Do you ever notice that there are no awards shows in the advertising industry for being the fastest?
Do you ever notice there are none for being the cheapest?
I do, however, notice a whole lot of awards for being the most creative. Or the most effective.
Clios. One Show. Addys. Effies. Cannes. And so on.
Some of us get lucky enough to hoist these awards high in front of our peers and put them in our offices. And let’s face it with no apologies. It feels really, really good.
When it comes down to it, you will never get awarded for being the cheapest and you will never get awarded for being the fastest. It’s not even a great thing to get referred for – when I actually was, it was a disaster.
I actually had someone stand up in front of a room – more than once – and do this:
“Dan is great and I only had to pay him $____!” Oh no. You didn’t. It was the worst “compliment” I could’ve ever received.
Point being, it’s up to you whether you want to enter a formal awards show, but what matters more for positioning and a referral is valuing quality over price or speed. Some say, “It can be about quality, speed or price. You can have 2 but not all 3.”
Sure, you can have two of those, but in the end, there’s really only one that matters.
Strive to be about quality. That’s it.
Because quality is what’s ultimately the most fulfilling to you.
Because quality is what’s the most referable.
Because quality enables you to command greater leverage on taking more precious time you rarely have.
Because quality gets you to a place where you can command more money.
Or perhaps you don’t want fulfillment, referrals, quality time and greater income. If not, my mistake.
Did I say that focusing on quality first and foremost gives us license to take as much as time as we like? Oh no. Did I say we always get what we want money-wise? Unfortunately, not always.
But there are going to be people around us that pressure us for that ad now, now, now. There are going to be prospects who pressure us on price and shoot lines our way like, “If you do this for a little (or a lot) less now, I know a lot of people/there will be a lot of more work like this to come.”
You can play these games and see if it works out. But I also see people who get burned by this song-and-dance of “risk now and hope for something better later.”
How do you avoid giving into these pressures? It’s not easy. But I reached a point in my career – with the help of some very supportive mentors, colleagues, friends and family (you know who you are) – where I had unwavering faith in my own talent to stay strong and believe in what I was charging and how long I needed to do it right. From that moment on, I was done trying to be known, intentionally or not, as the guy who could do more in less time.
Because being that guy did nothing for me. It paid me no dividends. It earned me no referrals.
Why? Because I wasn’t positioning myself as the guy built for quality, even though what I was producing was high quality. I was positioning myself for speed and probably some value first. The quality guy I knew I was was suffering and I didn’t realize it.
So yes, that means you have to gently and diplomatically push back on price and timelines. I’m not saying to be a jerk about it. I’m saying to negotiate in your best interests rather than putting on a paper hat and asking if you may take their order. You have to be clear as day on what you’re providing for the time required.
The “Anybody Who Wants My Services” Problem
You also have to constantly work on thinking about who you want and don’t want to work with. If you don’t define this, I have found there is a direct correlation between working with people who tend to be cheap and speedy vs. people who respect and value quality. And why wouldn’t there be when it’s clear you’ll take anybody who comes through the door?
The way to begin thinking this issue is through what’s called a Buyer Persona. Think about the most enjoyable client relationship you’ve ever had. It doesn’t have to be a relationship you still have at your current company.
Think about that person and where they stand in their organization. Consider the challenges they face in a day and why they chose you in the first place. Who else were they thinking about choosing? Are there any other challenges they deal with internally that might influence the direction of your relationship?
Now think about the top 5-10 of those Buyer Personas.
What’s the common thread that runs through those people?
What common traits do they possess? Don’t just think about on-the-surface stuff like age, title and location. What are the behavioral and emotional aspects they share considering they are going to choose you based on behaviors and emotions you elicit? You will have to dig deeper for this. But it’s worth it.
These are the people who represent the bulls-eye on the dartboard or close to it. The people who are more likely to see your services as an investment rather than a cost. I am continually working to understand them better, speak to them better and customize my offerings around them better. They don’t represent just “anybody.”
Your strategic partners need to understand that too – so they can get the value you bring to the table and be advocates for your brand when you’re not in the room. Hold them to this and make sure they get it. Meet with them monthly or quarterly. It’s probably best if they don’t place a huge value on being the cheapest or the fastest, because they may not get where you’re coming from and it wouldn’t jive with what you value most.
At the end of the day, when you are standing there with your award or a glowing email from your client for a job well done or a promotion, not many people will remember the mini-battles you had to fight to carve a little more time and a little more money. I suppose someone could say, “Yeah, he did an outstanding job and the client loves it, but he was a couple hours too slow on that one day.” But that’s getting into some petty territory if you ask me.
If we’re lucky to do what we love for a living, we get a small window of time to do it. And once it’s over, how do you want them to talk about you? That you were the cheapest? That you were the fastest?
I didn’t think so.