Cute image of piggy bank starting right at you

The Cost of Cheap


There is a common misconception between Cheap and Inexpensive….not everything has to cost you a preverbal arm and a leg, but there are certain things you should not compromise on when it comes to price.

So let’s start with definitions:

Cheap: adjective  (of an item for sale) Low in price; worth more than its cost.  Synonyms – chintzy, penny-pinching, sparing, stingy, tight, ungenerous)

Inexpensive: adjective not costing a great deal.  Synonyms – low-priced, low-cost, economical, economic, competitive, reasonable.

You might not think there is a great difference, but quality is usually it.  Cheap infers more than a low price, (which is not really the focus of this blog) but a low quality or compromise.  That is what we want to chat about for a minute. 

In the realm of marketing, there are a number of ‘rules’ to live by….brand usually determines them all. What is your brand voice (the way you speak to both your team and those you serve), your colour palette (if your brand includes a grass green, lime is an off-brand substitute), and your brand promise (the expectation you set about your product or service – both the tangible and intangible value proposition).  These ‘rules’ act as a guide for who and what your business does/looks like/ produces for public consumption.  

In light of these things, your job (or someone in your organization) is to create and build a business that is profitable.  This includes finding the right pieces (truck decals, brochures, branded merchandise, and equipment) that will continue to promote and speak to who you are, and how you do business, but at a fair cost. 

Here are a couple of tips to help you avoid solve a very expensive cheap decision.

  1. If it sounds too good to be true…ask more questions
    Not everything that looks too good to be true is, but there are a number of questions or due-diligence that must be asked to weight risk versus reward.  If the upfront cost is incredible (for a piece of software for example) but turns out to be an ongoing cost that in time becomes a less lucrative choice.  This is true of low cost/low quality printed material that is exposed to the elements (like billboards, trailer and vehicle decals and signage).
  2. Time is money….which is a cost factor.
    I have heard people say “why does that cost $XX when I could do the same thing for half the price?”.  This may be true, but how long will you be searching for this inexpensive product?  I will use myself as an example.  When we had our first son, I searched for my entire first trimester (3 months) for the RIGHT stroller at the RIGHT price.  I found it…but I searched every night for 3 months. If your greatest asset is the time, then the cost of your time needs to be factored into the price.
  3. Long term vs Short term
    This is where cost and quality either matter a lot or can be an inexpensive solution.  Let’s talk about this in 2 scenarios.1. You have a weekend event to host.  Your brand is all about high-quality products, and your product cost is an investment, but you are in need of a couple of event assets that need to represent you well, but will not be used more than 1-2 days.  Here, a cost-effective and less than top quality solution totally works.  Obviously, it cannot look ‘compromised’ as it still needs to speak to your brand quality, but a lower product that will only last the weekend may be a great economic option for its intended use.

    2. You decide to open your construction business (for example…because you need a trailer for that and that works with where I’m going), and your new (pick a brand you love) crew cab truck and trailer are ready to get decals and advertise your skills and general awesomeness. 1 quote is $500 more than the other, but the weather rating on the vinyl used has a 10 year expected lifespan, as opposed to the ‘cheaper’ option, which is 2-5 at best. In this scenario, there are 2 points to consider.

    1. Start where you can start!  Maybe the more inexpensive option is the right one for your startup (and it likely is) knowing your cash flow and profit margin should look much healthier by the time the decals start to fade.

    2. If you are an established business attached to a reputable name and quality offerings, a faded, cracked and peeling decal speaks as a brand choice.  That may sound harsh, but sometimes the higher spend today means you’re not spending that three times over in the lifespan of the higher quality option.  

I suppose the point of all of this is to weigh your brand choices carefully. You don’t have to be a business for this to be true either. There is a cost to everything…and sometimes it’s more than dollars and cents.