Following the  “Good, Fast, Cheap” rule can rapidly solidify or dissolve your brand, depending on how you prioritize the three prongs.

The “Good, Fast, Cheap” rule has long been used in industries such as construction and systems development, and is relevant for businesspeople and consumers alike. For those of you unfamiliar, here’s a quick explanation:

There are three types of service: Good, Fast, and Cheap. You can pick two.

Simple as that. You just can’t have it all–nor can you deliver it all, without experiencing other tradeoffs in your life.

Like a bike (strong, light and cheap), food (cheap, healthy, tasty) or housing (location, price, appeal)–the rule holds true in most situations.

Burn out or devalue

Certainly, there are things in life that deliver all three (like Twitter), but chances are, there was an initial prioritization in the development phase (Twitter’s base infrastructure, initial reliability/security).

Good and Fast:
Delivering services that are good and fast will force you to juggle, postpone or cancel other jobs. It can be done, but it will cost you.

Good and Cheap:
Delivering services that are good and cheap will put you out of business–unless you give yourself enough time so you can continue working for others who are paying you.

Fast and Cheap
Delivering services that are fast and cheap typically means you won’t have enough time to put in your best effort. You get what you pay for…

Offering only good, only fast, or only cheap will put you out of business. Offering all three is a sure fire way to burn yourself out, devalue your efforts, and allow yourself to be taken for granted.

To solidify your brand, choose the two most important to you, practice those two consistently, and get the word out with great messaging. Consistency in your two chosen areas is like a magnet for prospects with similar priorities. Inconsistency and wishy-washy dependability are automatic repellents to referrals and new business.

If you can’t decide which two most represent you, there are two other approaches you can take:

  1. Set up a pricing model that allows your customer to decide. Put premiums on projects requested with shorter deadlines, or on projects that must be the absolute best quality available.
  2. Integrate a balanced model and set clear expectations. Paying clients deserve two out of three. For example, if a deadline is missed, you can save your reputation by charging less or offering a credit on the next project.

The bottom line is to prioritize and be consistent in order to build a better brand.