1280px-Experience_Music_Project_ceiling_02I don’t know if you have a chance to follow Seth Godin’s blog, but his post today really got me thinking.  He talked about the tradeoffs between being consistent, or being excellent.

Yeah, I know, you do both.  You have an amazing company, which is consistently excellent.  Unlike every other business in your industry, you’re able to actually deliver what your vision says.  Every day.  And make a great profit too.

For the REST of us, it’s a daily struggle.

We have to make a choice.

So the question is:  If you have a choice, would it be for excellence, or for consistency?  Either one can be a great choice, any balance between the two.  But realize the tradeoff you’re making.

If you emphasize consistency, then you may make a broad range of customers reasonably happy.  Not ecstatic, but satisfied.  I don’t know anyone who’s a raving fan of McDonald’s, but when you need consistent quality and experience, you’ll get it.

If you emphasize excellence, then you’re not going to be able to do it all the time.  In fact, you may have some real screwups.  You’ll polarize customers, but the people who are raving fans will forgive your failings and continue to refer people to you.  Others may hate your guts, but it’ll be OK because you don’t have to serve every person on the planet.

How do you choose?  A major factor is to let the market decide.  People generally want consistency in their financial affairs, avoiding risk.  When we looked for a venue for our daughter’s wedding, reliability was a significant factor.

For a product or service which is highly personalized – restaurants, music, and so on – there’s more of a chance that you can differentiate through excellent experiences in a certain area.

But it’s not an all-or-nothing thing.  If you deliver life insurance, there’s still space for having the personalized experience being a deciding factor.  And consumers do expect a certain amount of consistency from entertainers, lest they lose interest.

So where do YOU want to be on this balancing act?