Quality versus quantity

One software company I know insists on going nose to nose with its competitors on a feature by feature basis. Their CEO believes that new product features must be released monthly in order to impress customers with the company's speed and innovation. Sounds great, right? The problem is that achieving this goal means remarkably short development and testing cycles- too short to ensure a quality product. Every month, the total number of defects (bugs) in the product keeps creeping inexorably upward. The company soon realized this and began releasing weekly fixes but the number of outstanding defects continues to rise.

Another company, a startup, is facing the real need to launch its initial offering and sales presentations in order to begin generating revenue. There is a lot to do, few people to do it all, and even less time before their initial seed capital runs out. Everyone is scrambling, putting in incredibly long hours to get this enterprise off the ground. A significant percentage of that time is spent going back over previously completed projects to resolve show-stopper problems because this company only gets one chance to make a first impression.

The builders of the first transcontinental railroad prided themselves on being able to lay up to ten miles of track per day. This seems a Herculean feat until one pauses to consider that this progress came at the expense of poorly built bridges and tracks laid right across frozen rivers that nobody realized were there until the spring thaw.

The lesson is clear: Measure twice, cut once. Revisiting prior work is a tremendous waste of time and resources. You don't need to go toe to toe with your competition. Define a narrow niche for yourself and become known for offering the absolute best product within that niche. Let your competitors chase their tails trying to be all things to all people while you slide under the radar to become some things to a few people. Who cares how many millions of users you have in how many countries? I've said this before and I'll say it again: Great marketing for a shoddy product is the best way to guarantee one's own demise. I've seen this happen dozens of times and am sad to be seeing it happen yet again.

Implement processes and make sure they're followed. How do you develop and release product? Who in the company is responsible for what? Exactly what kind of decision-making authority does each person have? How, when, and why should someone seek input or approval for a decision? Establishing this up front prevents too many cooks from stirring the pot and causing confusion and delay. The second company in this example has the entire executive team weighing in on everything. Great ideas abound as does disagreement and miscommunication. This creates a lot more work for people, which leads to exhaustion, which means that problems often slip past unnoticed.

One of my favorite movie lines of all times comes from Jurassic Park when one of the scientists points out that people have been so focused on whether they can create the park and engineer living dinosaurs that nobody paused to consider whether they should. Mayhem ensues.

All companies, yours included, are under enormous pressure to evolve and grow. Competitors lurk around every corner waiting to pounce. Customers constantly demand bigger better faster cheaper (thanks in no small part to effective marketing campaigns such as yours.) My longtime readers know my philosophy: Evolve or die.

The key is intelligent design. Evolve, yes, but not without creating and following a method and a plan. Wow your customers with your rock-solid quality instead of the sheer number of bells and whistles. Let your competitors trip all over themselves and use their bumbling to your advantage in your own marketing campaigns. Don't react to every little change. Relax. Move with a purpose.

On a personal note, I own a minivan laden with cool features that I of course paid extra for. If only they all worked reliably! I'd much rather own a plainer vehicle that didn't break down so freaking often. Whether they'll admit or not, your customers feel the same way. That's a promise.

Take all the time you need to ensure solid quality and follow a solid process to eliminate bottlenecks and confusion. The amount of time and money you'll save will astound you.

Learn how ancient survival instincts guide everything you do and how to use those instincts to your advantage. My books, The Enlightened Savage: Using Primal Instincts for Personal and Business Success and Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets are available from and , respectively, or from your favorite bookseller.

Coming soon: The Natural Savage (Winter 2007) and More Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets (Fall 2007).

Anthony Hernandez is a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Association Business Coach with over 20 years of business and marketing experience. He lives in Ashland with his wife Robyn, son Logan, and their two dogs.

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