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Speed, price, quality—pick three

By Matt Demers
July 15, 2022

Speed, price, quality—pick three

You’ve heard the old axiom: “Speed, price, quality—pick two.” People call it “the unattainable triangle” and “the iron triangle.” Whatever you call it, it points to a basic truth for some businesses. But it’s not the most useful lens for looking at the creative-services business. Here’s why.

They’re not on/off switches.

“Pick two” suggests that speed, price, and quality are like on/off switches. It suggests that a product or service is delivered with speed or not, that its price is right or not, and that it has quality or not.

In fact, these three characteristics are more like adjustable dials. While a service can be delivered quickly or slowly, it can also be delivered just in time. The price of a product can be not especially low but still acceptable for the client. And somewhere between the highest and lowest quality, you can dial in the right level and type of quality.

The old saying’s main point is that a customer or client cannot be pleased on all three fronts. But we do this all the time—by dialing in just the right amounts of speed, cost, and quality.

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Adjust all three to client needs.

In our creative shop, we produce solution briefs, presentations, product videos, social media content, banner ads, email messages, and more for the marketing managers and directors of AWS, Dell Technologies, HPE, NetApp, and other tech companies. The speed, price, and quality of the work we do are defined by the niche we serve.

Speed and price

To succeed in this B2B tech marketing niche, we need to move quickly, just as the B2B tech world does. We also need to work with our clients’ fixed budgets and rates.

We do both things well and have earned a reputation for being as fast and affordable as our clients need us to be—a reputation that fuels a lot of word-of-mouth marketing for us.

But, in choosing to do business with us, have our clients chosen speed and price at the expense of quality? Have they merely “picked two”? Nope.

Quality, too

Across the marketing world, definitions of creative quality have plenty in common. There’s generally no place in marketing for lousy grammar or typos, for example. But definitions of creative quality can vary when you look across industries, organizations, target audiences, marketing goals, and other factors.

In the B2B tech marketing niche we know, the definition of creative quality has a few special characteristics, including, for example, these two:

  • Technical heft—The products and solutions we help to market are complex, and we target an audience of knowledgeable tech pros. So, the messages and info we deliver are complex—and must be accurate and complete.
  • Extreme brand compliance—Most of the brands we work with are well established, with a look and feel that’s thoroughly defined by brand design guides, editorial guides, and design templates. Our work must adhere to our clients’ brand standards and earn approval from their in-house brand experts.

We succeed at our work in large part because we understand these and all aspects of our clients’ definition of quality and because we’ve assembled the people, processes, and systems we need to deliver on it.

Go ahead. Pick three.

If you work with creative partners, you can go ahead and toss the old “iron triangle” into the nearest recycling bin. It’s not too much to ask a creative partner to fit itself to your definition of quality, without dialing down too much on speed or up too much on price.

It’s reasonable to expect a mix of the three that works for you.