Everyone knows that if you over-promise and under-deliver, it kills your credibility with clients. But what about the reverse? What if you under-promise and over-deliver — giving them more than they expected or were promised?
Sounds like a good plan, right? But delivering more than what’s promised often comes with it’s own set of issues.
Many people in business like the idea of delivering more than what’s promised to customers.
The idea is that if you deliver more than what they expected or better than what was promised, most clients will be happy. And that’s probably true.
Years ago, when I was in New Orleans, I was introduced to the concept of lagniappe — it’s a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase. It’s like a little extra or bonus. Similar to the idea of a baker’s dozen — where you buy a dozen donuts and the baker throws in an extra one.
When it happens, it’s very nice. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel special. Very endearing.
But if you know in advance that you’re going to be giving your customers more than they expected, or more than they’re paying for, why not let them know that up front so they can make their buying decisions based on all the facts?
In a previous podcast, I talked about the disconnect that often exists between marketing, sales and production, where marketing offers one thing, sales promises something else and production delivers something that doesn’t resemble either of those things.
Imagine if the ads for McDonald’s restaurants encouraged you to come in for gourmet food, the person taking your order then promised you healthy food, and then the counter attendant handed you a Big Mac. It’s a pretty extreme example, but it’s a good illustration of what happens when there’s a disconnect between what’s promised and what’s delivered.
Even if the example were reversed — If they promised you a Big Mac and then delivered a lean, beautifully cooked filet mignon, you might love it, but you might also be thinking, “this is not what we discussed.” You might also be wondering what you should expect the next time you come in and order a Big Mac.
And that’s the problem with delivering anything other than what you promise. It can make them wonder about the disconnect and why you didn’t just tell them what you were going to deliver to them in the first place.
So if you know you’re going to delivering an exceptional experience, why not offer that in your marketing, promise it during the sales process and then have production deliver it?
That creates consistency, which many clients value more than anything else. We need to be able to trust that what we’ll be getting is what we’re promised.
By promising and delivering something great, they can be happy throughout the entire process, rather than potentially being concerned up front and then being pleasantly surprised upon delivery. Or vice-versa.
Also, if you develop a pattern of under-promising and over-delivering, people may come to expect it. Let’s say you promise five day delivery, but consistently deliver in three days. Sounds great, but what if I become used to that? I place my order, now fully expecting it to arrive in three days, but for some reason, it takes four. Now I’m disappointed.
You may say, “but I promised five day delivery, it’s still a day early!”
Maybe. But if you got me used to something else, you may be setting yourself up for trouble.
So in most cases, you are probably better off knowing exactly what you’re going to be delivering, promising it through your marketing, confirming it through sales and then delivering it via production.
Under-promising feels safe, because when we under-promise, we’re confident that we can dramatically outperform the promise, so the customer will feel extremely happy and become loyal to us.
And the first time or two we do that, it may work out great. But if we continue to under-promise and over-deliver, eventually, the inherent dishonesty of the approach may start to become apparent.
I would argue that your first time out — in your marketing, when people are first becoming aware of you — that’s when you really need to lead with the sharpest edge. You need to explain exactly what you offer so your prospects can know what makes you better and different.
If you go out to the market under-promising, and your competitor goes out to the marketing over-promising, who’s likely to get the first time order?
Your competitor, right?
So if you under-promise, you might not get the order, which would then deprive your prospect of what you would have actually delivered them, while also depriving you of the order and driving them into the hands of someone who might deliver less than what was promised.
When you go out to the market, leading with the benefits you actually provide, you will very likely get more business up front, which you will be likely to retain, simply by doing what you said you were going to do right from the beginning.
So ask yourself this, what is the very highest and best promise you can make to your prospects and clients that you know you can deliver consistently?
When you have a great answer to that question, write it down. Then market it loudly, boldly and often to your target market.
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