20 Cheap Ways to Be Excellent

The words cheap and excellent certainly don’t go together very often. And personally I don’t put too much value on being cheap (instead I strive to be effective). That said, there are ways to give excellence without spending much money.

Seth Godin recently published a great post called Improving Your Condiments with the premise being that while technically you’re selling the hot dog, the customer really values what goes with it as much if not more. Packaging, service, environment…excellence… does matter.

Here are 20 ways to be excellent without spending much money if any.

Make sure to contribute what you think could be #21 in the comments!

1. Business Cards

Stop it with the crappy business cards. So you didn’t know it’s not okay to print your business cards at home on thin paper and then give to someone else while telling them you’re a ‘professional’… that’s ok… now you know. Throw them away and put out a little money for some decent business cards. They don’t have to be plastic business cards like I use, but hey, that makes me stand out.

2. Voice Mail Greeting

Have you listened to your voice mail greeting lately? Do it and adjust as needed.

3. Telephone Greeting

How do you answer your phone? “Hello” probably doesn’t cut it. If you say “yo” and you’re not Vanilla Ice, please throw your phone in the toilet – you’re safer without it.

4. Profile Picture

Take 2-3 hours out of your day to go out with a friend and take decent pictures that you can use on your profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc). Cropping your ex-girlfriend out of that night at the club is not okay.. even if you are wearing a tie.

5. Grammar & Punctuation in Email, Status Updates, etc

I’m not great here… but I do try. Email and status updates are the main way many of us communicate with customers and clients. Take a little time to make each message as excellent as you can.

6. Posture

Stand up straight. Talk about a cheap fix.

7. Under Promise. Over Deliver.

Easy to say, hard to do. It works.

8. Complete Company Profiles

Are your company (or personal) profile descriptions complete? Think about your bio on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Take an hour of intentional time to write a standard which is professional, then update all your profiles.

9. Stock Images

If you’re taking the time to write a blog post that you want people to read, spend $1-3 and have a professional image to go with it.

10. Prepare

Most of us can just show up and do okay. It’s amazing though what a little preparation time can do.

11. Dress to Impress [Upon]

It’s about them, not you. So what type of impression are you giving them of you?

12. Be On Time

I miss this one too many times, but it’s worth doing what it takes to be on time. While people won’t be impressed that you’re on time, the opposite is pretty damaging.

13. Confirm Receipt of Emails and Give Expectations

If someone makes a request by email, confirm that you received it and let them know what they should expect next. Ex: “Hi Jill. I just wanted to let you know that I received your email this afternoon and we’ll take care of this by Thursday.” (even better if it’s done Wednesday – remember the whole under-promise thing)

14. Smell Good


15. Send Thank You Cards

It’s amazing what old fashioned mail does for how someone thinks about you.

16. Remember Names

My name’s Avin.

17. Always Pay

Coffee with a client? Pay. Dinner? Pay. Golf? Pay. I promise you that $2 on your end can make a big difference in closing $2,000 on their end.

18. Be Expensive

If you’re cheap it’s hard to deliver the goods with excellence. It’s up to you, but I’d rather be excellent, effective, and kick-tail for our clients than be cheap.

19. Reflect

After a meeting or call, take 2-10 minutes to reflect on it, outline what was said that was important to the other person, and note next steps. Most people are onto the next without making the most of the time with a little reflection.

20. 1-Year Gifts

Send a gift after 1 year of beginning a professional relationship. Impressive.

Any Suggestions for #21?

By now you’ve realized that this is not the definite list… and it’s actually pretty random. So help me out here. What suggestions do you have for #21?

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