the same, old story. The story we’ve been telling since the Earth was cooling. We all want the stuff we buy, from hardware to hamburgers, to be great. But we want it now, and we don’t want to pay a lot for it.

And it never works that way. So we invoke the “pick two” rule. You can have it fast and cheap, fast and good, or cheap and good–but the third leg of the tripod is always going to suffer.

But that doesn’t mean that the pressure to make everything fast, cheap and good doesn’t continue to exist. In marketing today, thanks to changing media and a struggling economy, the pressure is extreme to get work done done quickly, and cheaply, and well. Something’s gotta give.

So what should give?

It’s getting tougher and tougher to sacrifice speed, especially in the Internet economy. Yesterday’s tweet is useless; you can’t even line a bird cage with it. In one way or another, messaging on the web makes sense for most marketers. But you have to do it fast, and you have to continue doing it fast. If you sacrifice speed, you risk being irrelevant.

Lots of marketers sacrifice quality. They don’t employ proficient writers or content developers. They let the interns tweet and update their Facebook pages. They’re lazy, uninteresting bloggers. They develop mundane, safe advertising. They operate on the theory that any advertising is good advertising.

Unfortunately, they’re wrong. Bad advertising and sloppy promotion can hurt your cause. It can influence potential customers to think poorly of you–if they think of you at all.

Which leaves cheapness. Which, in our opinion, is the thing you should sacrifice.

Which probably seems a little self-serving. But stay with me for a minute.

Good marketing should always work better than mediocre marketing. Excellent creative work should always perform better than boring creative work. You’re never doing yourself any favors by sacrificing quality.

So you should pay a little more for it. You should work with professionals you trust to understand your challenges and come up with smart solutions. You should understand that good advice costs more because it’s more valuable than crummy advice. That it helps you get the results you want, in a way that poor-quality work or slow work never can.

Of course, this advice doesn’t apply to everything. Most of us eat fast food every now and again. It’s cheap–but we don’t expect it to be excellent.

In our minds, though, marketing should never be fast food. Increasingly, it has to perform quickly, and it has to be pointed and thoughtful and relevant. So don’t be afraid to pay a little more. The payoff will be worth the extra money.