Quality over quantity – it’s a simple concept taught to us throughout our formative years – but it’s one that fits like a square peg in a round hole in today’s corporate environment. The reason that it’s so hard to emphasize quality over quantity is simple – businesses are established to make money as quickly as possible and at the highest possible margins. Crafting single high quality products tends to be expensive and time consuming, and must be sold at much higher, less attractive prices to the average consumer in order to be profitable. Lower quality work, produced quickly in outsourced factories with a minimal time commitment per product, tends to be far more profitable, with higher margins as well as a lower, more attractive price point for consumers. Well-known adopters of this business model are Wal-Mart and Target.
However, business managers shouldn’t entirely overlook the importance of quality over quantity. If your product becomes known for its shoddy construction – and due to the Internet, word travels fast – your overall sales will be quickly damaged. Modern consumers are likely to scout out opinions online before purchasing goods – wouldn’t you rather that they be greeted by a stream of favorable comments as opposed to a flood of angry ones? If your product is too cheap, it can also get easily lost in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart alongside a plethora of shoddy, similarly named foreign-made products.
Let’s take a look at a few examples where quality over quantity has prevailed. In the auto industry, BMW’s business model of selling well-crafted luxury cars in tiers has become a standard for companies wishing to emphasize product quality. BMW offers its flagship vehicles in three flavors – the compact 3 series, the mid-size 5-series and luxury 7-series – all aimed at different markets. In addition, it sells sporty Mini hatchbacks as well as the ultra-luxurious Rolls-Royce in order to appeal to the lower and higher ends of the pricing spectrum, respectively. BMW’s clear separation of its tiers, all while retaining an aura of overall luxury, was the inspiration for Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple in the late 1990s. At Apple, Jobs mimicked BMW’s tiered pricing system with his computer and iPod lines. BMW and Apple are shining examples that offering a quality product on multiple pricing levels can attract the maximize amount of customers at premium prices.
A large part of product quality stems from product design. You need to have a product design team that can create attractive designs while keeping costs under control. Your aim should be to create the illusion of an expensive product which is actually cheap to manufacture. This does not mean to cut corners and decrease quality. Instead, you should decrease the amount of necessary components, streamline the design and eliminate redundancies. Johnathan Ive, the head designer at Apple, is a master of this concept. By simply replacing the cheap plastic exteriors of its computer products with sleek, airbrushed aluminum and minimizing the amount of visible screws, he set his products miles above the rest, and customers lined up to pay the “Apple premium” for his futuristic looking products – such as the iPad, iPhone and iMac. Customers will come back if your product feels good in their hands.
Quality over quantity – it’s an age old lesson that too many of us choose to ignore. Although sacrificing the former for the latter may grant you a few short-term profits, you’ll quickly run out of steam when customers fail to come back. Favoring quality over quantity will increase your company’s reputation and increase product loyalty, which will keep your business sustainable in the long run.